When students in high school consider pursuing higher education, many send applications to their top university choices. They may not even consider their local community college. Those who take a second look may be surprised at what they find.

Washington State Community College Statistics

Asian American students statistically have better rates of retention than for other people of color. They are also Òrepresented in higher proportions in fields containing higher-wage jobs.Ó However, the colleges are working to improve transition rates of Asian American students from adult basic education to more advanced fields of study.

Washington colleges show a healthy access ratio in terms of parity (percent of students in college as compared to their percentage in the total population). For example, using 2007 statistics, there were 10.7 percent Asian/Pacific Islander students enrolled, with APIs comprising 7.9 percent of the total population. However, access ratios fall when these comparisons are made in terms of presences in college-level programs (acceptance into college-level studies).

Four-Year Degrees at Community Colleges

A nascent national movement among some community colleges has been to restructure to be hybrids that offer both two-year associates and four-year baccalaureate degrees. One of those cutting-edge colleges is Bellevue College (which dropped the ÒCommunityÓ from its name earlier this year).

Community colleges have traditionally attracted many students who did not want the pressure of university studies, with the large 800-seat lecture halls and impersonal exams. Their open-door policies attracted many mid-range students as well as many second-language speakers who wanted to ease into the higher education scene. Community colleges also attract so-called non-traditional students who do not fall into the 18-24 age range; the average age for those in community colleges is in the upper 20s and early 30s.

These also attracted many who wanted to retool to meet high-demand occupations, so they could often start work right upon graduation or even as they were wrapping up degrees, through internships and supportive job placements.

The tuition for community colleges is often a third (or less) of the costs for the same courses taken at a university. Washington State subsidizes higher education both at the college and the university levels.

Recent statistics suggest that over 60 percent of American students start out at the community colleges. Many universities rely on the colleges to train students well in foundational learning to then transfer into their ranks as juniors (third-year college students), at which time they must declare a major or educational path.

If universities are known for graduate studies and world-class research, then community colleges may be known more for hands-on learning, supportive faculty, student support, and responsive programs for tailored workplace (vocational) trainings.

Community colleges cannot compete on par with universities for the donations of former students, in part because many former students consider their bachelorÕs degree-granting institutions their alma maters. Because they donÕt conduct research as a central focus or have the necessary high-level laboratory spaces, many colleges also cannot compete for larger corporate or federal grants.

Most colleges are non-residential ones, which mean that they do not have dormitories or graduate housing where students may reside. A majority of colleges also offer online learning programs, so students may earn full certificates or degrees without physically setting foot on campus (but with all their work done online).

Colleges often have competitive sports programs. They have a range of student clubs. They have student newspapers. They host various social events on campuses. Many have state-of-the-art technology centers. Virtually all have sports facilities, theatres, art galleries, and other amenities.

More Funding for Higher Learning

The 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) has shed light on the important role of community colleges in training up current generations of college students and in re-training the US workforce, particularly those dislocated by the dismal economy. The community colleges are one of the recipients for federal stimulus moneys and state resources in order to prepare the American workforce for new employment opportunities.

Some Online Resources

The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges HYPERLINK “http://www.sbctc.ctc.edu/” http://www.sbctc.ctc.edu/

Washington Online (WAOL) http://www.waol.org/.

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