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The Benefits of Community Colleges

May 27, 2011

The Benefits of Community Colleges

by Lisa Lowdermilk

For many students fresh out of high school, the idea of going to a community college is not appealing. After all, one of the most exciting aspects of attending college is living on campus away from home, right? Well, living on campus may not be all it's cracked up to be.

Although few people would argue that universities' clubs, fraternities and parties are superior to anything offered at a community college, the stress of being away from home for the first time, learning to live with one or more roommates and being forced to make new friends can be quite an adjustment. Community colleges help students ease into the transition between high school and college more gradually.

Then there’s the cost: Tuition at a community college per year costs $2,713 per year, whereas four-year universities cost $7,605 per year on average. This second figure assumes you're living in-state but if you're living out-of-state, expect to be set back about $11,990 your first year. If cost is the major deciding factor, your decision is easy: Go to a community college for your first two years, then transfer. With all the extra money you're saving, you can throw your own parties, buy that new car you've been wanting or just save up for when you do go to a university.

Even if you're not going to your dream school for your first two years, you'll still have the opportunity to experience campus life after you get your associate degree at a community college. And who knows? Maybe you'll even find out community colleges aren't as bad as they're made out to be!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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Professor Tells Stuttering Student Not to Speak in Class

October 12, 2011

Professor Tells Stuttering Student Not to Speak in Class

by Suada Kolovic

For years, educators have stressed the importance of asking questions and participating in classroom discussions, insisting that education is a dialog between student and teacher. But what if your professor personally insisted that you keep quiet during class? For one student at a New Jersey community college, that was just the case.

Philip Garber Jr., a 16-year-old who is taking two classes at the County College of Morris, has a profound stutter that makes talking difficult – and talking quickly impossible. According to the Star-Leger, after the first few class sessions in which Garber actively participated, he received an unusual email from his instructor: The professor, an adjunct named Elizabeth Snyder, requested that he pose his questions before or after class, “so that we do not infringe on the other students’ time.” As for the questions she asks during class, Ms. Snyder suggested, “I believe it would be better for everyone if you kept a sheet of paper on your desk and wrote down the answers.”

Determined to resolve the issue, Garber reported the situation to a college dean, who suggested he transfer to another teacher’s class, where he has been asking and answering questions again. The college wouldn’t say if any disciplinary action was taken against Snyder. (For more on the story click here.)

Do you think Garber was unfairly discriminated against because of his stutter? Do you think Ms. Snyder’s request was out of line?

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The President on Education

Obama Talks Higher Ed in State of the Union Address

January 25, 2012

The President on Education

by Alexis Mattera

In addition to talk of the economy and spilled milk, President Obama shared his thoughts on higher education during his third State of the Union address last night. On his to-do list: reduce student loan interest rates, extend a tax credit and continue supporting community colleges.

Ideally, the president would prevent the interest rate increase on federal student loans currently set for July, double the amount of federal work-study jobs in the next five years (moves that would cost $5 billion and $1 billion per year, respectively) and make the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent. Obama praised community colleges as he has in the past for their links to job training and their contributions to keeping college affordable but had some harsher words for other institutions: Colleges that continued to hike tuition were put "on notice" and a document accompanying the speech said the president would propose to shift some federal aid away from colleges that don’t provide good value. "It’s not enough for us to increase student aid," Obama said. "We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down."

Did you watch the State of the Union? What did you think of what President Obama had to say?

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DePaul Takes the Guesswork Out of Transferring

February 21, 2012

DePaul Takes the Guesswork Out of Transferring

by Alexis Mattera

For any student thinking about transferring, there’s always the worry that the credits they’ve worked so hard to achieve will be worth nothing at their new school...any student except those transferring to DePaul University, that is.

According to Lois Bishop, DePaul’s director of community college partnerships, transfer students at DePaul have great grades and high graduation rates but many have failed to take prerequisite courses or accumulated credits at their previous institutions that won’t count toward their bachelor’s degrees. In order to make transferring as educationally- and cost-effective as it can be, the school created the DePaul Admissions Partnership Program to help transfer students earn their two-year credentials and bachelor’s degrees on time. Students in the program are guaranteed a spot at DePaul if they finish community college with a 2.0 GPA and receive $2,000 a year after transferring if they achieve a 3.0. They also lock in bachelor’s degree requirements if they enroll within three years of starting the program, have access to DePaul advisers while at the community college to ensure they take the right classes for their eventual majors and can earn reverse credits toward associate degrees. (Check out additional details from Inside Higher Ed here.)

Since the program’s launch last year, DePaul has partnered with Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Harold Washington College, Truman College, Wright College, College of DuPage, Harper College, Moraine Valley Community College and Oakton Community College but hopes to expand the opportunity to more schools and students. What do you think of the DePaul Admissions Partnership Program? Would a program like this appeal to you if you were thinking about transferring?

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Colleges Worry About End of Federal Aid-Based Ability Benefit

March 20, 2012

Colleges Worry About End of Federal Aid-Based Ability Benefit

by Alexis Mattera

It may feel like we’ve skipped winter but federal aid is about to be put on ice for college hopefuls lacking high school diplomas or GEDs.

As of July 1st, newly-enrolled students will no longer be allowed to take an "ability to benefit" test or complete a set amount of credits without aid; instead, college students will be required to have high school diplomas or GEDs in order to receive federal financial aid. How will these students – many of whom are older, seeking training to find a new job, immigrants and students in states like California where the basic adult education budget has been cut – pay for school? College administrators anticipate they will turn to private loans...or give up on their degrees entirely.

David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, says the change “runs counter to the missions of many of our colleges,” as these schools view enrolling students without high school credentials as a key part of providing access to higher education: There are currently about 836,000 students without high school diplomas or GEDs enrolled at two-year public colleges nationwide and according to a limited 2006-2007 Education Department study, students without high school diplomas and GEDs were ultimately more successful in college and had higher GPAs than their classmates with high school diplomas, even if they failed the "ability to benefit" test. If would-be students have to get a GED before going to college and receive zero financial assistance while they prepare, Baime says many will opt out altogether.

What do you think of the new rule regarding federal aid? Do you think a high school diploma or GED is necessary to succeed in college?

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Don't Know Where You're Headed This Fall? These Schools Are Still Accepting Applications!

May 9, 2012

Don't Know Where You're Headed This Fall? These Schools Are Still Accepting Applications!

by Alexis Mattera

At this point in the year, high school seniors and transfer students know where they’ll be heading in the fall...unless they don’t. It’s not uncommon for a student to have second thoughts about the school they committed to or receive the news that they didn’t get off the wait list at their school of choice after enrollment deadlines for other potential schools had passed. If this sounds like you, you don’t have to put your post-secondary aspirations on hold: NACAC’s Space Availability Survey has revealed hundreds of schools that are still accepting freshman and/or transfer applications for the fall semester. Check out a sampling below:

The list will be updated regularly here – will this information help you in your college search?

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Meet Scholarships.com's Virtual Interns: Samuel Favela

February 11, 2013

Meet Scholarships.com's Virtual Interns: Samuel Favela

by Samual Favela

Hey guys! My name is Samuel Favela (you can call me Samwell) and I’m currently a journalism major at Long Beach City College. Nice to meet you all!

What’s my story? I used to attend Cal Poly Pomona but left because, like most college students, I had no idea what direction I was going in. After a year off, I decided to move back home and try out a community college; I had my doubts at first but by mid-term, I LOVED my new school! The environment was fresh, there was so much diversity and the people there were actually willing to carry a conversation with me. I quickly realized I had a better connection there than I did at Cal Poly with both local students and ones from all over the nation.

My interest in journalism transpired from me always writing on my own time, taking pictures of cool random things and my people skills. To be honest, it was a lucky guess: I only took the classes because they were open and I needed four more units to get financial aid but two classes into my first journalism class (public relations), I was hooked. I even received an award for being at the top of my class. Good guess, huh? As of right now, I am interested in transferring to Cal State Long Beach after I take all the classes I need at LBCC, but who knows? I didn't expect to be going to LBCC and given how much I like change, I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up in New York!

What do I hope to get out of this virtual internship? I love the thought of being the voice for a community or generation. I have a voice I know how to use and if I can speak for someone who can't say the words themself, it would be my honor. I hope this is the start of a beautiful virtual relationship! :)

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Study: Pell Grant Restrictions Affect Enrollment at Community Colleges in the South

February 13, 2013

Study: Pell Grant Restrictions Affect Enrollment at Community Colleges in the South

by Scholarships.com Staff

Community colleges across the country have seen a steep decline in enrollments this year for a few reasons. A recovering economy steering students toward jobs and budget cuts that have led to fee increases have played key roles but changes to federal Pell grant eligibility are most notable. According to a new study, community colleges in the Deep South have been hit hardest by the changes that took effect last year.

The study, by Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama director Stephen Katsinas, argues that community college enrollments in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi are highly sensitive to changes in the federal grant program. Enrollment in 47 of the 62 two-year colleges across the three states declined this past fall and more than 5,000 students lost Pell grants – a change that the report's authors say can be directly attributed to the changes in eligibility. Students are now limited to just six years of Pell grants, fewer students automatically qualify for the maximum grant because of a lower income cap for receiving an “automatic zero” expected family contribution and students without a high school diploma or GED are no longer eligible.

While many states have started to see their economies improve, that’s not the case for the three states included in the study. In fact, not only have their economies not recovered but state-supported student aid programs are much smaller, so colleges have fewer resources for low-income students who no longer qualify for Pell grants. Both Pell grants and community colleges are "vital to enhancing college degree completion in the Deep South, for it is the community colleges where economically disadvantaged students begin higher education," the study noted. The enrollment numbers were based on surveys of community college officials. All of the two-year colleges in the three-state region responded. However, the national enrollment data for 2012 hasn't been compiled yet, said David Thomas, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education.

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Getting a College Education Behind Bars

April 8, 2013

Getting a College Education Behind Bars

by Carly Gerber

Did you know Cornell University offers a program for inmates at Auburn Correctional Facility and Cayuga Correctional Facility to receive college educations?

The Cornell Prison Education Program (CPEP) began from the ideas and actions of English professor Winthrop “Pete” Wetherbee who, without funding, began teaching in the Auburn prison in the mid-1990s. By 1999, CPEP was offering Cornell credit for completed courses and in 2008, Cornell and Cayuga Community College (CCC) made an agreement which has Cornell waive tuition and fees, CPEP supply instructors and pay for books, school supplies and administration and CCC endow associate degrees. Plus, the CPEP is relatively low in cost – $1,800 per student – and has numerous benefits: Prison education appears to increase the safety of the prisons because the men and women are staying occupied, learning and building self-esteem.

The programs have been getting a positive reaction because other inmates want to join. Retired Cornell professor Richard Polenberg taught a constitutional history course at Auburn Correctional Facility and had said, “These men are extraordinary” and “They are very, very well behaved in the classroom and they ask really good questions.” Government and American Studies professor Mary Katzenstein explains, “Ninety-five percent of men and women in prison are released to society. Do we want people returning who have learned only to hone tricks of the trade, or do we want people coming back to our neighborhoods who have had a chance to learn the kind of analytical skills and be exposed to the ethical values that a liberal arts education is able to impart?”

With the low cost and many benefits of the CPEP, I think all correctional facilities should have a program like it and more colleges should follow Cornell's lead. What are your thoughts about the CPEP?

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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