Discover the value of Maryland community colleges
By S.C. Torrington
As retirement funds, home values, and investments plunge, many families are considering more affordable alternatives to four-year colleges and universities in what higher education specialists are referring to as a “flight to price.”
“Parents love their kids and want to give them the opportunity of a higher education, but at $40,000 a year, that just might not be possible,” says Sandra Kurtinitis, president of Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC).
Tuition costs at community colleges are appreciably less than at private or public four-year colleges and universities. The CCBC website compares the 2008-09 tuition and fees for a full-time CCBC student—approximately $2500/year—to the costs of attending various four-year schools. For instance, the 2008-09 tuition and fees for a full-time student at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland is almost $26,000/year.
“Clearly, part of our mission is affordability and accessibility,” says Kurtinitis. “The other part is the unsung notion of community colleges providing as fine a base education as offered at a four-year university. We have high standards with quality instruction and support both in and out of the classroom.”
Indeed, community college might be the right fit for your teen for reasons beyond the lower price tag.
Maybe your high schooler isn’t convinced that he or she even wants to go to college. For teens uncertain about their future, a community college provides a more manageable environment where they can get a better feel for the rigors of pursuing a higher education.
As a service to prospective students and their parents, Cecil College offers the brochure College Readiness on its website (under Prospective Students) to clearly map out the potential differences between high school and college. It is free, and you do not have to be a Cecil County resident to access it. (See sidebar for local community college websites.)
Late-blooming teens who may not have earned stellar grades in high school can opt to attend a community college, which has no minimum required GPA for admission. These two-year schools also offer classes and one-on-one tutoring to strengthen basic skills. And, for irresolute students, community colleges provide an array of introductory courses to explore many possible fields of interest.
“With 100 academic programs, from [learning] Japanese to nursing to piano to engineering, CCBC offers fascinating and compelling programs,” notes Kurtinitis.
But, if your teen is itching to begin college before graduating high school, community colleges also offer parallel enrollment programs.
A Variety of Offerings
“In addition to quality education at a reasonable cost, community colleges provide an opportunity to prepare for immediate entry into a career and transfer to four-year colleges or universities in the same or other fields,” says Barbara Greenfeld, associate vice president for Enrollment Services at Howard Community College.
It takes only two years to earn an Associate’s degree at a community college, many of which offer programs in high-demand fields such as nursing, construction technology, computer repair, or electronics.
Locally, Baltimore City Community College has created Workforce Creation Scholarships in an effort to entice students into high-demand careers—such as bioscience, construction, and allied health/nursing—covering the tuition, fees, and books for a two-year education.
The College Board is a not-for-profit group that offers testing and guidance to prospective college students. In discussing the Six Benefits of Community Colleges on its website, it mentions yet another advantage: For students who do not want to spend “the time necessary to earn an Associate’s degree, many community colleges have certificate options that provide intensive training in a specialized field like computer-assisted drafting, food service technology, or paralegal studies. These certificates usually take six months to a year to complete.”
Finally, four-year schools typically offer schedules that cater to full-time, traditional students. Community colleges, on the other hand, develop their course schedules around a more diverse student body, which ranges widely in age, experience, and employment status. Classes are often offered throughout the day and evening, on weekends, and online—so getting an education is accessible to students with part-time or even full-time employment. BC
The College Board, www.collegeboard.com. High schoolers can turn to the College Board for much more than scheduling their SATs. This site offers a variety of planning tools and information. On the homepage, click on the link Plan for College.
ARTSYS The Articulation System, artweb.usmd.edu. The University System of Maryland offers this site as a tool to evaluate how specific community college courses and programs transfer to any Maryland System college and university as well as local private colleges and universities.
Local Community College Websites
Baltimore City Community College, www.bccc.edu
Community College of Baltimore County, www.ccbcmd.edu
Carroll Community College, www.carrollcc.edu
Cecil College, www.cecil.edu
Harford Community College, www.harford.edu
Howard Community College, www.howardcc.edu
© Baltimore’s Child Inc. March 2009