In recent weeks, we’ve been sharing several posts that highlight student perspectives on community college. Today, we’re taking a look at what instructors have to say about the benefits of the community college experience.
In our recent Instructor Engagement Insights survey, we asked: “What are the benefits to students of attending a community college?” Instructors provided a wide range of answers, but five key themes emerged; we’ve summarized them below. If you’re an instructor, you may be interested in seeing what your peers have to say; if you know someone who’s still thinking through their college options, these insights may help them think through their decision.
Five Benefits of Attending a Community College, According to Instructors
Given that, according to our recent student survey, saving money was number one among students’ top reasons for choosing community college, we weren’t surprised to see instructors mention the affordability of community college as well. Many of them noted that “low cost” or “lower tuition” can be a benefit to students.
Other instructors were more specific on this topic. One stated that, for students still deciding among their education options, the community college provides a “inexpensive way to ‘test out’ college.” Or, as another instructor put it, the “lower cost of education may allow students to explore more career options/majors.”
Students who plan to transfer to—or who already attend—a four-year school also benefit from the lower cost. In the words of one instructor: “Students can get some courses underway for a lower cost before transferring to a university. Students also take less-expensive courses from community colleges alongside their university courses for a more economical way to finish a program.”
2. Opportunity to build career and technical skills
The fact that many community colleges are “often career & employment oriented” proved important to many instructors. They noted that a community college is generally “a place that values professional and technical education,” and that it can present an “excellent education especially for career technical programs.” Additionally, they said that community college is a good place for students interested in “obtaining further education that will improve job opportunities.” This can be true for those who want to “gain technical skills” or obtain a “quick completion of a degree to enter the workforce,” but it can also come into play for students who attended four-year institutions, yet did not develop the soft skills or technology skills that readied them for the workplace.
3. Smaller class sizes
Compared to a four-year university, where students may encounter an intro class with hundreds in attendance, most community colleges offer introductory courses of a much smaller size. For students in need of added instructional support—or who appreciate a more intimate class setting—this factor can prove beneficial. In support of this point, instructors mentioned that the closer “student-to-teacher ratio” often translates into more “personal attention,” improved “instructor access,” or “better student/faculty interactions at the introductory level.”
4. Resources that support students’ academic success
Several instructors noted that the resources provided by community colleges can help students’ ability to succeed in the college academic environment. Instructors named “multiple programs to support educational attainment,” such as “guidance,” the availability of developmental or “remedial education,” and “tutoring services” as community college offerings that can foster student success.
Of course, the ease of successfully transferring from a community college to a state college is a very important benefit for many students, too. For example, one instructor said, “Virginia has many agreements to make the process seamless for students.” And as another reminded us, students may be fortunate to live in one of the “…many states [that] guarantee admission to a four-year state public university upon completion of the Associate.”
5. Proximity to home
For students who need to stay where they’re currently living, a community college often offers a path to learning that suits their existing personal and professional situations.
Per one instructor, the choice to attend community college “can help students who have other responsibilities to get a start on their university education.” And, thanks to their selection of night and weekend courses, community colleges can also offer “flexible work-friendly schedules,” an important consideration for those who need to take their college courses while maintaining a job.
When making a decision about college, every student must take into account the factors that matter most significantly to themselves as individuals. For many, a community college can be the right decision. For others, a university may be the right choice. But whichever route they choose, it’s important that they make an informed decision that complements their personal and professional goals.