When people outside of the education industry think about community college, they often consider it a last resort. Sure, the mission is noble and it’s a great way to save money, but community college is not necessarily a desirable destination for most students. Or is it?
A new statewide survey in Colorado shows that a community college credential could wind up being quite valuable, even compared to a traditional four-year degree. And, CollegeMeasures.org found that the early career earnings of graduates with technical, career-oriented associate’s degrees could match or even exceed the earnings of graduates with bachelor’s degrees.
Source: Education Pays in Colorado
So, why the stigma against community colleges?
Many students never even consider community college as an option directly out of high school, and yet the benefits are tremendous. Community colleges are affordable. They help students improve academically and prepare for the rigors of continuing at a four-year institution. They give students more time and experience to identify where they want to go in life and to define a path that is best for them. And, many community colleges today are leaders in helping first-generation and non-traditional students succeed in school while balancing part-time jobs, childcare, and other real-life issues.
Community colleges also play an important role in bridging the skills gap that exists in today’s workforce. According to a study by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, there will be 165 million jobs in the economy by 2020, and 65 percent of those positions will require some form of post-secondary education. Community colleges can serve as a catalyst to fill this vital need in the economy.
And, in a recent survey of community college presidents, Inside Higher Ed found that almost 90 percent of respondents “strongly agree or agree that their college is collaborating with local businesses to close the skills gap and improve their students’ job prospects.” One-quarter of community college presidents said they strongly agree or agree that “businesses are taking the lead to close the skills gap in their community.”
Community colleges receive the least amount of public financial support compared to other institutions, yet they offer tremendous benefits to students. Are you aware of all the value your local community college can deliver to students or businesses? If you’re a community college, what are you doing to help educate your community about all you have to offer?