US Education

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US Education system - Community College

Community Colleges provide two-year university academic programs that allow students to transfer to the third year of a four-year university and two-year associate degree programs, usually called the associate of arts (A.A.) or associate of science (A.S.) degrees. Community colleges can be public or private institutions and are sometimes called junior colleges or two-year colleges.

A growing number of international students are choosing to study at community colleges. Tuition costs are often lower at two-year than at four-year institutions, and many have agreements to allow students on transfer programs to move easily into the third year of a bachelor's degree at the local state university.

Like their American classmates, International students are discovering that many of these unique schools have outstanding programs, transferable credits, reasonable fees, high-quality courses, committed teachers, smaller classes, and supportive environments. These factors are so attractive that over 40 percent of theU.S.undergraduate population can be found in the classrooms ofAmerica's two-year colleges. For many international students, the quest for aU.S.bachelor's degree will begin at a community college.

By taking advantage of this 2+2 system of articulation between a two-year college and a four-year college or university, international students can graduate with a degree from a top tier college or university at a fraction of the cost and apply those savings to their living costs and plane tickets home.  Furthermore, when they are ready to transfer to a four-year college or university, they would already have had the benefit of two-years of rigorous preparation and language learning to facilitate the transition.

Community colleges classes start early in the morning and continue until late at night.  Because they are funded by state and local tax money, community colleges keep their doors open to all students.  Everyone living in the area the community college serves is eligible and welcome to attend.

Community colleges offer lots of different programs. These are:

•University transfer programs

•Technical programs

•Job training programs

•Basic skills programs

•Special interest programs 

Why Community Colleges are welcome by international students?

For international students coming to the United States from other countries, community colleges offer some distinct advantages over other institutions.  First of all, community colleges usually have an easy, open admission process. Second, community colleges generally have lower tuition costs than four-year colleges and universities.  Students can save money during the first two years of their undergraduate studies.  Then they can transfer to any four-year institution to complete the bachelor's degree.

All community colleges are fully accredited institutions.  Credits earned may be transferred to any other institution.  Most universities welcome students who transfer from community colleges. The third main advantage of community colleges is that students will find a receptive, supportive learning environment.  Classes are smaller, and professors are devoted entirely to teaching.

What international students expect and not expect

There are special programs to assist students who need extra help with English or math or any other subject.  Finally, community colleges offer international students a realistic view of American society.  They will meet fellow students who are also studying here to reach their goals.  Though some of the traditional features of a college campus—such as dormitories—may be missing, there are many reasons why the community college experience has become the stepping stone to higher education in a democratic society.

Articulation Agreements

As a reminder again, undergraduate degrees in the United States fall into two categories: the Associate Degree, which is a two-year degree (either an Associate of Arts Degree or an Associate of Science Degree) and the Bachelor’s Degree, which is a four-year degree. 

Many community colleges have formal articulation agreements in place with four-year colleges and universities that prepare students for transfer ahead of time to ensure success, and it is of the utmost importance for students to meet with an academic advisor regularly to review their educational plan and set academic goals.

Chosen Major and General Education Core Curriculum

For transfer eligibility, general education coursework requirements need to be fulfilled, in addition to preparation for the student’s chosen major.  Whereas, entrance into specialty major programs may require that specific courses be taken and a minimum GPA be maintained to guarantee transfer admission.

In the state of California for example, the formal articulation agreement established between Community Colleges and Universities are called the Transfer Admission Agreement (TAA) or the Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG).  The program includes an early review of academic records, early admission notification and specific guidance in terms of completion of required coursework. 

Examples of courses that would be included in a General Education Core Curriculum are: a Communications course, Quantitative Reasoning, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Biological Sciences.

History of Community College in the US

Community colleges became a national network in the 1960s with the opening of 457 public community colleges - more than the total in existence before that decade. The construction involved in this gigantic growth of facilities was funded by a robust economy and supported by the social activism of the time. The number of community colleges has steadily grown since the 1960s. At present, there are 1,166 community colleges in theUnited States. When the branch campuses of community colleges are included, the number totals about 1,600. 

Today, community colleges have grown tremendously in numbers and have changed with the times. No other segment of higher education is more responsive to its community and workforce needs than the community college. Community colleges educate more than half the nation's undergraduates. In the 1996-97 academic year, 9.3 million people took credit courses at community colleges. Another 5 million took noncredit classes, the majority of which were workforce training courses.  Since 1901, at least 100 million people have attended community colleges. Community colleges have also been called “two-year colleges” or “junior colleges,” but the preferred name is community college.  These institutions, found throughout theUnited States, primarily serve local communities.  Most community colleges are “commuter schools,” situated close to expressways and public transportation routes so that students can reach the campus easily from the surrounding area.

Community colleges have not only survived, they have thrived by demonstrating remarkable resiliency and becoming centers of educational opportunity open to all seekers. They pride themselves on providing educational marketplaces where student choices and community needs influence course offerings. Now we mark a century in which community colleges have helped millions of people learn and advance toward personal goals, while providing a forum to address challenges facing whole communities.

Founded in 1901, Joliet Junior College in Illinoisis the oldest existing public two-year college.  In the early years, the colleges focused on general liberal arts studies.

Community colleges offer a great deal more than credit and noncredit classes. In 1988, with society becoming increasingly fragmented, the Commission on the Future of Community Colleges recommended that community colleges help build a sense of community by creating partnerships and making facilities available to civic groups. Additionally, community colleges have embraced the opportunity to provide remedial education:  basic computation, composition and reading classes to help students meet their ultimate goals.

Community colleges by definition serve the community with the kinds of programs that the citizens want and need.  Community college education is available to adults of any age or educational background. Community colleges have a unique place in the educational system of theUnited States.  They bring higher education within reach of millions of people who might not otherwise have a chance to go to college.  The fastest-growing segment of American higher education, community colleges now enroll more students than any other kind of institution.  Community colleges make high quality education convenient and affordable to virtually everyone.

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