Access to a physical campus is among the advantages of attending a local community college as an online student.
Making the decision to pursue an online program can be very difficult for students. Online Learning Lessons offers tips and advice from online students and educators on everything from finding a program and paying for it to what happens after enrolling.
Since the beginnings of American community colleges in 1901, these institutions have typically focused on meeting the academic, professional and vocational needs of nontraditional, financially constrained students bound to a certain location. Community colleges have been successful, growing undergraduate enrollment faster than their four-year public, four-year private and for-profit competitors from 2000 to 2015. Findings from the National Center for Education Statistics show that in autumn 2014, of 6.4 million students attending public community colleges, 1.8 million students enrolling in at least one online course, with 690,000 students attending community colleges completely online.
Over time, more online programs and degrees have become available. For example, Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina, offers more than 100 online programs. While community colleges may not have the reputational prestige of large, national online colleges, they generally have a much lower sticker price. Here are three additional advantages of attending an online program at a public community college.
1. Access to campus services
Attending a local community college as an online student allows physical access to a campus. This enables students to study together or collaborate on projects. Furthermore, services and offerings such as the library, health and fitness centers, career services, advising, tutoring and disability services, faculty office hours, and student clubs are more easily accessible. While many online programs have attempted to virtualize many of these services, some are simply more engaging when experienced face to face.
2. Local employer connections
Because the mission of the institution is usually tied to the community's economic and intellectual health, community colleges offer more programs bridged directly to local industry and workforce needs. Many community colleges pride themselves on the number and quality of partnerships they have with local employers. Employers and corporations rely on community colleges to recruit and develop their workforce.
CUNY Bronx Community College in New York, for instance, offers online courses and certificates designed in partnership with experts from high-demand fields such as project management and cybersecurity.
3. Great pathways to four-year colleges
For students seeking to complete a four-year degree, many community colleges have developed pre-established or seamless transfer pathways to local four-year universities. For example, the University of Central Florida offers the DirectConnect to UCF program, which guarantees admission to UCF for students who complete an associate degree at one of six partner colleges. Students can complete a bachelor's degree in a shorter amount of time and have access to UCF's campuses and student services, even as an online student.
Students contemplating online programs have more choices than ever before. Ensure to consider the cost, convenience, accessibility, and opportunities present at regional community colleges. While local programs may not have the same marketing power as their national competitors, they can offer online students an excellent experience.