September 13, 2012
Many individuals and groups overseas seem to have a distorted view of U.S. community colleges thinking that their academic programs are inferior to those offered by four-year colleges and universities. In fact, even our visa officers at U.S. embassies seem to have a skewed opinion of community colleges when it comes to approving visas to international students holding acceptance letters from U.S. community colleges. It’s time that we explore the nature of community colleges and the benefits of obtaining a community college education.
Here are 5 things to know about a community college:
1. Academic Institution – A community college is an academic institution committed to higher learning just as a traditional four-year college or university. In the United States, community colleges (also called junior colleges, technical colleges or city colleges) are mainly two-year public institutions granting certificates, diplomas and Associate’s degrees. They also offer continuing and adult education programs.
2. Affordability – Community colleges are an affordable way to get access to university-level studies. The cost per credit hour for courses offered at community colleges is less than traditional universities. Many students planning on earning a Bachelor’s degree can benefit from the lower fees by opting to complete the general education requirements of the four-year bachelor’s by attending a community college first before transferring to a university.
3. Range of Courses and Programs – Community colleges provide a wide range of educational opportunities as well as courses related to trade and industry. The variety of courses offered makes pursuing studies at a community college attractive to students wanting to break into a career path which requires skills unique to a trade or job. But community colleges also offer courses satisfying the general education content of bachelor’s degrees so that domestic and international students can fulfill this component before continuing their studies at a four-year institution.
4. Transferability of Courses to U.S. four-year institutions – Community colleges provide academic courses specifically designed to meet the requirements for transfer to a four-year college/university should the student decide to use the credits earned toward a bachelor’s degree.
5. Flexibility – Community colleges are ideal for those attending to family needs or the working student who can’t afford to devote the time and energy needed to a four-year college and university program. Community colleges provide the working students and new parents with the opportunity of acquiring an education at a pace that makes sense and conforms to their busy schedule.
Whether you’re a local resident or an international student, set on acquiring and upgrading a skill/trade or earning credits to transfer to a four-year institution, the range and scope of programs offered make the community college a cost-effective transitional pathway to further education and independent living.
Useful links: Center for Global Advancement of Community Colleges http://cgacc.org/
Alan A. Saidi
Sr. Vice-President & COO, ACEI, Inc