Community College and Engineering

Community colleges in America were designed as a way to level the playing field by allowing people from lower income social groups to enter tertiary education. Community college tuition fees are less than half of State Universities in America. The idea is that two years in a community college entitles a student to enroll on a bachelor degree course. This is more expensive but the rewards of finding a job with a good salary make the risk worth taking.

It is thus a shame that over half of people who enroll in community college don’t go on to graduate from another educational establishment with a bachelor degree. Instead they are settling for finding lower paid work instead.

State and Federal governments have to do something to address this failing in the system. At present it is perpetuating and reinforcing the class differences in America that are based in socio-economic backgrounds.

One important field that is growing at a fast rate is design and engineering. America needs more qualified engineers to keep up with the ever involving technological landscape. It is predicted that in 20 years there will be a grave shortage of computer scientists and computer engineers. The IT sector is booming and presents a great employment opportunity for young people. Engineering offers good remuneration packages and often the chance to participate on projects that are of great importance.

Rather than settling on being a car mechanic after a year or two in community college we must find a way to incentivize education to make that hypothetical young person become a mechanical engineer instead. It is right for the person and it is right for the country.

Finally, we must make engineering and design interesting. This is what websites such as are attempting to do.

Enrollment Soars but not all Good News for Community Colleges

There has been a sharp increase in enrollment at America’s 1,200 community colleges. Numbers have shot up of people signing up for courses at community colleges up and down the country. In 2000 5.5 million people were doing 2 year courses. In the 2010 to 2011 school year that figure jumped to 8 million.

Analysts put the sharp increase in enrollment numbers down to the recession in the US economy since the 2008 financial crisis. Rather than look for work young people have sought to give themselves a competitive edge in the jobs market by gaining qualifications. This is sound reasoning.

Sadly, the graduation rates for students going to community colleges has fallen sharply. According to Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future, less than half of students who enter a community college graduate or transfer to a four-year college within six years.

The reason behind this low graduation statistic is not due to institutional incompetence or bad teaching. Rather, it is the reverse. Modern community colleges have become strongly orientated to preparing students for entering various fields of work. What colleges are finding is that students are successfully finding work during their 2 years at community college or shortly after.

The average cost of tuition at a community college is $3,000 a year. This is cheap compared to the average of $8,000 a year at in-state 4 year colleges. While students can find the money for a community college education they are no doubt deterred from enrolling on bachelor degree courses by the high tuition costs involved.

Perhaps the next step is for community colleges to maintain their tuition fee levels but also offer to let students extend their studies for another 2 years so that they can attain bachelor degrees. This might a long term beneficial effect for the American economy which is going to have be more knowledge based if it is going to keep up with China.

Community College Holidays

There are a number of holidays in the term calendar of the typical community college. There is the long summer holiday usually from the start of July to Mid August. There is often two weeks off in Spring term, and there is a break for Christmas. During these times there are a number of useful things that students can do.

Firstly, there is studying. It is always good to do extra studying and background reading while you have the chance during the vacations. The holidays before major exams are crucial times to revise for tests. Although many students like to boast about how little they have studied during the break, they are often lying to appear cool to their peers.

Secondly, there is paid work. Many students are from less well off backgrounds and use the vacation time to put in extra hours at their part time jobs. This money is used for books, accommodation and tuition fees.

For those lucky enough to have the time and the money, the most fun thing to do during the long holidays is to take a trip abroad. When you are young it is the best time to go backpacking. The experience helps young people to find out about the world and learn about foreign culture. During one of my summer breaks I went with a friend to the Thai coastal region of Khao Lak. We stayed in a cheap bungalow on Pilai beach. It was a friendly place with cheap shops. We met lots of the locals and ended up teaching English at a nearby middle school.  I also had the time while lying on the beach to catch up on my reading list for college.

It wasn’t cheap flying to Thailand, but it was one of the most memorable things I did during my community college days. Make your time at community college memorable too.

Why get a College Education?

This is a question that many young people (and perhaps a few adults) have asked themselves. They look at the cost of college, the commitment in terms of time, and they consider the debt to the bank that they will have after graduating. And then they think of all those famous people who didn’t go to college or who dropped out. John D. Rockefeller, Simon Cowell, Abraham Lincoln, Michael J. Fox, Sean Connery and Walt Disney all have in common that they never went to college, and yet they all became incredibly successful in what they did. So why bother with college or community college?

One of the simplest answers is that I am certain that all the above people mentioned advised their children to go to college. Just because a person triumphed against the odds without a college education doesn’t mean that they are anti the idea of college. They are more than likely smart enough to realize the importance of education and the advantages that it brings.

Learning more than a subject

When you go to college or community college you learn far more than information about a particular subject; you learn mental skills that employers will value. You learn to gist ideas, to understand the principles of an argument, you learn to debate, you learn to analyze. With these skills you are equipped to deal with information. That is vital in the present age of information that we now live in.

Going to college you also learn to get on with people. For those who live away from home it is a time to learn how to be independent. You learn to manage your own finances, to do your own grocery shopping and to cook your own food. If you share accommodation with others you learn how to cooperate and to be diplomatic at times.

Entering the right circles

Those who go to college get to meet other people in higher education. Some of these people will go on to hold important positions in society. Innumerable people who attended college have benefitted from the friendships they have made at college. These contacts serve them well later on.

In Britain the Bullingdon Club and in America the Skull and Bones Club have been elite clubs for college students that have produced many Prime Ministers and Presidents. I’m not saying that if you go to Yale or Oxford you will end up leading your country but it is no accident that these leaders got where they did. They had the help of the contacts they made at college.

College is fun

This last point is important. For those who think studying is a drag, it should be remembered that most college students remember the great times they had college. They remember the parties, the foolish pranks, the love affairs, the politics, the way that life seemed fuller, richer and full of possibility.

Compare that to how many young and unemployed people feel who don’t get a college education.

Really, you should enroll. Community college is a good way to get on the educational ladder if money and/or academic ability is an issue.