In the United States, community colleges (once commonly called junior colleges) are primarily two-year public institutions of higher education. Many community colleges also offer remedial education, GEDs, high school degrees, technical degrees and certificates, and a limited number of 4-year degrees.
After graduating from a community college, some students transfer to a university or liberal arts college for two to three years to complete a bachelor's degree, while others enter the workforce.
In 2012–2013, 7.7 million people attended U.S. community colleges, with about 3.1 million students enrolled full-time, and about 4.6 million students enrolled part-time.
During the Great Recession (2007-2009), community colleges faced state budget cuts amid increases in enrollment. As a result, community colleges raised student tuition. With enrollments decreasing, lower budgets at community colleges continues with increasing reliance on adjunct professors, who are generally paid significantly less, typically receive little-to-no employment benefits, and face much greater uncertainty of continued employment semester to semester.
Community colleges received attention in 2015 after President Barack Obama proposed to make community college tuition free to many residents of the US in his State of the Union Address. The plan is called "America’s College Promise." This attention has brought on both praise, scrutiny, and criticism of community colleges and the funding of higher education in general. This plan, however, would only pay tuition; non-tuition items such as textbooks, supplies, transportation, and room and board for those wishing to live on campus would not be covered in Obama's plan.
In the United States, community colleges operate under a policy of "open admission." That is, anyone with a high school diploma or GED may attend, regardless of prior academic status or college entrance exam scores. Although community colleges have an open admission policy, students have to take placement tests before enrolling at the college, due to not all courses being open admission. In California and Minnesota, students who have reached the age of 18 are not required to have completed secondary education; instead, they must simply show an "ability to benefit" from a college's educational program. Under certain circumstances, community colleges will also accept high school students or dropouts.
The open admission policy results in a wide range of students attending community college classes. Students range in age from teenagers in high school taking classes under a concurrent, or dual, enrollment policy (which allows both high school and college credits to be earned simultaneously) to working adults taking classes at night to complete a degree or gain additional skills in their field to students with graduate degrees who enroll to become more employable or to pursue lifelong interests. "Reverse transfers" (or those transferring from a university) constitute one of the fastest growing new community college cohorts.
One threat to enrollment at community colleges has been the increasing popularity of for-profit e-learning and online universities, such as the University of Phoenix, now the 16th-largest university in the world. Higher education research and consulting firm Eduventures estimates that 10 percent of college students will be enrolled in an online degree program by 2008. Many community colleges have supplemented their offerings with online courses to stave off competition from exclusively e-learning schools.
Community colleges generally offer a range of programs.
In study towards an associate degree, a student takes necessary courses needed to earn a degree that will allow for entry into jobs requiring some level of college education but not a full four-year degree. The associate degree program also allows students who wish to eventually obtain a bachelor's degree at a four-year college to complete the necessary "core" requirements to attend the college of their choice. Some states have mandated that the community college's curriculum be structured so as to satisfy "core curriculum" requirements at the state's public universities or private universities.
Many community colleges have articulation arrangements with nearby four-year institutions, where a student obtaining an associate degree in a field will automatically have his/her classes counted toward the bachelor's degree requirement. For example, a community college associate degree in hotel and restaurant management, computers or accounting would count toward the four-year school's core requirement for a Business Administration degree. Some have gone one step further by arrangements with a four-year college for the student to obtain the bachelor's degree from the four-year college while taking all the courses via distance learning or other non-traditional modes, thus reducing the number of physical visits to the four-year school. One such example is College of DuPage (COD) in Illinois, who have implemented a program called 3+1. In this program, students can take three years of classes at the community college taught by COD professors and faculty, and in the fourth year attend classes on the COD campus, but taught by professors of nearby partner universities, such as Benedictine University, Concordia University, Governors State University, Lewis University, and Roosevelt University.
Certification in an area of training (such as nursing, computer repair, allied health, law enforcement, firefighting, or welding), which require preparation for a state or national examination, or where certification would allow for hiring preference or a higher salary upon entering the workforce. These courses are often geared toward the needs of the local or area business community.
Services of local interest to members of the community, such as job placement, adult continuing education classes (either for personal achievement or to maintain certification in specialized fields), and developmental classes for children. Some community colleges offer opportunities for high school dropouts to return to school and earn a high school diploma or obtain a GED.
A growing trend in the United States is for community colleges to begin offering bachelor's degrees. As of 2013, nineteen states have authorized their community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees with California passing authorizing legislation in 2014.
Many large community colleges, such as Miami-Dade College and St. Petersburg College, in Florida have even completely dropped the words "community" or "junior" from their names as they have added bachelor's degree programs in limited fields and have started their evolution into four-year colleges while retaining their local commitments. Even some smaller community colleges, such as Northern New Mexico College in Española, New Mexico, have dropped community from their names and now offer six or more bachelor's degrees. A few of the larger institutions, such as De Anza College in northern California and College of DuPage near Chicago, who both boast enrollment of over 25,000 students, continue to explore the cost-benefit analysis in offering 4-year degrees. In more rural communities, community colleges may host branches of the local state university, and community colleges with specialized programs may offer four-year degrees in conjunction with other schools, some miles away. For instance, Southern Illinois University offers aviation management bachelor's degrees at Mt. San Antonio College and Palomar College in Southern California.
Source: Community Colleges In The United States