As graduation from high school approaches the student is thinking seriously about his future. A student whose parent is a college graduate has an advantage. The parent has been down this road and likely began saving for the offspring’s higher education. They have probably visited some prospective colleges and determined where the higher education should commence.
But not all high school students are so advantaged. Further, some students are not entirely sure that higher education is in the cards for them. Finally, some students realize that while a high school diploma is of value, some technical or trade education would be of greater value. Today’s job market is difficult and when applying for a job the applicant has to have something to sell, something the employer needs and is willing to pay for.
The first American Community College opened its doors in Joliet, IL in 1901. An alternative to a full four year college and yet a means of gaining a marketable skill beyond high school, was created. For one hundred plus years the community college system has grown and educated millions of students.
For the less affluent student, the community college offers an opportunity to complete courses that will be accepted by a four year college at a much lower cost per credit. In many areas there have been agreements made between the community and four year colleges so a student knows what his prospects for transferring credits upon graduation. This arrangement also gives a student an opportunity to learn what college life is like and develop study habits that will be necessary in any higher educational institution.
One of the unfortunate complications of life is that the path an individual takes in life, the career path he starts down, is the result of a decision made by an eighteen year old kid. That kid ends up growing into an adult who lives with decisions he made as a teenager. During the first two years of college many students learn that their chosen career is not for them. It is unfortunate that a high percentage of college students change their major before graduation. When this happens and they change their major, they will add one or two years to their academic career. Here a community college’s reduced cost makes the change less painful financially.
After two years in a community college the student faces another career decision. The advantage, however, is that he now has an understanding of college life and whether his chosen career is right for him. He now must decide if he wants to pursue a four year degree or put his two year degree to work for him. Either way, he is better prepared than he was two short years ago.
If the two year graduate decides to go to work he still has the option to resume his education in the future, often paid for by his employer. He will also bring real field experience with him when he returns to college.
Fifty years ago a high school graduate could go to work at a local manufacturing plant and start at the bottom. He could learn a trade or just work into a position on a production line. He could earn a decent living, raise a family and perhaps put his children through college. Today, with manufacturing jobs in decline continuing a slide that began in the early 1950s, the opportunities simply are not there. The youth joining the workforce will have to be better equipped than their forbearers, and a community college is a very good alternative.