(I’ve updated the number of community colleges with on-campus housing with data available from IPEDS in June, 2019.) As families recoil in horror contemplate the price tag of four years of college, some start to look more closely at all of the available options, including community colleges with on-campus housing. Since community colleges are offering more traditional college amenities such as dorms, honor programs, sports, and student activities, they are becoming a more attractive way for families to seriously cut their college expenses.
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Many college oriented families have viewed community colleges as a sub-standard education for those who can’t get into a four-year institution. It may be the case that many students choose to attend a community college because they couldn’t go to a university but the substandard education part has always been more perception than reality.
What about academic quality at community colleges?
Let’s start with academic quality. Yes, community colleges are filled with remedial education courses (which has its own set of issues). But this means that students don’t take “regular” college courses until they are prepared for them-they aren’t being “dumbed-down.” Furthermore, these courses are often taught in smaller classes than at four-year universities providing much more individual attention.
I have a friend who graduated from a well-respected state university but struggled with math requirements until she took a class at a community college where the professor was able to make sure she understood the concepts.
Furthermore, as states streamline the transfer process between community colleges and four-year universities, they want to make sure that students transferring are prepared for the upper-division course work. You will also find an increasing number of private colleges that have articulation agreements with community colleges to ensure a smooth transfer.
Most students don’t graduate
The problem with community colleges is not necessarily with the quality of the classes or the faculty but the fact that too many students fail to graduate or transfer.
Many students already have forces working against them in terms of graduating including the need to work and take care of families. Students who started at the community college because they (or their parents) thought they weren’t ready to go to a university or wanted to save money often lacked a commitment to their education that eventually kept them from earning enough credits with a high enough GPA to transfer.
However, today’s community colleges are doing more to provide students with an engaging academic and campus experience. An increasing number of community colleges are establishing honor programs and there is a community college honor society. More colleges provide dorm and meal plans for students. These in turn attract more athletes to a colleges sports programs, another important aspect of campus culture for many students.
It’s Up to the Student
Community colleges probably aren’t going to match the traditional college experience envisioned by many high school students. But it doesn’t have to mean an inferior education. It will be up to the student to take advantage of the opportunities available.
Given the financial realities of the world today, attending two years at a community college might allow a student to afford to attend her ideal university for her last two years. This will require planning and focus on the part of the student but a potential savings of $30,000 to $40,000 dollars for just public universities, could be incentive enough.
Community Colleges with On-Campus Housing
The following is a listing of 223 community colleges with at least 250 full-time students that offer on-campus housing according to the Integrated Post-Secondary Education System. The vast majority are public with only 15 being listed as private. Pennsylvania accounted for 6 for the private community colleges with dorms.
Texas State Technical College had the largest number of dorms with 2479. The lowest reported capacity was 12. Ten colleges reported a capacity of on-campus housing of 1,000 or more and another 46 had between 500 and 999. The state with the most community colleges with dorms was Texas with 28 followed by Kansas with 19, and New York with 18.
Among the colleges with on-campus housing, 187 are members of a national athletic association and 178 are members of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). The NJCAA sponsors 25 sports at community colleges. Men’s and Women’s Basketball is the most popular with 808 teams (including schools without dorms), followed by Soccer with 448, Baseball with 395, and Softball with 355. The list below includes the number of players by team for community colleges with dorms in 2017.
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Community Colleges with On-Campus Housing