Lorelei homeschooled her only child through high school using an eclectic style of home education.
In today's world having a college degree has become more important to companies than ever before in history. That is why attending one is so important to high school graduates and their parents. It is also the step that many must take to get into the field in which they wish to pursue a career. The problem is that things often get in the way of achieving such an education or we aren't ready to walk that seemingly dark path. Whether it is money, job indecision, lack of interest, or worries over ability there is something for you at the community college.
Programs and Degrees
Community or junior colleges offer a wide variety of classes. You can do everything from earning individual certificates to an associate’s degree. You can also complete general courses before you ever enter university. Maybe you just want to learn a new skill or perfect an old one. Perhaps it is just for personal enjoyment.
- An associate’s degree is a degree requiring a specified amount of credits needed for any degree you choose to attain. Usually, over 60 credits are needed to graduate. Classes can be taken as a full-time or part-time student. Part-time students take more time to finish their academic requirements but it often works for those who need to work full-time jobs or have families to care for. Your degree can stand alone, be followed up by specific certifications, or be used toward a transfer to a 4-year university program.
- A certificate of completion is an educational course used for business and industry on specific subjects pertinent to your chosen career path. The credit hours needed are usually less than those needed for an associate’s degree and take less time to achieve.
- Individual classes to enhance abilities can be taken in any subject. Need to freshen up those math skills? Traveling to Mexico and want to learn Spanish? Need training in a specific field of nursing? Take a class. All are available at a community college. Maybe it was not getting a good grade in school that keeps us from pursuing a higher education. Or we may have dropped out of school completely. Maybe we need more training in English, Reading, or Writing. No need to be embarrassed. At a community college, you can take the individual classes you need. All ages attend community college courses.
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is the idea of teaching curriculum that focuses on specific, in-demand classes that are highly desired by industry. An associate’s degree in STEM is what many employers are looking for. Teaching things like analytical and independent thinking, basic computer skills, and problem-solving all surrounding the basic STEM categories gives the student a leg up in finding a good job.
Having a fulltime job or kids at home to take care of does not mean you cannot get an education. Most community colleges offer online classes that can be taken one at a time if you like. It is the answer for many who thought they could never get a higher education. Most classes have no specific check-in time, only assignment deadlines. This works perfectly for the busy individual who needs to fit schooling into their own schedule. It is also great for those who are trying to move up in the careers they already have, but just need a few more courses to receive a certificate or finish their degree.
Finances and Books
When I first thought about college when my son was in high school, I panicked. How would we ever afford it? We considered the community college and were pleased to find we had options. Not only was there no big tuition to get started, but we could pay by the class if we wanted to. We decided to put him in an individual class during his high school years a couple of times to get him started. Once he graduated we added more classes to his schedule. We could not always afford to pay the full amount of his classes up front, so went tried their payment plan. It cost us a whopping $20 fee. I am not saying every college offers the same amount. My point is that they make it much more affordable in comparison to a full course university.
There are also textbooks and online access codes to purchase. Those costs can also add up quickly. However, unlike most universities, community colleges tend to require books that are a bit older and that can be purchased from places like Amazon, EBay or other book retailers. This really saves the pocketbook. We have also rented textbooks from a few academic rental bookstores like Campus Book Rentals, eCampus book rentals, and Knetbooks. Just rent the book and mail it back at the end of the semester. Another helpful tool is BookFinder.com where you can search for textbooks and sell your used ones. Every dollar helps.
As I mentioned above with my own son, if your child is still in high school you can sign up for dual enrollment with your local community college. This has become a common practice with over 70 percent of high schools offering it their students. The student continues their academic courses in high school, but can also earn post-secondary credit from the college. This can lighten their workload when they do enroll in the college fulltime. Note: While this is a great resource it is not for everyone. If the student struggles with keeping up in high school the stress of adding a class or two could be overwhelming.
Sometimes we just do not want to work for a business or get into other mainstream industries. Occasionally we want to be something like a fashion designer, EMT, photographer, dancer, fireman, or paramedic. More and more community colleges are offering classes to address the varied needs and interests of society without attending a university or specialty school. Some schools even offer classes in Native American languages and code talking for even more unconventional studies.
Smaller Class Sizes and a Wide Varity of Professors
Most classes have a cap on the number of students they allow in a class. Instead of sprawling rows of students, there may be only 20 to 30 in any given class. This allows for more individual time with the professor when help is needed and the students and instructors have more opportunity to get to know each other. There is a bit more variety in the staff as well. Some will just be starting out after receiving their own degrees, but many are seasoned professionals who have taken on either a full or part-time position at the college. A few come to the community college to teach just one class that they specialize in.
Homeschool Students Welcome
If you homeschooled your child without a program as I did, it can sometimes be difficult to get into some universities. Yes, you can take tests to better qualify, but not all kids are comfortable with that. Or they do not want the big college debt.
Check your local community college for details, but the college near our home offered a meeting for homeschooling parents that stepped us through the enrollment process and what we would need. It was comforting to have our questions answered.
The school required a diploma, which we printed out from the Internet and filled in. The student also takes the same entrance exam everyone else takes to see what basic classes they may need. A very easy process.
Staying Close to Home
A very big expense for many families is that of housing. Some Universities even require that first-year students live on campus. Community colleges are usually located in and around large communities or near major hubs in rural areas. With so many junior colleges there is usually one close to home for everyone or at least within a reasonable driving distance. This erases the huge expense of finding an apartment or paying for a dorm room, as well as the possible hassle of finding roommates with whom to share expenses. We live in the suburbs and have two community colleges near us. One is 3 minutes away, the other is 25 minutes away. However, there are a total of ten in our county.
Sometimes, all a student needs is time. Time to sort out what they want to do in life, find where their interests lie, or just do not feel emotionally ready to live in a university atmosphere. The community college allows students to get their feet wet, get comfortable in a college style class, and see where their hearts lead them in their education. For some it is a stepping stone, for others, it is the chance to see if college is even something they want to pursue. For those without scholarships or the money to afford going to a big university the benefits of attending a community college can be a great option.
© 2018 Lorelei Nettles
RTalloni on February 12, 2018:
Community college is a smart move for many young people for the reasons you mention and more. The important consideration of struggling at university because they are too young to be sure of the huge decisions they must make with huge financial commitments is crucial. Getting a head start at community college while still in high school is one way to mature and be better prepared for the coming big decisions. Good discussion you've started!