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Higher Education - Community College Vs. Univeristies

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Marin Crist

Professor V. Bronstein


25 July 2018

Higher Education

        In the past, community colleges were most reputable for their lack of academic standards, especially when compared to studious, four-year universities. However, perceptions on two-year colleges are beginning to take a turn for the better. As community colleges progress and further their criteria for academic quality, as well as the qualifications of professors, more students are considering these schools as an alternative way of beginning their path to higher education. Both types of schooling offer unique benefits, along with their own setbacks. When it comes time for students to choose their school, it is important to consider three major factors: flexibility, cost, and quality. By choosing based on individual needs as opposed to reputation, students will be able to make the most of their academic experience.

        Flexibility and cost are important aspects that students must consider when choosing a college. For those who are not sure of their major, they can be the defining factors. Community college is likely the best option for students who do not have a keen sense of their career goals as they allow for experimentation and exploration. Two-year colleges enable their students to “enter on empty and leave with a head full of dreams” (Addison). When beginning at a community college, there is no monetary pressure to quickly choose a major and earn a degree. By the end of my high school career, I was still unsure of which profession I wanted to work towards. This schooling option was the best fit for me because a two-year college will “unconditionally allows its students to begin. Just begin” (Addison). Upon arriving, there are endless options for the educational path a student may choose. The flexibility of these schools, along with low tuition costs and enrollment fees, work in tandem to reduce the amount of student-debt significantly. The reason being that students are able to take their time making careful decisions about their personal academic experience, changing their majors or taking breaks, without needing to take out substantial loans. These features are what make two-year colleges ideal for those who have non-academic responsibilities such as raising children or working anything more than a part-time job. The level at which students choose to participate is for them to decide. Community college has been ideal for me because, like many of my peers, being able to work while attending school is the best option for my situation.

Many students use community colleges as a stepping-stone before transferring to a university, where they may then pursue degrees beyond an associate that are specific to their desired career fields. Students who complete their general education through a junior college before applying to a four-year school can avoid substantial amounts in student-debt. This is often the case because of the significantly higher tuition rates of four-year colleges per semester. It is important to consider that with more financial pressure could mean less flexibility. Meaning, the more time a university student spends exploring in order to choose an educational path leads to a larger sum of student-debt. However, this may not be considered the more thoughtful choice for certain students. For those who have a clear idea of a path to earning their degree, it may be more time-efficient to begin at a university. This is especially true for those who wish to earn degrees not offered at most community colleges, such as bachelor’s. Economists have established beyond doubt that people with B.A.s earn more on average than people without them” (Murray). In other words, the higher the degree, the more equipped a student becomes to work a higher-paying job. This theory is valid for those who are able to secure jobs in their career, but it should be noted that many fields requiring more certification are progressively growing in competitiveness. It is not always guaranteed that students will be able to quickly pay off their debts and loans soon after they graduate. Since beginning my journey through higher-education, I have changed my major several times – bouncing from Psychology to Early Childhood Education and arriving at Liberal Arts. I knew that a two-year college was the best choice for me because I wanted to allow myself the option of experimenting, which was not financially achievable through a university.

In the past, one of the most notable contrasts between two-year and four-year colleges was the difference in quality. It seemed that only universities held high-standards for their academics. But in recent years, community colleges have grown in popularity due to their increased attention for achieving educational excellence. For example, many now of these schools require their professors to have earned a master’s degree at minimum and, additionally, enforce a more challenging curriculum than before. These alterations have allowed community colleges to compete with upscale universities. Though four-year colleges have maintained their reputation of quality academia, the question must now be asked, is the difference in quality worth the difference in cost? It is especially questionable when we consider that, “[employers] do not value what the student learned, just that he has a degree” (Murray). In some cases, universities may have an advantage over community colleges, being that they offer levels of diplomacies that c.c.’s do not. But in many competitive fields, companies and businesses do not view a degree as anything more than a level of qualification. If this is true, where said degree is earned – through a community college or a university – may not be the critical, deciding factor it was before. This is great news for those who are not able to pursue higher education beyond community college. For my desired career field, Liberal Arts, the degree you earn is not a necessary factor for your success. Many people who earn an art degree report that they obtain jobs in an art-related field but are not working artists like many who enter the practice without pursuing a higher-education. Therefore, where I go to earn my degree and quality of education is not a primary concern as it is for other students.

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