Community colleges could provide an alternative to rising education costs and student debt.
The nation’s community colleges have been getting a bad rap for quite a while, as a somewhat lower class of education, particularly by the educated elites from the major universities. Even the comedy series, Big Bang Theory, chimes in from time to time as Sheldon and Leonard look down their intellectual noses at Penny’s community college education.
But those small colleges are filling a major role in the education systems and also in the communities that surround them, and they deserve a little respect. President Obama has said he would like to make a community college education tuition-free for recent high school graduates, although the logistics of such a program need to be ironed out.
First of all, nothing is free. If the students aren’t paying for the cost of their education, someone else is, most likely the American taxpayer. Teacher salaries and brick-and-mortar buildings cost money to operate, providing heating, cooling and lighting. Governments are looking at ways to reduce education spending in most cases and it if unlikely thy will embrace a new expense.
Secondly, if community college attendance is free to all, the number of students will almost certainly increase, forcing the hiring of even more personnel to staff the facilities, and expansion of building programs to house the additional students for classes, making the program even more expensive that it is today.
Still, the community college may be the answer to quite a few issues that are plaguing the education systems across the country, and quite possibly hold the key to a more educated work force and pulling many underprivileged students out of the cycle of poverty.
One of the key advantages of the community college system is in the name itself, community. Most are located around a particular segment of the population and afford college students an opportunity to continue to live at home while pursuing the first two years of their degree. As any parent of a college-attending student will testify, housing at four-year universities is quite expensive. And while it can get pricy trying to feed a growing student, at least you can save on the housing costs, while also reaping the benefits of a usually lower cost of tuition at the community college.
Also, most community colleges offer some types of professional training, many times localized to the area they serve, that can lead to a certificate of completion as a technician in one of the various industries. Programs such as welding, plumbing, technology repair and many others may not be viewed as white-collar positions, but the paychecks for such technical expertise ranks up there with the starting pay for many career paths chosen by those with degrees from four-year schools.