Community colleges have been in the U.S. since 1901. Joliet Junior College (IL) was the first, and it focused on the liberal arts. During the Depression job training programs were housed in community colleges. They have been there ever since. The great expansion of community colleges happened during the 1960’s. More than 450 new community colleges opened across the country; there were fewer than that at the start of the decade. Today, according to the American Association of Community Colleges, there are nearly 1,200 community colleges in the U.S., more than 1,600 when branch campuses are counted, too.
Why bring up the history?
It is because the community colleges are being touted as a “solution” much the same way as they were when most of them opened their doors for the first time. They are marketed as an affordable pathway to a college education or entry-level employment. But when I worked with high school students, I saw issues for families to consider:
Community colleges offer tremendous value–when you and the school jointly take charge of your education. It is important to stay on top of your program, whether it be to transfer to a four-year school or accept a job with a local employer. Four-year schools and employers change their requirements all the time. If they do so without collaborating with the community colleges that send them graduates there will be anger and resentment. And if you require remedial assistance, the community college may force you to take one of more classes for no credit. More than anything that discourages students who begin their education in the community colleges from earning a college degree.
Sharing is caring!