United States community colleges serve over 13 million students. These institutions provide access and opportunity for all sorts of learners from diverse backgrounds – some looking to transfer to four-year institutions while others hoping to start on a career path within certain industries or services such as continuing education classes or certification preparation for nursing or computer repair professions. They are an invaluable source of access and opportunity.
Historically, community college students were seen as less serious and ambitious than their university counterparts, but this has changed in recent years. More professors at community colleges now hold doctoral degrees, with academic standards becoming more in line with those found at four-year schools. Furthermore, community colleges are developing programs tailored specifically toward meeting community needs in local areas.
Early community colleges were extensions of public high schools – a model which remains prevalent today. Known then as junior colleges, these early institutions quickly spread across the country – by 1920 there were 440 junior colleges operating. Their growth was spurred by local business and labor leaders looking for low-cost colleges nearby to train workers for advanced technical blue collar jobs while simultaneously meeting white collar professional needs. Vocational education emerged alongside growing adult and community education demand further propelling this movement.
Community colleges tend to be smaller than universities, making it easier for students to form connections among themselves. Classes tend to have flexible scheduling options and offer more courses. Some even provide on-campus housing or offer student organizations similar to what one would find at large universities; these institutions often encourage new groups or organizations from forming themselves on campus if none already exist.
Many students opt for community college to fulfill the general education requirements before transferring to a four-year university and earning their bachelor’s degree faster and entering the workforce with more knowledge and skills.
Some community colleges also provide full bachelor’s degrees through partnerships with four-year schools that are far away. This program allows students to complete the last two years of their degree at a community college while saving money on tuition costs. Numerous universities have these partnerships, known as articulation agreements; students take classes taught by one school while receiving third and fourth year courses from another institution at another community college – known as double degree students who are taking advantage of this unique option to complete four-year degrees quicker.