Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Community Colleges

The first two years at a four year public university are very exciting, but I have to say that community colleges are a better bet for someone who is trying to get the best education deal for their money. Here is why:

1.) Community colleges are cheaper, sometimes by as much as 50%, and one can usually pay for tuition at one by working a part time job.Community colleges don't waste their money on sports teams, stadiums, lavishly kept grounds, and palatial buildings. The professors make less, and they are often subsidized more heavily by local government.
2.) While overworked and underpaid, the professors at community colleges are usually not researchers at the head of their fields. This seems like a bad thing? Not at all - at the typical four year university many of the discussions, labs, help sessions and sometimes even lectures are taught by graduate students only a few years older than yourself.
This is because the professors listed for each course spend the majority of their time researching and publishing. They need to publish academic papers and books so that they can get tenure, and their institutions promote this setup because professors who publish garner interest and publicity for their schools. This increases the school's status, which is like free advertising, and thus more students will matriculate there. Graduate students need teaching experience and work cheaply, therefore, they are allowed to pass on to you what they learned from another graduate students just a few years before.
At community colleges everything is taught by someone who teachers for a living - period. You are their main focus and you don't have to put up with any attitude from professors who think you are there to distract  them from their research.
3.) Your first two years of college should be about exploring a wide variety subjects, not getting into whatever program you have had your eyes on since you were twelve. Even if you feel that you know exactly what you want to do with your life after school, force yourself to take classes in a wide variety of disciplines. And no matter what, learn a language during these first two years; Spanish, Chinese and French are all good options. They will help you in pretty much whatever field you go into. If you don't yet know what you want to do, community college is the place to explore different fields. Take internships and practicums in fields you are interested in, and take classes that help you understand the basics in a wide variety of subject matter.
4.)  The content of the classes in the 100 and 200 range is almost exactly the same whether you learn it at a community college or a four year university. Just see the registrar at the university you are transferring to, and get information on how your community college credits will transfer. You should look to take classes that transfer as a named course at your new school. Elective credit isn't a bad thing, but if you do have your eye on a particular program of study, you want to make sure that your prerequisites are satisfied.

So there you have it. Graduate from high school. Start your education at a community college, and transfer after your second year of study to a public four year university. More on choosing a university coming in later posts.

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