Educational opportunities abound in Houston and the surrounding areas! The community college system is rich with diverse and accessible learning experiences for anyone and everyone. Local systems offer degree programs (including bachelor’s degrees in partnership with local universities), vocational certificate programs and lifelong learning programs for those who are indeed lifelong students.
A wide variety of credit and enrichment courses are available for parents, grandparents, working professionals, retirees, stay at home parents…that’s right….anyone and everyone!!
1. Affordability – Tuition rates at community colleges are a fraction of the cost of state and private colleges. We’re talking pennies to the dollar.
2. Open Enrollment – Didn’t do so hot in high school, or bombed a semester at the university? No worries…community colleges are all about forgiveness. Admission requirements for degree programs are typically limited to a high school diploma (or GED). The local community college is a great place to fix past mistakes or simply to get back on track. It’s also a great place to get started!
3. Transition and/or Uncertainty About Career Path – Perhaps the current economy has you rethinking your current career path. Or, maybe you have no idea what you want to be “when you grow-up”. Either way, the community college route is a safe way to go until you figure it out. Continue your education or take general education courses with low tuition rates while you “find yourself.”
4. Flexibility – Community colleges are known for their dedication to students who work and/or have family obligations. That’s why many community colleges have a variety of flexible course offerings such as evening courses, weekend classes, online classes, etc…
5. Your Career Path Doesn’t Require a Degree – If you intend to pursue a vocational career path that does not require specifically an associates or bachelor’s degree, the community college may be the best or only venue for obtaining the necessary credentials for such a career path. Examples include cosmetology, welding technician, auto technician, etc…
6. Dedicated Teachers – Unlike most colleges and universities, the community college does not require their faculty members to focus on research endeavors. This means (in theory) that they can focus on the classroom. You won’t have to worry about a student teaching assistant teaching your class because community colleges don’t have them.
7. Class Size – Generally speaking, the typical community college classroom is less than 35 students. I have yet to see a community college embrace the “mass lecture hall” mentality. So, if attending a class with 200 of your peers doesn’t sound appealing, the community college will undoubtedly boast a much lower class size.
8. Diversity – My favorite part of teaching at a community college is the diversity of the student body. There is no such thing as a “typical” student. My classes represent all walks of life & we all learn from each other.
9. Networking Potential – The community college is known for its relationship with the general community (hence the name). Local businesses and companies often work in partnership with the community college systems in their area because this creates a mutually beneficial relationship. This means that students have increased opportunities to network with area businesses in their intended career path.
10. I Turned Out Okay – I realize that this assumption is subject to a great deal of scrutiny and opinion. However, I firmly believe that starting my education at a community college was the right path for me. Although I was only there for a semester, I gained self-confidence, a high GPA and the ability to transfer to a 4-year institution (an ability I did not have upon graduating high school). I went on to obtain a master’s degree and have been gainfully employed since graduation, which I think is good thing.
According to the American Association of Community Colleges, there are many noteworthy Americans who began their education at a community college including J. Craig Venter, the person who mapped the human genome; Richard Carmona, former U.S. surgeon general; Eileen Collins, the first NASA female space shuttle commander; Harry Reid, Senate majority leader; and Nolan Ryan, retired baseball pitcher. Several Nobel laureates, state governors, members of Congress, famous sports figures, famous actors, and distinguished business executives got their start in community colleges, but so have many thousands of nurses, skilled technicians, artists, police officers, firefighters, and EMTs. Imagine what you can do!
Paige C. Davis is an associate professor of communication studies & education at Lone Star College CyFair. She is also author and student mentor at the Professor’s Academy, offering online college success programs and private mentoring for current and prospective college students. More information is available at www.professorspearls.com.