Community colleges in the United States
In the United States, community colleges (once commonly called junior colleges) are primarily two-year public institutions of higher education. After graduating from a community college, some students transfer to a university or liberal arts college for two to three years to complete a bachelor's degree, while others enter the workforce.
- 1 Terminology
- 2 History
- 3 Governance
- 4 Enrollment
- 5 Educational offerings
- 6 Advantages of community colleges
- 7 Disadvantages of community colleges
- 8 American community college systems
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Before the 1970s, community colleges were more commonly referred to as junior colleges, and that term is still used at some institutions and for athletics, specifically the NJCAA. However, the term "junior college" has evolved to describe private two-year institutions, whereas the term "community college" has evolved to describe publicly funded two-year institutions. As such, the main governing body of community colleges changed its name in 1992 from the "American Association of Junior Colleges" to the "American Association of Community Colleges".
In New Jersey, slightly more than half of the state's nineteen community colleges are called county colleges, not merely in name but also in descriptive speech. This is because there is one community college, often with satellite branches, dedicated to each county of the state. The term is also used by some community colleges in Texas (where community colleges are funded by county residents via property taxes assessed by a special "community college district"), Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois. The City University of New York is a well known municipally-funded community college system, although the system includes both junior and senior (4-year) colleges, in addition to graduate programs.
In several California cities (including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Sacramento), and in other large cities such as Chicago, with its City Colleges of Chicago, community colleges are often called "city colleges," since they were municipally-funded and designed to serve the needs of the residents of the city in which they are situated. Also, the state's public two-year colleges are not solely found in its larger cities. El Camino College, at one time the largest single-campus community college in the nation, is not in any city or town, but was created by the state legislature, at the request of members of the Los Angeles (County) Board of Supervisors, on unincorporated county land adjacent to Torrance, and was granted the same operational authority over its campus as any city government exercises over its incorporated land. In many of California's most rural counties, a comparably independent community college levies its own property tax, has an independent but fully deputized police force and an elected board with broad powers. In some parts of the country, the establishment of community colleges has been a state initiative unsupported by county residents. New York City's network of community colleges was established outside of the CUNY system, and only integrated into that system at the insistence of the state government. Another example is Westchester Community College. In the late 1940s, the county operated a popular vocational institute. The New York state government required that the county transform its technical institute into a community college. The county government resisted this transformation, as it would be responsible for 1/3rd of the new institution's operating costs (in contrast, the state paid for all of the technical institute's operating costs). After a series of very heated meetings, fully reported in the local press, the county was forced to conform to the state government's wishes. As a general rule, broad generalizations about the origins, purposes, and funding of public two-year colleges varies widely among the states and, as in the case of California, within states. Further, because the vital role played by rural community colleges in preparing excess rural youth for productive careers in urban centers is not well understood by policy makers, these relatively small institutions do not receive sufficient state funding to offset their weak tax bases and, because of their relatively small size, much higher per-student costs when compared to urban community colleges. This inequity in basic institutional funding has led to the creation of such organizations as the Community Colleges of Appalachia and the tribal college association, which have sought to promote more equitable funding irrespective of an institution's size or location. A well-funded network of rural community colleges is essential to the nation's long-term economic well being. Rural community colleges prepare excess rural youth for employment opportunities in the nation's urban centers and helps the nation to avoid the often dramatic differences in income and life opportunities that would result if excess rural youth migrated to urban centers without highly marketable job skills.
Many events have contributed to the development and continued growth of community colleges. The social and economic climate of the early twentieth century led to vocal activists for a two-year educational alternative to four-year higher education institutions. Several different groups advocated for community colleges in the early twentieth century, including students and parents, educators, businesses, state universities, and government officials. Events like urbanization, industrialization, and economic development caused changes in society. One of education’s responses to a country in transition was the junior college.
Several different movements supported the creation of community colleges, including local community support of public and private two-year institutions, the expansion of the public education system, increased professional standards for teachers, the vocational education movement, and an expanding demand for adult and community education. Numerous colleges and universities advocated for the development of junior colleges. Leadership felt small, private liberal arts colleges and high schools could provide the first two years of college while larger universities could focus resources on research and junior and senior level students.
Early community colleges
“The two-year college has been a distinctively American creation, and nowhere else has it attained such prominence.” J. L. Ratcliff. suggests one perspective for the presence of American two-year post secondary institutions of the past century: they began in the private sector after the Panic of 1894. J M Carroll, president of Baylor University, made a pragmatic suggestion to solve the problem of too many Baptist colleges with insufficient funds and not enough students to support them: reduce the smaller Baptist colleges’ curriculum to the freshman and sophomore years. After this preliminary period, Baylor University would accept the two-year students and provide the junior and senior years of their academic plan. Dr. Carroll believed this fragmentation of a student’s degree seeking path could remedy the depressed college situations by requiring a smaller group of faculty and fewer resources for the first two years of higher education. Such planning would not reduce the existing number of institutions or the roles they had developed in the communities where they were founded—only the length of enrollment on the campuses. This measure was a proactive response to accommodate a continued trend analysis of low enrollment and assure the economical operation of all the Baptist institutions. Also, the catastrophic economic repercussions to the industries and businesses of the towns where the smaller colleges were located would be minimized.
Before this innovation of two-year campuses with transfer missions in the private sector, a few public institutions before 1850 offered two years of college: Lasell Junior College in Auburndale, Massachusetts and Vincennes University of Vincennes, Indiana. Dr. Helland cites a section from the 1899 Vincennes University catalog, in which these statements are found: “The Vincennes University occupies a unique position in the educational field. It is half-way between the commissioned high school and the full-fledged college: it is in fact a junior college.” Many of the early public community colleges were an extension of high schools, like the first established, Joliet Junior College, in 1901. This was a two-year system compared to one year high school extension. These initial community colleges generally were very small (usually fewer than 200 students) and focused on a liberal arts education with the goal of transferring students to four-year institutions. They were more reflective of high school needs and lacked a definite identity. These examples of two-year structure innovations with transfer missions in the private and public sector provided a pragmatic approach for the preservation of existing institutions.
Many of the early community colleges were normal schools and prepared teachers. Primary emphasis was placed on traditional middle class values and developing responsible citizens. Normal Schools began in Massachusetts in the 1880s as extensions of local high schools. They were originated to meet the need for teacher preparation. For example, in Saint Joseph, Missouri, a Normal School was added to the local high school to provide a career track for women who wanted to teach. Mr. Whiteford, the area’s district superintendent, inquired of the University of Missouri to determine if credits from Saint Joseph Normal School could transfer into a baccalaureate program. The University’s President Dr. Hill acknowledged the request and provided for the articulation. Coincidentally, Dr. Hill was actively involved in the American Association of Universities and calling for the establishment of junior colleges for this purpose. In Minnesota, St. Paul’s Public School District established a “City Training School” for preparing teachers. The 1883 school’s mission was to provide certified teachers and substitutes for the district. Mrs. M. E. Jenness from the Normal School at River Falls, Wisconsin was the St. Paul School’s first principal; Mrs. N. F. Wheaton was the Director of Practice. Wheaton had been employed at the Oshkosh Normal School in Wisconsin. In Minneapolis, a Normal Training School was instituted in the fall of 1887. Miss Adele Evers of Manchester Normal School in New Hampshire was appointed the first teacher; she was one of six candidates for the position. Evers’ references included work at Martha’s Vineyard and Saratoga.
During the 1920s and 1930s there was a shift in the purpose of community colleges to developing a workforce, which was influenced by wide unemployment during the Great Depression. Developing "semiprofessionals" became dominant national language to describe junior college students. The notion that engineers and supervisors make primary decisions about what and how activities were to be done in the workplace provided the origins for employees needed to carry out their decisions. This need for a class of workers to implement the decisions of the theoreticians demanded an educational delivery system other than the traditional four-year college or university. The closed shop of the artisan which had initially provided workers was no longer the educational program of choice. Nationally, a new two-year vehicle for educating the industrial worker found its launching within the secondary public school system under the leadership of local school districts.
Baltimore’s Manual Training High School opened in 1884, was the first separate secondary school for education that was specifically work orientated. The Maryland institution was unique as a stand-alone campus. Other examples of sub-baccalaureate programs were the University Preparatory School and Junior College of Tonkawa. The result of the two- year schools founded in Oklahoma Public School Secondary System in 1902, both institutions later merged in 1914 and became the Oklahoma Institute of Technology. Dean Schneider of the University of Cincinnati developed an alternative high school with a cooperative plan where students spent one week in an occupation and the other in school. Industry provided the shop experiences and the classroom facilitated the academic. There were also non-cooperative high schools; two examples were the Girl’s Vocational High School in Kansas City, Missouri and the Delgado Trade School in New Orleans. A two-year, terminal education, was seen as more socially efficient for students who could advance past high school but not continue to attain bachelor's degrees. This national vocational movement was seen to give junior colleges a target population, but numerous students wanted more than a semiprofessional education; many maintained a desire to transfer. Throughout this time period, there was a move for more public two-year institutions along with a trend to separate from high schools and affiliate with higher education. With the change in affiliation came a new status which encouraged junior colleges to develop additional credibility through the creation of professional criteria and use of scientific methods.
Cold War era
After World War II, the G.I. Bill afforded more educational opportunity to veterans which resulted in increased enrollments. Another factor that led to growth was the rise of adult and community education. After World War II, community colleges were seen as a good place to house continuing education programs. The 1947 President's Commission on Higher Education was a very important national document for community colleges. It suggested a network of public community colleges that would provide education to a diverse group of students at little or no cost along with serving community needs through a comprehensive mission.
This national network exploded in the 1960s with 457 community colleges and the enrollment of baby boomers. A series of grants through the Kellogg Junior College Leadership Programs helped train many community college leaders during this decade. Growth continued during the 1970s when many enrolled to escape the Vietnam era draft. The 1970s also marked a shift to faculty development, including more instructional training for the unique student body and mission of community colleges. During the 1980s, community colleges began to work more closely with high schools to prepare students for vocational and technical two-year programs.
By the end of the 20th century, all two-year institutions were playing important roles in higher education as access mechanisms. They became an integral feature for those persons who were attending higher education for the first time or as non-traditional students. Brint and Karabel have recognized the change that transpired from 1920 when fewer than 2 percent of all college freshmen were enrolled in a two-year college to the late 1980s when over 50 percent were matriculated. Junior colleges once located in high schools had left their origins to develop their own campuses and were called community colleges and still retained the transfer access mission. High school normal schools matured into teacher colleges or colleges of education within universities offering bachelor and graduate degrees. Industrial institutes integrated with local junior colleges to make these campus’s programs more comprehensive community colleges. Along with this growth and legitimization of two-year mechanisms for the delivery of higher education, the emergence of two-year institutions provided an epistemological debate that divided the river of education flowing into the early 20th century into three streams of educational natures. “In the process of this struggle and adjustment some colleges will grow stronger, some will become academies, some junior colleges; the high schools will be elevated to a still more important position than that which they now occupy. The general result will be the growth of a system in the higher educational work of the United States, where now no system exists.”
1990s and 2000s
In recent history, a debate between the advocates and critics of community colleges has gained strength. Advocates argue community colleges serve the needs of society through providing college opportunity to students who otherwise cannot go to college, training and retraining mid-level skilled workers, and preserving the academic excellence of four-year universities. Critics argue community colleges continue a culture of privilege through training business workers at public expense, not allowing the working class to advance in social class, protecting selective admissions at four-year institutions for the nation's elite, and discouraging transfer through cooling out. Whether community colleges give opportunity or protect privilege, their century-long history has developed a distinctive aspect of higher education. Although the growth of community colleges has stabilized in recent history, enrollment continues to outgrow four-year institutions. A total of 1,166 loosely-linked community colleges face challenges of new technological innovations, distance learning, funding constraints, community pressure, and international influence.. Some of the issues currently faced are explored in community college resources compiled by the Association for Career and Technical Education.
- Timeline of important events
1920: American Association of Junior Colleges established.
1930: First publication of the Community College Journal.
1944: Passage of the Federal G.I. Bill of Rights
1947: Publication of Higher Education for American Democracy by the President's Commission on Higher Education (the 1947 Truman Commission).
1965: Higher Education Act of 1965 established grant programs to make higher education more accessible.
1992: The American Association of Junior Colleges changed their name to the American Association of Community Colleges.
The higher education governance structure landscape in America is very diverse; they are not intended to be precise organization charts. According to the Education Commission of the States there are three major types of higher education governance systems in the states; they are Governing Board States, Coordinating Board States and Planning/ Regulatory/Service Agency States. (from: The Education Commission of the States website)
The Governing Board States (GBS)
State-level governing boards are distinguished according to whether they are responsible for consolidated systems or multi-campus systems. Consolidated systems are composed of several previously independently governed institutions that were later consolidated into one system. Multi-campus systems developed primarily through extensions of various branches or campuses.
Coordinating Board States
Coordinating boards vary significantly in formal authority and informal power and influence from state to state. Generally, there is a state level board governing universities, colleges, and community colleges. Each university and community college district will have its own board that is accountable to a state-coordinating agency.
The Planning/Regulatory/Service Agency States (PRSA)
The PRSA states have limited or non-existent formal governing or coordinating authority, which carry out regulatory and service functions such as student financial aid.
For a comprehensive list of American community colleges and their state level governing boards: U.S. Community Colleges by State, University of Texas at Austin
A more thorough description of state level college and university governance models can be found at: Models of Postsecondary Education Coordination and Governance in the States
Most community colleges are operated within special districts that draw property tax revenue from the local community, as a division of a state university, or as a sister institution within a state-wide higher education system.
In all cases, community colleges are governed by a board of trustees, appointed by the state governor, or the board is elected by citizens residing within the community college district. In some instances, as with the City Colleges of Chicago, the board of trustees is appointed by the presiding local government. In Chicago, it is the mayor who appoints the board.
Depending on the operational system, the board of trustees may directly govern the college or may govern the college through a university or system-level office. Depending upon the locus of control, the board may or may not be subject to control by a state agency that supervises all community college districts or all higher education institutions within the state.
The board of trustees selects a president or chancellor of the community college to serve as the chief executive officer and lead the faculty and staff.
Multi-College Community College District
Multi-College Community College Districts include several individually accredited community colleges within one district. Each college is independent with distinct local administration, but they share a single board of trustees and report to a non-instructional central administrative office.
The Contra Costa Community College District is an example of one of the largest multi-college community college districts in California. The District consists of Contra Costa College, Diablo Valley College, Los Medanos College, San Ramon Campus, and Brentwood Center, and annually serves almost 62,000 students.
Multi-campus Community College District
larger schools implement a multi-campus system and generally share a single accreditation. Local administrative governance varies. Extension campuses report to the main campus administration or a central administrative office. A good example of this is College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, which has 6 satellite campuses within a 10 mile area, in addition to its main campus, which itself has 9 structures and an enrollment of over 30,000 students.
Faculty Senate/Faculty Council
A faculty senate, or faculty council as this body is sometimes referred to, is the representative body of all faculty who participate in the governance processes of the community college. As with all governing bodies, the faculty senate is usually governed by a constitution and a set of bylaws specific to the college. Membership in this body varies from college, with most restricting voting rights to tenured and tenure track faculty, and others allowing a wider array of members to include full-time, adjunct, continuing education, technical, and adult basic education faculty. (modified from: http://www.pima.edu/facsenate/)
Though this is not an exhaustive list, the mission of the faculty senate at the community college usually includes: matters concerning curricular decisions; strengthening the concept of the faculty as a college entity; promoting the gathering, exchanging, and disseminating of faculty views and concerns regarding college matters; promoting mutual accountability between the college faculty and the faculty representative to any college committee; advising the Chancellor and other administrators of faculty views on college matters; bringing the concerns of the Chancellor and other administrators on college matters to the faculty; promoting the involvement of all faculty members in the establishing, staffing, and functioning of college committees, task forces, or other initiatives; and participating in the policy review process of the college.
Collective Bargaining Units/Agreements
Most community college faculty are bargained for employees. While unions and their respective collective bargaining agreements serve to protect faculty rights and working conditions, collective bargaining agreements, or union contracts, provide faculty with a defined set of rules and regulations they must follow as a condition of employment. Collective bargaining swept into higher education on the coattails of legislation authorizing public employees to negotiate. As these laws were passed in various states in the 1960s and 1970s, employee groups ranging from refuse collectors to prison guards gained union representation and began negotiating contracts (Cohen & Brawer, 2008, p. 147)
Collective bargaining units exist for all divisions of community college faculty; however, participation by faculty groups differs from college to college.
There is a student government organizational presence on close to every community college campus in America The Student Government organization is the official voice of the student body, a vital link in effective student participation in all areas of student concern in relationship to the college’s administration. By advocating student rights and services, the organization represents the student body and presents its concerns to the college administration, local, and national issues. Through the Student Government organizations the college provides students with essential leadership experience, and valuable connections with faculty, staff administration, students, and the Board of Trustees. Student involvement is usually based on criteria set by the institution; all students have the right as a student to participate in democratic process on campus. (from ASGA's entry of Bakersfield College)
Shared governance is the set of practices under which college faculty and staff participates in significant decisions concerning the operation of their institutions. Colleges are very special types of institutions with a unique mission—the creation and dissemination of ideas. At the heart of shared governance is the belief that decision-making should be largely independent of short-term managerial and political considerations. Faculty and professional staff are in the best position to shape and implement curriculum and research policy, to select academic colleagues and judge their work; and The perspective of all front-line personnel is invaluable in making sound decisions about allocating resources, setting goals, choosing top officers and guiding student life.
For a more detailed explanation of governance at the community college, please see the AAUP’s 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities and the 1998 statement on the same topic by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. These documents more clearly define those matters that are the responsibility of the voting faculty and those reserved to the governing body and its delegates. (From: http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/academe/2002/JA/Feat/Luce.htm)
In the United States, community colleges operate under a policy of "open admission." That is, anyone with a high school diploma or GED may attend, regardless of prior academic status or college entrance exam scores. Although community colleges have an open admission policy, students have to take placement tests before enrolling at the college, due to not all courses being open admission. In California and Minnesota, students who have reached the age of 18 are not required to have completed secondary education; instead, they must simply show an "ability to benefit" from a college's educational program. Under certain circumstances, community colleges will also accept high school students or dropouts.
The open admission policy results in a wide range of students attending community college classes. Students range in age from teenagers in high school taking classes under a concurrent, or dual, enrollment policy (which allows both high school and college credits to be earned simultaneously) to working adults taking classes at night to complete a degree or gain additional skills in their field to students with graduate degrees who enroll to become more employable or to pursue lifelong interests. "Reverse transfers" (or those transferring from a university) constitute one of the fastest growing new community college cohorts.
One threat to enrollment at community colleges is the rapidly increasing popularity of for-profit e-learning and online universities, such as the University of Phoenix, now the 16th-largest university in the world. Higher education research and consulting firm Eduventures estimates that 10 percent of college students will be enrolled in an online degree program by 2008 Many community colleges have supplemented their offerings with online courses to stave off competition from exclusively e-learning schools. For example, Northern Virginia Community College's Extended Learning Institute has been offering distance learning courses for thirty-five years. Texas offers the Virtual College of Texas whereby a student at any community college in the state can attend classes from any of the state's 51 community colleges or four Texas State Technical College campuses, paying local tuition plus a VCT fee of around $40.
California has the lowest community college enrollment fees in the nation, currently set at $46 per unit for state residents.
Community colleges generally offer a range of programs.
In study towards an associate degree, a student takes necessary courses needed to earn a degree that will allow for entry into jobs requiring some level of college education but not a full four-year degree. The associate's degree program also allows students who wish to eventually obtain a bachelor's degree at a four-year college to complete the necessary "core" requirements to attend the college of their choice. Some states have mandated that the community college's curriculum be structured so as to satisfy "core curriculum" requirements at the state's public universities or private universities.
Many community colleges have articulation arrangements with nearby four-year institutions, where a student obtaining an associate's degree in a field will automatically have his/her classes counted toward the bachelor's degree requirement. For example, a community college associate's degree in hotel and restaurant management, computers or accounting would count toward the four-year school's core requirement for a Business Administration degree. Some have gone one step further by arrangements with a four-year college for the student to obtain the bachelor's degree from the four-year college while taking all the courses via distance learning or other non-traditional modes, thus reducing the number of physical visits to the four-year school. One such example is College of DuPage (COD) in Illinois, who have implemented a program called 3+1. In this program, students can take three years of classes at the community college taught by COD professors and faculty, and in the fourth year attend classes on the COD campus, but taught by professors of nearby partner universities, such as Benedictine University, Concordia University, Governors State University, Lewis University, and Roosevelt University.
Certification in an area of training (such as nursing, computer repair, allied health, law enforcement, firefighting, or welding), which require preparation for a state or national examination, or where certification would allow for hiring preference or a higher salary upon entering the workforce. These courses are often geared toward the needs of the local or area business community.
Services of local interest to members of the community, such as job placement, adult continuing education classes (either for personal achievement or to maintain certification in specialized fields), and developmental classes for children. Some community colleges offer opportunities for high school dropouts to return to school and earn a high school diploma or obtain a GED.
A growing trend in the United States is for community colleges to begin offering bachelor's degrees. At least fourteen states have authorized them to do so and others are considering the issue. Many large community colleges, such as Miami-Dade College and St. Petersburg College, in Florida have even completely dropped the words "community" or "junior" from their names as they have added bachelor's degree programs in limited fields and have started their evolution into four-year colleges while retaining their local commitments. Even some smaller community colleges, such as Northern New Mexico College in Española, New Mexico, have dropped community from their names and now offer six or more bachelor's degrees. A few of the larger institutions, such as De Anza College in northern California and College of DuPage near Chicago, who both boast enrollment of over 25,000 students, continue to explore the cost-benefit analysis in offering 4-year degrees. In more rural communities, community colleges may host branches of the local state university, and community colleges with specialized programs may offer four-year degrees in conjunction with other schools, some miles away. For instance, Southern Illinois University offers aviation management bachelor's degrees at Mt. San Antonio College and Palomar College in Southern California.
Advantages of community colleges
- Community colleges are often geared toward local students and local needs. Students who could not afford campus or off-site housing at a four-year college, or for other reasons cannot relocate, can attend courses while staying in their local community (though some colleges do offer student housing). Also, community colleges can work with local businesses to develop customized training geared toward local needs, whereas a four-year institution generally focuses on state-wide or national needs. Some community colleges have "concurrent enrollment" programs, allowing local high school students to "jump start" their college career by taking classes at the community college that count both toward their high school diploma and as college credit (mainly in core areas such as history and political science). Policies and classes offered vary with different agreements existing between the community college and high schools.
- Many top-ranking high school students complete their associate's degree prior to high school graduation through participation in Post Secondary Enrollment Option programs available in several states including Minnesota, Iowa, and Ohio. The student's local high school must pay the tuition, fees, and textbook charges for the student. The student (and family) pays little or nothing for the semesters of education while earning an associate's degree.
- The "open enrollment" policy benefits students who would not qualify for enrollment in a traditional university (such as those with mediocre high school academic records or who did not graduate from high school and later obtained a GED), students who recognized the benefits of college education relatively late in life, and students whose personal obligations or limited financial resources prevented them from attending college on the traditional schedule.
- Although a degree from a community college is, on average, less financially lucrative in the long term than a university degree, new research into earnings shows that recent community-college graduates often earn a higher salary than recent graduates of four-year universities, and are much less burdened by tuition debt. In spite of persistently high unemployment rates, there is still a demand for people with so-called middle-skills that often do not require a bachelor’s degree, such as laboratory technicians, early childhood educators, computer engineers, draftsmen, radiation therapists, paralegals, and machinists. In addition, many colleges offer and accept scholarships or educational grants.
- Fewer community colleges each year have little or no time limits during which classes must be taken or a degree must be earned. Increasingly, colleges do not allow some classes taken more than seven (or so) years earlier to count towards an associate degree; this is an effort to ensure accuracy of time-sensitive 'knowledge.' Similarly, many four-year schools, tired of "professional students" taking up limited space, have imposed limits on when a degree can be earned. Thus, students who cannot take a full-time load for whatever reason (family, job, etc.), are under less pressure to complete courses in a limited time frame at community colleges
- Four-year colleges often give priority to students transferring from community colleges, citing their demonstrated preparedness for junior and senior college-level work. Students who may not have been able to attend a particular college after high school (whether for academic, financial, or personal reasons) may now be able to attend the college of their choice. Several states have regulations requiring the associate's degree in a particular field to be automatically credited towards the core curriculum for a four-year degree at another state university or private university.
- Community college professors are solely dedicated to teaching, and classes are generally small, about the size of a standard high school class. In comparison, a four-year college course may be taught to 300+ students by a teaching assistant, while the professor is concentrating on research. Outside of those teaching in the technical and vocational fields, most instructors at community colleges have master's degrees and many hold doctoral degrees. In addition, community college professors can help students achieve their goals, work more closely with them, and offer them support, while at a four-year college, a professor's primary mission is to conduct academic research, with most of their remaining attention focused on mentoring graduate students.
- A number of community colleges have athletic programs; certain colleges also serve as incubators for college athletes, particularly in baseball, basketball and football. A talented player who would not meet the academic or athletic standards of a major college program may be able to play for two years in junior college, establishing an academic record in the process, and then transfer to the major college. In addition, many athletes at community colleges have gone on to play for the professional leagues. Others offer no athletic programs. Those that do have athletic programs are, outside of California, largely sanctioned and governed by the National Junior College Athletic Association, or NJCAA. California community colleges have their own athletic governing body, the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA).
- Research shows that there is no learning or income penalty for individuals who start at a community college and transfer to a four-year institution. Additionally, research indicates that students who begin their higher education career at a community college are more likely to transfer to a higher quality four-year institution than if they had started at a four-year college.
- Holders of a two-year associates degree have more immediate earning potential than students with more than two years of higher education but did not earn a degree.
Disadvantages of community colleges
- Transferring credits can sometimes be a problem, as each four-year college has its own requirements for enrollment. However, many four-year colleges (usually near the community college) have made arrangements, known as articulation agreements, allowing associate degrees to qualify for transfer, some cases allowing the student to complete the bachelor's degree via distance learning from the community college campus. Some states have passed rules whereby certain associate's degrees in a field will automatically transfer to state universities as the core curriculum for specified bachelor's degrees. Minnesota and Oregon have created a statewide "transfer curriculum" allowing credits to be transferred to any other public university and almost all of the private colleges. The North Carolina system has a similar agreement, whereby specific courses are designated for mandatory transfer credit to all statewide public four-year institutions. Illinois's I-transfer program program aids students in transferring credits across the state. California has a system known as Assist, which labels course equivalencies between all California Community Colleges and California public four-year colleges. In Arizona, the completion of the Arizona General Education Curriculum, or AGEC, at any Arizona community college guarantees residents of Arizona admission to any public university in the state of Arizona.
- It is frequent for many courses to be taught by part-time lecturers, some with only a bachelor's degree in the field. Research conducted by the University of Washington's Labor Center suggests that community colleges' reliance on part-time (adjunct) faculty results in lower graduation rates than colleges with a full-time workforce. According to federal statistics, 42% of public community college freshmen take remedial courses, and further studies show that 79% of remedial courses are taught by part-time faculty.
- Many community colleges lack on-campus housing (most common in urban area colleges; rural area colleges are more likely to offer such housing due to the overall lack of housing in such areas). This creates so-called 'commuter campuses', in which nearly all students commute to class only, with the campus completely deserted during off-hours. This makes participation in group collaboration exercises and study groups difficult to coordinate, and extracurricular activities suffer as well. In turn, the social benefits of college are essentially lost, which can adversely affect future professional employment opportunities.
- Research shows that individuals with Associate's degrees usually earn less than those with Bachelor's degrees.
- Community colleges typically have smaller libraries than universities, possibly reducing the research opportunities of their students (though libraries may be part of an interlibrary loan agreement with other libraries at universities, or community college students may be eligible for privileges at a local university library). Additionally, online academic database subscriptions are widely made available to community college students, which diminishes the disadvantages of the smaller physical circulation capacity of the library itself.
- Community colleges might have fewer sections available for students to enroll. For example, there might be only one section in higher physics while a four-year college might have four or five sections of its equivalent. Some equivalent lower-division classes required for the major may not be offered.
- There is a historic connotation that community colleges are often considered the schools of last resort, because of their open-admissions policies, which may reflect poorly upon students who were unable to receive admission to a college offering a wider variety of degree programs. Their open-admissions policies have been the subject of sarcastic humor in popular media.
- Many community colleges engage in various Cooling Out processes.
American community college systems
- Cohen, Arthur (2008). The American Community College. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. p. 566. ISBN 978-0-470-17468-5.
- Stephen Brint and Jerome Karabel, The Diverted Dream: Community Colleges and the Promise of Educational Opportunity in America, 1900-1985. (New York: Oxford University Press,1989), 19.
- James L. Ratcliff “Seven Streams in the Historical Development of the Modern American Community College” A Handbook Of The Community College In America. Ed. George A. Baker III
- Phillip C. Helland, Establishment of Public Junior and Community Colleges in Minnesota 1914-1983, (Saint Paul, MN: Minnesota Community College System, 1987), 1.
- B. F. Wright, “Annual Report of the Superintendent,” Annual Report of the Board of Education. Saint Paul, MN: Globe Office. June 1883, 76-78.
- John E. Bradley, “Superintendent’s Report,” The Tenth Annual Report of the Board of Education of the City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis: Tribune Job Printing Company. June 30, 1887, 17-19.
- William H. Dooley, Industrial Education, (Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1919)
- Charles A. Prosser and Charles A. Allen. Vocational Education in a Democracy. (New York: The Century Co., 1925), 225
- Stephen Brint and Jerome Karabel, The Diverted Dream: Community Colleges and the Promise of Educational Opportunity in America, 1900-1985.
- William Rainey Harper, The Prospects of the Small College. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1900), 45-46.
- Clark, Burton R. (1960), "The "cooling-out" function in higher education", American Journal of Sociology 65 (3): 569–575, doi:10.1086/222787
- Merrow, John (April 22, 2007), "Community Colleges: Dream Catchers", New York Times
- Golden, Daniel. "Online University Enrollment Soars" The Wall Street Journal. 15 May 2006.
- Extended Learning Institute :: Northern Virginia Community College
- "MCCCD Official Website".
- "Link Lookup". Goforward.harpercollege.edu. Retrieved 2010-09-01.
- Baccalaureate Programs[dead link]
- Irving Pressley McPhail, "Top 10 reasons to attend a community college," Community College Week 17, no. 11 (3 January 2005): 4-5.
- M.H. Miller, "Four-year schools should take more cues from community colleges, some educators say," Community College Week 17, no. 9 (6 December 2004): 3-4.
- Marcus, Jon (February 26, 2013). "Community-college grads out-earn bachelor’s degree holders". Hechinger Report. Teachers College at Columbia University. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
- Agrawal, Chad. "Community College Transfer". Community College Transfer Students. Retrieved 09/12/11.
- Robert Andrew Powell, Community College: Tennis in a Parking Lot, The New York Times, April 22, 2007
- Welcome to ASSIST
- John Merrow, Community Colleges: A Harsh Reality, The New York Times, April 22, 2007.
- See Personal income in the United States - chart on income by educational attainment.
- Beth Frerking, Community Colleges: For Achievers, a New Destination, The New York Times, April 22, 2007.
- Phil McGraw, Love Smart: Find the One You Want, Fix the One You Got (New York: Free Press, 2005), 41. Dr. Phil remarks, "You need to put up some fences around yourself, lady. You may be easier to get into than a community college. Have some boundaries."
- Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University
- American Association of Community Colleges
- Association of Community College Trustees
- Center for Community College Policy
- Community College Review
- MSN: College for Half-Price
- List of Community Colleges by State
- Community Colleges: The Gateway to Success - video with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
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