Why you might want to consider community college

By Lwilliams
06/01/2015
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Recently, Tom Hanks wrote about a college that changed his life. With his universally-respected success as an actor and all-around great guy, you'd expect it to be some prestigious Ivy League school specializing in theater or acting, but you'd be wrong. The man behind the characters we've all come to know and love — including Woody, Forrest Gump, Captain Phillips (and Captain Miller), Robert Langdon, Joe Fox, and so many others — credits his success to his community college.

“That place made me what I am today,” said Hanks. He admitted to being an “underachieving student with lousy SAT scores” who didn't have the financial means to attend big schools like M.I.T. or Villanova (which he applied to anyway). For Hanks, community college was the perfect choice because it offered him a chance to learn, grow, and attend at no cost. Because of his personal story, he’s a huge supporter of Obama’s plan to make two years of community colleges tuition free.

“High school graduates without the finances for a higher education can postpone taking on big loans and maybe luck into the class that will redefine their life’s work. Many lives will be changed.” — Tom Hanks

Community college can help you on your journey to success, too. If you're thinking about attending a community college, either to jump-start your higher education path or as a means to improve your status in the workplace, we've compiled this list of top community colleges.

Chabot College

Chabot College

What better way to kick off our list than with the school that made Hanks who he is today — Chabot College, located in Hayward, California. The school’s annual tuition is approximately $700, making it a great financial option compared to the price tags of other public and private universities. Chabot offers more than 175 majors, helping students with transfers to state universities. And, with an impressive alumni list, you'll be in good company if it becomes your alma mater.

Walla Walla Community College

"Dietrich Center Walla Walla Community College" by Squarestate7 - Taken on my camera. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia.
"Dietrich Center Walla Walla Community College" by Squarestate7. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia.

A co-winner of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, Walla Walla Community College is spread out over three campuses throughout southeastern Washington state. With a name so nice they had to say it twice, you’ll also find that WWCC is a top-rated community college and an excellent choice for students looking for a quality education.

Santa Barbara City College

Santa Barbara City College

The other co-winner of the Aspen Prize, Santa Barbara City College has earned national rankings and is recognized for a focus on student learning outcomes and success in securing a job after college. If the rankings aren't enough to convince you of its prestige, the palm tree-lined campus is sure to make you feel like you're on vacation. Just ask “California Girl” Katy Perry, one of the school's many notable alumni.

Valencia College

Valencia College

Orlando certainly has a lot going for it with Disney World, Universal Studios, and the University of Central Florida, but it’s not just home to Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter World. Orlando also hosts the number-one-ranked two-year school for number of associate’s degrees awarded — Valencia College. It is a past recipient of Aspen Institute’s award for "best community college in the nation" for its dedication to student success, and its film production program has also been called "one of the best available in the country" by Steven Spielberg.

Brazosport College

Brazosport College

As a 2015 Aspen Prize finalist, Brazosport College's mission to help students succeed is finally being recognized. Not only does this community college offer two-year degree options, but it also allows students to earn a Bachelor of Applied Technology. For those wishing to pursue a bachelor’s in a different field, Brazosport participates in the Texas Common Course Numbering System, helping students take courses that will directly relate to their major when they transfer to a four-year university.

This list certainly isn't all-inclusive of the many great schools out there. Community colleges around the country offer all types of students the tools needed for success, whether you consider yourself an average student (like Hanks did himself), a single mother wanting to go back to school, a veteran working towards a degree, or a professional looking for ways to move up the corporate ladder. Community colleges offer a wealth of opportunities to help you explore your interests and discover your potential. You may find that what you’re looking for is much closer to home — and more affordable — than you realized.

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