The real story on KC and community college education
For some reason, community colleges don’t always sit at the top of the list of the next step after high school graduation. Everybody wants to go away to a university because somehow, or so the thinking goes, the education one receives there is ‘better’ and more than a few students hope to gain that education and still engage in the away-from-home college student social hijinks that have been the focus of film (think Animal House) and TV (think MTV’s annual spring break bacchanalia).
Everyone can probably list a few reasons why they think attending a community college is the less-than-stellar choice. These reasons form a misconception about community colleges like our own Kishwaukee College, particularly on the academic front, and this black-eye is completely undeserved. It’s time for a reality check.
Myth #1-Community colleges offer low quality academics
Dead wrong. The courses at a community college are designed to be of equal quality to the equivalent courses at a university. In educational jargon, there is an ‘articulation agreement’ between the institutions—equivalent courses must cover the same material with the same depth. Plus, faculty who teach transferable courses at a community college must hold at minimum a master’s degree in their field; in fact, several faculty members at Kishwaukee College hold doctorate degrees in their fields. Faculty who teach an occupational program must hold a degree in that program and many usually have experience in the field. Community college faculty focus exclusively on teaching, a fact that gives students an excellent classroom experience.
Myth #2-Community colleges are really only for vocational programs
Community colleges do offer occupational certificate and degree programs—Kishwaukee College has over 60 programs that lead to a degree in two years or less that prepare students to enter the workforce. However, a significant portion of the student population is composed of transfer degree students who are planning to continue their education at a four-year institution. In fact, when community colleges were first established, their mission was to provide an economically affordable path to a university degree. Nearly 50% of all university students begin their undergraduate academic career at their local community college, and that is great because community college transfers tend to perform better academically at a university than the students who began their education at that university from the start.
Myth 3-Community colleges are like glorified high schools
Only if a student treats it that way. Community colleges are more like a microcosm of society than any other educational institution—students from all ages, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and educational background are represented at a community college. This diversity creates a classroom environment that is unlike any other because, instead of just learning the required material, students can engage in a meaningful discussion in a small classroom with people who come from completely different backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints. The diversity at a community college carries over to life outside the classroom---many opportunities exist to get involved and have organizational experiences with other students. Real leadership is assuming an officer position in an organization that has people of all ages and backgrounds represented.
Myth #4-It’s hard to transfer to a university
Wrong wrong wrong. In Illinois, all community colleges have an agreement with the state public universities to make sure that the transfer process is smooth as silk. Kishwaukee College even has a Transfer Center to provide support services and assistance as students prepare to transfer. Graduating with an Associate in Art or Associate in Science degree from Kishwaukee means that a student can enter a public university with all general education requirements fulfilled and even some of the foundation courses for an intended major completed. Quite simply this means a community college graduate can enter the university usually as a junior in their major. So, the first two years of college are completed at a quality institution at a fraction of the cost.
At a time when a college education is increasingly the key to success and university costs are spiraling upwards at rates that consistently outpace the average family’s income, community colleges like Kishwaukee College are the unheralded gems of the American educational system. Community colleges provide a quality education designed to prepare students for the working world in their chosen occupations or to provide the first two years of college academics in a diverse, rich, and high quality instructional environment at an affordable cost.
Myth: Busted! Attending a community college is an excellent—and financially savvy—decision.