Friday, February 3, 2012

Community College

Community college is a common destination for many high school graduates.  There are many reasons people do community college.  The best case scenario is that a student quickly completes the general education requirements and gets good enough grades to transfer to the local four-year college.  Many young adults delay as long as possible real decisions about the future so they by default go to community college.  Is this what you are doing?  It has been my experience that many high school seniors are frozen with fear over the future, but do not want to appear to be doing nothing after high school.  They want to present to others a sound plan for the future and the responsible sounding response to the question about the future is to say they are going to community college and transferring.  I did a little research and found only a handful of our high school seniors actually registered and took classes.  The vast majority were not actually enrolling in that college.  They wanted to appear to have it all together, but either weren’t following through on their plan or they were never really going to execute the plan in the first place. 
Community college has a low image in our society because so many have attempted and failed to walk away with any tangible benefit.  According to the California Postsecondary Commission, the transfer rate for California’s community colleges are somewhere in the 2% range.  This is awful and represents a huge waste of taxpayer funds.  It also represents a huge waste of time and money on the part of the student and parent.  If a young adult were to forgo a four-year college degree, join the military, take vocational courses, or just start working an entry-level job; they will be much further along than if they did a few years of community college before dropping out.  There are many jobs that require a specific degree, so stopping prior to finishing that degree makes you unable to have those jobs.  There is no credit for time served in college.  You must complete the degree or you may have no more earning power than if you had not done “some college.”
When doing community college, it is important to know that many different things are taking place on that campus.  Not all of the people are doing the same thing you are doing so you need to be aware.  By now you may be thinking, “So, what are the different things going on at a community college?”
  1. High School classes for dropouts
  2. Study courses for General Equivalency Degree
  3. Hobby classes
  4. Vocational Certification courses: quicker to career, focus solely on specific career skills.  May limit future promotions 1-2 years
  5. Associates: Vocational + General Education  or just General Education 2 ½ years
  6. Transfer to 4-year school:  Avoid Associates if classes that will not transfer 2 years

Community colleges have many missions as shown above.  When looking at the number of students who successfully transfer to a four-year college, it is very low.  If you are in a community college, you need a plan to make sure you get what you want from them.