April is Community College Month. Community colleges are vital centers for their communities. They exist to fill communities’ many needs and interests.
Community colleges were formally known as junior colleges. They first opened in the United States in the late 19th century as a way to address two key problems: affordability and accessibility for the average worker. At the time, the average worker meant the majority of rural, small towns and urban neighborhoods. A postsecondary, higher education space for two-year credentials did not exist. The four-year, classical higher education framework dominated that time period and because the 4-year system was more costly, the 2-year system was a likely solution. Offering low cost, public, open enrollment with shorter turnaround-type credentials was an ideal solution for people seeking a new career throughout the 1930’s depression or looking to transfer to a 4-year university at an affordable rate.
Today, community colleges continue to provide general education courses that lead to associate degrees and which can transfer to four-year universities for the completion of bachelors’ degrees, saving students significant amounts of money. But community colleges also provide classes created specifically to address the needs and interests of their communities—classes that may not be found at any other institution. (https://www.acct.org/CCMonth)
Most of today’s “traditional” college students — especially at community colleges — are “non-traditional.” They are older, poorer, represent much greater diversity and are likelier to be raising families themselves. Out of all the different sectors of higher education, community colleges serve larger proportions of: first-generation students, low-income students, minority students, English language learners, and students with learning disabilities. (https://www.ccdaily.com/)
At Catch the Next, we are privileged to work with community colleges across the state of Texas, from the Rio Grande Valley to North Texas serving the diverse communities that are Tejas. Our Ascender program, for example, has proven the following: more student participants earn two-year degrees and certificates, obtain more 4-year degrees and 2/3 spend less on total educational costs. These are great outcomes from a great public resource.