Today in America, nearly 70 percent of high school students are going to college. In the past decade, this number has shot way up, between 2000 and 2010 undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions has increased by 37 percent, from 13.2 to 18.1 million, and is projected to climb up to 20.6 million by 2021 according to the 2012 Condition of Education reported by the National Center for Educational Statistics.
Because scientists tell us we are a species currently evolving faster than ever before, developing new technologies and more efficient ways of doing, well, everything, these statistics are seemingly predictable. Yet there are a few reasons we can pinpoint as to why college enrollment numbers are so jacked.
One cause we can look at is an increase in college preparatory assistance — meaning hands-on help from high school guidance counselors, SAT tutors, and graduation coaches. These individuals begin guiding students through the admissions process early on. For instance, today students are advised as high school freshmen to take more math and science courses to prepare them for college.
These individuals and parents as well are pushing students to attend college immediately upon finishing high school, that is, without taking any time off, whether the student is ready or not. It does make a difference that some colleges have simplified the application process over the past several years. But from personal experience, I graduated with a high school class six years ago where about 25 percent of the students transferred after one or two semesters. One can’t help but ask the question: Should we be pushing kids towards college enrollment as much as we are?
Growing up in an affluent small South Jersey town, there was, and still is, pressure to go to college straightaway, even without having a major in mind. In speaking to several high school seniors in Haddonfield (a 2.9-square mile town outside of Philadelphia, median family income in 2011 $127,302) from the public high school, one gets the impression that students feel the need to attend a college, perhaps not any one in particular, for the simple reason that their peers are likely going to be students at a university next year too.
Senior Hannah Hershberger states, “I’m not really focused on a school, so I’m just applying everywhere.”
Julia Pezick, another senior, is a member of the National Honor Society and enrolled in all AP classes. An ideal candidate for many colleges, Pezick has visited more than 12 college campuses and is not partial towards any one as of yet. “I’m still not set on any one school…but I’m definitely not staying in Haddonfield. I have to get out of here!” Pezick finishes with a laugh. Hershberger nods in agreement with this comment.
For these students and many small town high school seniors, the only prospect worse than sitting home with mom and dad while their friends are away at school is attending a local community college. But why does CC get such a bad rep? Community college, when looked at from a financial perspective, is a frugal option for those freshmen (and their parents) who don’t know where or who they want to be quite yet.
Putting off a postsecondary education entirely frightens parents and their children alike. The fear is the student may fall into a rhythm of work instead of study, setting in place a future of waitressing or working in retail. Community college offers a remedy to this concern without needing to borrow from the bank.
A large variety of introductory courses are offered at Camden County, like English Composition 1, U.S. History 1, and Basic Psychology. Earned credits at community colleges usually satisfy the general education requirements at four-year universities so that courses would not need to be taken again down the road.
Students can take the time they need while in CC, whether it is one semester or two to fully research degree-granting post-secondary institutions and land a spot as a transfer student at their university of choice. Another huge plus for CC-goers: if your high school grades weren’t anything to be proud of, as a transfer student, college admissions officers tend to weigh grades from college courses more heavily than a high school transcript.
Pretty awesome, for those of us who barely passed high school chemistry. So the next time you hear someone bashing community college, think of how clever CC students are to not only avoid significant student debt, but also to find out a way to gain acceptance to the same reputable institutions they might have been rejected from as a freshman.