Score One For Community Colleges
March 2, 2013

Score One For Community Colleges

I should start this off with the fact that I am an associate professor of English at a rural community college in Oklahoma. For the obvious reason—and so many more—I believe in the importance of the community college. No study had to tell me the value an associate’s degree provides. However, I could not have been happier when CNN posted an article showing solid evidence to support my experience.

According to the CNN article, about 30 percent of Americans who hold a community college degree (otherwise known as an associate’s degree) now make more than their counterparts with bachelor’s degrees. This information comes from the Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. What is more are the numbers CNN showed specifically per The following list shows the job and the amount of yearly salary:

  • air traffic controllers $113,547
  • radiation therapists $76,627
  • dental hygienists $70,408
  • nuclear medicine technologists $69,638
  • nuclear technicians $68,037
  • registered nurses $65,853
  • fashion designers $63,170.

Those numbers should not be ignored. These are significant incomes for significant jobs. And all of these require an associate’s degree. These are considered middle-skills jobs, which means that a bachelor’s degree may, and likely will, make one overqualified. The associate’s degree gets these jobs!

On top of that, an associate’s degree costs much less than a bachelor’s degree. Whereas students can obtain their associate’s with less than $10,000, a bachelor’s often costs more than ten times that amount and possibly higher. Those numbers provide just as much support for an associate’s degree as the yearly salaries.

What’s more, students who want to continue on to their bachelor’s degrees can save money by taking the basic degree requirement courses at a community college. So, not only do community colleges give students degrees that could land them in lucrative jobs, but they also provide classes that transfer onto four-year institutes.

Therein lies the rub, though. Many people do not know the benefits of an associate’s degree, so they transfer out before completing it, or they simply drop out. Many middle-skills jobs require associate’s degrees, but only ten percent of American workers have these degrees. In comparison to the 24 percent of Canadians who have these degrees, it seems that Americans need to see the community college light.

Community colleges exist specifically to help the community it is a part of, as well as to provide a quality education to students. They have long provided this service to many students. Moreover, they have helped students and community members to improve their lives and their surroundings. They are not the “easy” way out. They are not watered-down educations. They are, however, institutes that provide job training, placement, education, and influence the lives of all who attend them. I am not saying that four-year colleges and universities cannot have this impact; however, I am saying that one should know that community colleges can do these, too.

They may not have flashy buildings stock full of the newest technology, but what they lack in curb appeal they more than make up through quality education taught by dedicated professors with a desire to be “in the trenches”, as my colleague says. No, we do not have the notoriety of research institutions, but we definitely should not be scoffed at. The services most community colleges provide are invaluable.

I am proud to teach at a community college. I am proud of my students. I am proud to provide a service to individuals who may not otherwise have the opportunity for education. And I am so happy to see that others are beginning to see those benefits.

Image Credit: Aaron Amat / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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