#CommunityCollegeBecause …

Stasia Lopez's picture

Tom Hanks, Eileen Collins, Steve Jobs, Halle Berry, George Lucas…all famous names of people who have attended a community college.

Yet, even though these and many others have attended a community college, they are usually overlooked as a first-choice when considering higher education.

Provisional NCES data on unduplicated year-round enrollment estimates that 8.5 million undergraduates were enrolled in two-year public colleges in 2017-2018. According to research provided by Columbia on community colleges, it states that in the fall 2018, 5.6 million students were enrolled in public, two year colleges. About 2 million were full-time and 3.6 million were part-time students. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center estimates that 5.4 million students were enrolled in public two-year colleges in fall 2019, down 1.4% from fall 2018. However, because some community colleges (about 100) offer bachelor’s degree programs, the CCRC analysis corrected the misclassification showing 6.7 million students were enrolled at community colleges in fall 2017 and 9.8 million students enrolled at a community college at some point during the 2017-18 academic year. 


American higher education has evolved since 1636, when the first charter was put together for Harvard University, and now has grown to over 4,000 degree-granting institutions in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Education. However, that number is drastically changing. Many college closures of for-profit academic institutions and small liberal arts colleges, most of which are private colleges, have closed due to low enrollment and the financial restraints to keep the doors open. Another factor that has impacted higher education is also the declining American birth rate. Many people are striving for their careers before settling down and having children later in life. With certain job areas not needing the excessive degrees of what was once held to the original standard, more employers are now striving to do their own on-the-job training and molding workers who are willing to learn. 

After the recession of 2008-2010, many students were feeling the burden of student loans. From the aggravation that has settled from the multi-generations that took advantage of needing a student loan to get a degree, so many of those impacted have encouraged their loved ones to seek lower cost, high benefited options and the main one is attending community colleges. The savings speak for themselves—in 2018-19, the average published tuition and fees for a full-time student at public two-year institutions nationally was $3,660, compared with $10,230 at public four-year colleges. The average net price, however, was -$400 meaning that grants and tax benefits covered tuition and fees plus a portion of other expenses for the average full-time community college student. According to the 2015-16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, after accounting for grants, 44% of full-time community college students pay no tuition or receive money to cover other expenses. 

According to the Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, there are 1,462 community colleges in the United States (2017). However, after doing further research on Statista.com of something even more current (2019), there are 941 public community colleges in the Unites States (Duffin, 2020, via Statista). With so many community colleges serving traditional and untraditional students, diverse populations (international, veterans, people with disabilities, people of color/minorities, and others), and offering more access and assistance for success (like career closets, food pantries, and other assistance provided through grants and programs)—community colleges offer an expansive amount of offerings far beyond the classroom. 

With job markets changing, community colleges also provide what’s needed in the ever-changing economy. Many jobs in the trades (construction, plumbing, welding, pipefitting, carpentry, electricians, etc.), manufacturing, and new skilled jobs like contact tracers (that were widely needed during COVID-19) are all things community colleges provide access to and quickly. Besides remedial education courses and general education requirements, community colleges are not just for students who want to take a one-off course in the summer; community colleges offer degrees, certificates and the training that’s needed for our workforce. They are also offer many grants that provide needed resources, scholarships, and assistance to students and the community members that they serve. Additionally, they are also connected to many community partners and employers in their communities, offering resource and job fairs, on-campus recruiting, information sessions, and other assistance to those that are open to benefiting from a community college. 

It’s been said over and over again that community colleges are America’s “Best Kept Secret!” and as a person peels back the layers that are offered at the diverse array of community colleges across our country, they’ll be quick to see the many offerings a community college provides. Too many people discount the worthiness of attending a community college, but that is a mistake. They shouldn’t be looked at like a glorified high school experience. Community Colleges continue to step up their game and are consistently seen to employers, community partners, the schools that they have transfer agreements with, and of course, those that they serve, as the perfect place for students to seek an education and build a diverse skillset. Building the necessary skills and competencies to prepare the person for whatever’s happening “next” after community college—whether that’s continuing on with their education, finding a job, or taking leadership or community service opportunities—community colleges are more of the go-to nowadays than a student choosing an expensive four-year school (and not just for traditional, but also non-traditional students as well). 

They help people to afford an education, obtain a degree or certificate in two years or less, build strong skills needed for the workforce, and so much more! With the student loans and mortgages and other debts that people don’t want to carry around (after seeing what so many millennials in particular went through from 2008-2010)—students are seeing the value of community colleges and what they have to offer!

A person will still get a wholesome experience attending a community college! Many offer study abroad programs, as well. International students also consider attending community colleges too, as they tend to be pretty diverse and welcoming and not as overwhelming right out of the gate.  Student Life offices actively engage students in activities and events; Career Services engage in learning about different careers and industries through programs and fairs; Supportive Offices assist with people with disabilities; Counseling Offices, Financial Aid, and Advising—there are so many different offices that are providing that tailored and customized experience that most students are looking for—all at a community college. 

First generation (the first to go to college in your family); international students; veterans; people with disabilities; recent high school graduates; people who are changing careers mid-or later in their careers—all people who benefit from community colleges. The benefits are so great that millions have capitalized on the great experience of attending one. Things like: smaller class sizes, flexibility to work and go to school (work/life balance), and affordability are a few of the many considerations with those who choose to attend higher education, specifically at a community college. Most have transfer agreements to bigger colleges and universities, and offer the personalized attention that so many people wish to have or need while pursuing their degrees and certificates. 

Below are a series of articles about students who’ve engaged with community colleges and had a great experience. We added a hashtag (#) and called it: #CommunityCollegeBecause… to encourage more people to consider community colleges and the great opportunities that they serve. 

Interested in being a spotlight? Email stasia.diamantis [at] gmail.com to be featured! 

Additional resources:

Spotlight: #CommunityCollegeBecause

Bekah Waldron: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... Family

Brendan Smith: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... They Care!

Courtney Seiler: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... I was given every opportunity to learn and grow!

Hezreel O. Robertson: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... It Opens Doors!

Josie Albrecht: #CommunityCollegeBecause it encourages forward thinking, cultural appreciation, and success

Raja Krishnaswamy: #CommunityCollegeBecause … Learning Is Fun!

Sean Kutch: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... it's a great place to start your educational journey

Tyler Kochirka: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... education should be affordable

RyKai Wright: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... it will help enhance your academic goals, leadership, and networking skills

Natalie Hoover: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... of the opportunities!

Tartela Tabassum: #CommunityCollegeBecause...I am a fearless learner

Justin Starr: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... it's the Smart Choice!

Mike Dudjak: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... it is a great, affordable way to continue your education

Theresa Jones: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... it cultivates confidence, growth, and success!

Chantel Young: #CommunityCollegeBecause … it is a financially savvy investment for your future

Lindsay Eisaman: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... being in a small sized classroom with professors makes a world of difference

Chantelle Bellavance: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... it’s inclusivity, education, and affordability

Alexandria Kovack: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... it might just be the choice that changes your life

Katharine Ross: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... We Succeed

Ellie Calvert: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... It’s A Great Education For Everyone

Ashika Richardson: #CommunityCollegeBecause It Is Worth It

Elena Dupaly: #CommunityCollegeBecause it makes a difference for people around the world

Kaila Tench: #CommunityCollegeBecause Small Classroom Sizes Equal a Quality Education and Lifelong Friends

Debra Overcashier: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... You Are Never Too Old to Learn

Tiffany Schmitt: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... Everyone Deserves A Second Chance!

Mike Kistler: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... it gives you a head start on your future!

Christine O’Donnell: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... You Can Go Places

Tyler Gedman: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... It helps make me who I am


Stasia Lopez is the Global Education Editor for Wandering Educators and is Director of Student Life and Engagement at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC), as well as an Instructor for a class on "The Job Search" at CCAC. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Western Michigan University in 2013 and earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Robert Morris University. Stasia is passionate about international education, travel, college to career topics and loves working on a college campus. She’s lived in four different U.S. states (Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania) and also studied and lived abroad in Rome, Italy. Stasia lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Fernando, precious daughter, Maya, and playful kitty-cat Zorro.