How community colleges have improved

Community Colleges

By Emily Shearing, Next Step Magazine
06/01/2015
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Still think community colleges are unimpressive or offer limited education opportunities? Think again!

Community colleges are becoming more innovative to mimic the amenities and programs offered at larger colleges and universities. Here are some of the ways community colleges across the country have evolved into full-fledged college communities.

Housing

Community colleges are known for being almost exclusively commuter campuses. But more are jumping on the residence hall bandwagon. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, 303 community colleges currently offer on-campus housing.

Schools like Monroe Community College and Edmonds Community College offer housing for local and out-of-town students.

“Clearly, increasing numbers of community colleges are establishing residential living options for their students or are investigating the possibility of doing so,” says Cynthia Cooper, assistant to the president for college and government relations at MCC.

Many of the new community college residence halls are just like apartments, complete with private bathrooms, separate bedrooms and even kitchens.

“We’ve recognized that a good bit of learning happens when students live away from home for the first time,” Cooper says.

Unique majors

Long gone are the days when community colleges offered just a few liberal arts majors. Many schools offer a large selection of programs easily transferable to similar programs at four-year colleges and universities.

Graphic design, nursing, criminal justice, biology—they’re all programs you can find at community colleges.

But how about studying something even more unique? Take Scottsdale Community College in Scottsdale, Ariz., for example. It offers a yoga teacher certification and a film school program. Interested in helping the world get greener? Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Neb., offers a degree in renewable fuels technology.

Many community colleges also offer different options for degree programs, such as honors programs for high-achieving students, online courses and hybrid programs that combine online and classroom settings.

No more mystery meat

There has been a movement to improve college dining hall food, and those improvements have included many community college cafeterias.

Like many colleges across the nation, some community colleges have replaced their cafeterias with chain restaurants like Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts and Taco Bell. You can even find quaint coffee shops on campus.

Computer labs

At community colleges, you’ll find up-to-date technology, increased lab space and technical staff. Many campuses have also gone wireless, so you can bring your laptop with you outside, in the cafeteria or anywhere else you might want to work on campus.

Community college stereotypes

There are still students (maybe you’re one of them) who think community college isn’t “real” college. But these aren’t your parents’ community colleges. Community colleges have been desperately trying to erase the outdated stereotypes for years. And the improvements they’ve made should help change your mind.

“Old stereotypes are just that—old, and not applicable to today’s circumstances,” Cooper says. “Nobody thinks that the old paradigm of taking photos with film makes sense when digital photography now dominates the marketplace. Looking at community colleges with a lens that is 20 years out of date makes no sense either.”

If you’re thinking about going to a community college, research the innovations your local college has made to accommodate your needs.

“There is a reason that nearly half of this country’s college undergraduates are starting their college careers at a community college,” Cooper says. “I would encourage students to take the time to learn about their community college and decide for themselves whether it makes sense for them.”

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