By Joe Gbodai
One of the most important decisions a student will make upon graduating high school is deciding which college or university to attend. Numerous factors play a role in the decision process, such as a student’s educational goal, what he/she wants from the experience, and the cost of tuition and housing.
Although students who choose to attend a four-year institution may have carefully planned their college endeavors, they sometimes encounter unexpected circumstances that occur and force them to reevaluate their decision.
“I attended the University of Delaware my first semester,” said Sianni Miller, a biology major currently in her second semester at DCCC. “I hated it. I constantly felt homesick and didn’t have many friends there.”
Miller is not alone. This trend is common within DCCC’s student body.
“I received a scholarship to attend King’s College my senior year of high school,” said Jasmyne Randall, a liberal arts freshman who began her first semester at DCCC in January. “I realized when my scholarships and grants ran out that there’d be no way I’d be able to afford that school, and I did not want to incur that amount of debt.” Randall has good reason to be reluctant.
According to the Department of Education, student debt in 2010 exceeded credit card debt. The Institute for College Access and Success reports that the average debt for a student attending a four-year public or private institution in the state of Pennsylvania is nearly $32,000, with out-of-state four-year public or private institution about $10,000 more.
According to the Project on Student Debt, 71 percent of these students will be in debt after they graduate
Large class sizes also tend to also play a factor in students transferring to a community college from a four-year university. “Class sizes at community colleges are much smaller than those found in the freshman and sophomore year at public universities,” said George R. Boggs, former president and CEO of the American Association of Community College. “Most classes have fewer than 35 students and provide more opportunities for students to interact with teachers and other students.”
Furthermore, many high school graduates aren’t prepared for the college experience.
Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows that more than one-in-fourteen students quit higher education altogether after less than 12 months.The rate of enrollment in community colleges is on the rise.
According to the American Association of Community Colleges, as of the 2011-2012 school years, The AACC reports that approximately 3.3 million students were enrolled full-time, and approximately 4.8 million were enrolled part-time.
The National Center of Education Statistics reports that the average tuition and fees at community colleges are less than half of the average tuition and fees at a public four-year institution and one in one-tenth of the tuition and fees at a private four-year institution.
In addition, students can live at home and save on housing and food. To help these reduced expenses, community college students often find they qualify for financial aid while attending and in many cases, the colleges offer work-study or part-time jobs.
Not only does community colleges offer transfer programs that count toward a bachelor degree, it also prepares registered nurses, police officers, paramedics, firefighters, and advanced-skill technicians.
“I used to go to Temple and was majoring in sociology,” said Safiya Farrah, a nursing student in her first semester at DCCC. “I realized that it wasn’t for me which prompted me to switch my major and enroll at DCCC.”
There are some opposing viewpoints. The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that the eight year bachelor’s degree completion rate for students starting at community colleges is far lower (17 percent) than for students starting at public four‐year colleges (57 percent) and for students starting at private four‐year colleges (78 percent).
According to the NCES, the likelihood of earning a bachelor’s degree is significantly reduced if a student starts her post-secondary education at a community college, and the amount of time it takes to complete a bachelor’s degree (and potentially, the amount of loans a student accrues) is greatly increased. On average, it takes students about 2 years longer to complete bachelor’s degrees if they begin at community colleges than if they begin at four‐year colleges.
The NCES reports that the average time it takes to complete a bachelor’s degree is: 71 months for students who began at two-year colleges; 55 months for students who began at public four-year colleges; 50 months for students who began at private four-year colleges.
Despite these criticisms, many students at the Marple campus seem pleased with their educational choice.
“I wish I would have started at a community college in the first place,” said Miller. “I think this is a good stepping stone for any student before transferring to a four-year school.”