Community colleges have long been a low cost alternative to universities, and many students have been able to graduate from these schools with no student loan debt. Not only do they offer lower tuition, they also offer classes at more convenient times for working adults. Community colleges are normally located within a short driving distance and are easily accessable by public transportation, making the costs of a college dorm unnecessary. All of these advantages are set off by only one disadvantage. At most community colleges, the highest degree you can get is an associate's degree.
A small, but growing number of community colleges are beginning to offer bachelor's degrees. Brazosport College in Lake Jackson, Texas offers a bachelor's degree in industrial technology. According to Community College Week, it was recently named on a list of four community colleges which are about to lose all of their state funding, despite the fact that the enrollment there is higher than it has ever been. Opinion seems to be divided as to whether or not Brazosport will have to close.
I can't help wondering if this is an effort by the large universities to prevent this lower priced competitor. If all community colleges offered bachelor's degrees, the universities would see a considerable drop in their enrollment numbers. Many students do their first two years of college at a community college, and then finish the degree at a large university. This group would probably finish their bachelor's degrees at the community college if it were possible. The state universities would also suffer image wise. In recent years, they've become associated with using tax money to build rock climbing walls, gourmet food courts, and state-of-the-art sports stadiums. If community colleges became an option to get a no-frills bachelor's degree, people would question the need for the large universities, as their image as party houses would only get worse. Life on campus would continue to deteriorate as more rowdies would arrive, and the serious students would stay away.
Hopefully, Brazosport College will stay open, and the number of community colleges offering bachelor's degrees will continue to grow. These schools are proving that a college education is possible without massive costs and a lifetime of debt. I only wish that they had thought of this sooner, as I once lived near a community college where I would have gotten a four year degree had they been offered.