Recently, The New York Times published an article entitled "For Achievers, a New Destination" in which they noted that community colleges are no longer a last resort for unmotivated or underachieving students. On the contrary, more and more community colleges are becoming an attractive alternative to students looking to earn their core academic credit at a significantly reduced cost before transferring to a four-year school to complete their bachelor’s degree.

Citing the College Board, The New York Times observed that the average tuition at community colleges is less than half the cost of a state school ($2,272 compared to $5,836) and almost one-tenth of what it might cost at a private school, which, on average, is upwards of $22,000. As a result, the face of community colleges is beginning to change — to be more precise, it is getting younger. Quoting The Times:

Many two-year colleges are now recruiting students who fit the traditional profile of baccalaureate undergraduates: 18- to 24-year-olds who have strong high school records and are moving directly into higher education full time. Such students are helping to lower the average age of community college students, which has steadily declined: 42 percent taking courses for credit are under 22, compared with 32 percent a decade ago, according to a 2005 federal study. No longer wed primarily to a work force-training mission, these colleges consider it a major, if not predominant, goal to prepare students to transfer to four-year institutions.

The article also notes that many community colleges are becoming increasingly successful in placing graduates in top-flight four-year schools. In other words, top-flight schools are beginning to recognize that students from community colleges are academically competitive, which means that community colleges offer a comparable education to that of four-year institutions.

If this report is true — if you really can get a competitive education at half the price — then it means that community colleges offer more bang for a student’s buck than either state or private schools. Sobering thoughts. I wonder if we’ll be reading a similar article about online education soon …


Benjamin Welch has been a college instructor in writing and composition for nearly six years. When he’s not teaching or playing golf, he offers advice for students seeking information about online education and online degrees.

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