The Growing importance of community colleges

Wake Technical Community College is one of the most popular choices for high school graduates pursuing the next step in higher education. Two-year schools are continuing to grow in importance in the United States. (Photo courtesy of

Year after year, the highest attended college for Leesville graduates has been Wake Technical Community College. This isn’t just limited to Leesville — it’s a growing trend for seniors around the United States to attend 2-year colleges.

According to iSeek, the percentage of post-secondary students attending two-year schools has more than doubled over the last half century. In 2013, there were 17.5 million undergraduate students attending degree-granting institutions in the United States. 7 million of these students (40% of the total), attended 2-year schools.

The jump in attendance could be accredited to the lower tuition costs, course credit transfers to universities or greater focus on teaching and student success.

The average cost for a two-year community college is $3,000 while the average tuition cost for a 2015–2016 four-year school is $32,405 at private colleges, $9,410 for state residents at public colleges, and $23,893 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

By taking courses at a two-year community college, a student saves money by getting the general education classes out of the way. While saving money, community college students are usually making money at the same time. Many students take advantage of the extra time allotted by working jobs to save money if interested in transferring to a larger college or university.

After taking general education courses at a two-year college, students may be eligible for course transfers depending on the school being pursued next. In order to make higher education more accessible and affordable, many universities implement programs for community college students to transfer. In 2008, North Carolina State University and Wake Technical Community College announced a partnership allowing Wake Tech students to move seamlessly into the undergraduate program at NC State.

Eligibility consists of having at least a 3.0 GPA and having a minimum of 12 credit hours at the 100 or 200 level. Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and many other UNC colleges also offer popular transfer programs to community college students.

Besides low costs and transfer programs, attending community colleges can be helpful because class sizes allow for more one on one learning. The average class size for general education classes in public universities can hold hundreds of students while the average community college class sizes are 15-20 students. The smaller numbers allow professors to devote more time to individual students which can help to instill confidence in them.

Individualized learning allows students to work at different paces and on different areas without affecting others in the class. It also allows for more engaging class time for both students and professors. Instead of the common picture of a professor standing in front of the class in constant lecture, professors have more opportunity to interact with students and build mutual student-teacher relationships.

Two-year colleges will continue to grow in popularity– and for good reasons. Lower costs, credit transfers and individualized learning are promising aspects for any student looking to take the next step to higher education.

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