Should Community College Begin Before High School Graduation?
One of the more interesting ideas that has reached into K12 and higher education are “2+2 programs” that allow high school students to pursue their diploma and a community college degree program at the same time. The community college courses are counted towards high school graduation as well as the Associates degree.
These 2+2 programs make sense for high school students who want to take on the challenge of college-level, especially if their high school offers few college-level courses of its own. They also make sense for students who want a lower-cost credential, as well as an associates degree, that qualifies them for a job with a desired employer. The younger community college graduates who choose to seek employment can also go to work two years earlier.
Do these programs make sense for every high school student?
To answer the question, it helps to explain what the 2+2 programs might, or might not, be.
- They might not always offer a shorter journey to a bachelor’s degree. The community college credits in a 2+2 program are already applied to a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. They might allow advanced standing into courses at a four-year college. But that student might also be expected to stay four years, instead of just two, to earn their bachelors degree. The upside is that students who enter with advanced standing could take graduate-level classes during the last two years of their bachelor’s program, provided they are offered at their college.
- They might not be offered in every major, whether the major is pre-professional or one where students are more likely to transfer to a four-year college. Students considering these programs should check to make sure that they will have easy entree in the degree program that they want. The community college will expectedly give its own students priority registration over high school students.
- They might or might not be tuition free, and free of other costs, depending on the high school’s relationship with the community college. Community colleges typically do not charge high school students or their parents full tuition and fees; they are considered to be enrolled in the high school, and less likely to participate in student activities on the community college campus. However, students and their families might be expected to pay a discounted charge for tuition as well as the costs of transportation, books and supplies. They would not pay those costs for courses delivered within a public school system.
- The community college calendar and the high school calendar are usually different. It is quite reasonable for the community college to expect the high school students to take classes after the school day at the high school is over. The academics at the community college would take priority over extra curricular activities at the high school. Those students who intend to use an extra-curricular pursuit such as the arts or sports as a means to enhance their chances of gaining admission to a first or second-choice college might want to pass on a 2+2 program. But if the class schedule and transportation work out, the student could pursue that same activity at the community college.
The 2+2 agreements between high schools and community colleges have much to offer many high school students. But students and parents need to do their homework with the help of a school counselor and a community college academic advisor before they plunge into such an ambitious commitment.
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