April 23, 2018 Brendan Prebo
Today’s community colleges are as diverse as the students they serve. More than 1,100 community colleges across the nation serve more than 12 million students annually. Their students are the most diverse within the higher education sector and many are the first in their family to attend college.
Community colleges are unapologetically accessible and provide a critical pathway for students to reach their educational goals. For many students, that means they complete their first two years of college without a mountain of debt, taught by highly qualified and experienced professors, and with a guaranteed transfer to a university. Community colleges do all of this with less money and alumni support than their university counterparts.
In our area, Washtenaw Community College provides a critical contribution to our economic development while preparing students for careers in growing fields like healthcare, advanced transportation and cybersecurity.
In the academic year ending in 2017, Washtenaw Community College students earned nearly 4,000 awards: 2,568 certificates and 1,287 degrees. In fact, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education ranked the college a top 100 Associate Degree producer.
Washtenaw Community College offers 137 different programs, including 56 associate degrees and 82 certificates. Students can also complete 20 percent of the college’s programs online.
The Voluntary Framework for Accountability, which takes into account degree and certificate attainment as well as successful transfer, is a national tool used by the state of Michigan to measure success rates at community colleges. According to this measure, 67 percent of WCC students complete a certificate or degree program or successfully transfer within six years.
About one-third of all students transfer to another college or university within three years of enrolling in WCC. About one-quarter of those students transfer to the University of Michigan. In fact, WCC transfers more students to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor than any other community college.
In addition, course success rates at WCC exceed the national average. Success by WCC students in college-level courses is 78 percent higher than the national median established by 250 like colleges participating in the National Community College Benchmark Project.
Washtenaw Community College accomplishes all of this while keeping tuition rates low for Washtenaw County residents. In fact, WCC’s average full-time tuition for one year is only $2,280, which is one-quarter of the cost of a typical public four-year college or university in Michigan and one-tenth the cost of a typical private non-profit four-year college or university.
April is Community College Awareness Month. First observed in 1985, Community College Awareness Month is an opportunity for us all to recognize and express appreciation for the significant contributions community colleges make to the strength, vitality and prosperity of our region.
As the first choice for many students, community colleges have been the start of something remarkable. To the nurses, police officers, dental hygienists, chefs, 3D animators, business owners, transfer students, welders, plumbers, mobility technicians and the many millions of others, community colleges remain committed to evolving and supporting students in achieving their educational goals.