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Roger N. Meyer "...of a different mind "
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THE ATTRACTION OF JUNIOR AND COMMUNITY COLLEGES

Copyright 1998 Roger Meyer

All Rights Reserved

 

 

     [The following is an edited post I sent to a listserv.  I responded to the post of a member, a community college tenured faculty member with Asperger Syndrome and director of a creative writing program.  She showed how post-secondary professional education can be completed one step at a time. She emphasized the transition value of junior and community colleges. Her post was targeted for other persons with Asperger Syndrome.  So is this article.]

 

     For many of us, transition is a killer. Although four year college or university life seems OK at first, many of us crash and burn, only to return to a two or four year education after many years.  Some of us never try post-secondary education again.

 

     I was a lucky one.  I finished four years of college with a BA Summa cum Laude. Several times since, I've taken coursework at junior or community colleges.  I wish I had known more about them when I finished high school.

 

     Now, their tuition (credit hour) costs appear to rival that of many state colleges and universities, but they have some big differences, all meaningful for us.

 

Fifteen Advantages

 

     Here are fifteen reasons why two year junior or community colleges may be a good choice "as a start."

 

1) We can participate at any level, from just one course to a full load, and "not lose our place in line."

 

2) We can "drop out" and return at any time.  These places are designed with hours, class schedules and course sequences geared to student needs, which include a need to work, raise a family, or just find one's way in the world at one's own pace.

 

3) The coursework offered tends to be well taught and practical, even the academic classes.  Good instructors communicate.  They are not hired to impress anyone.

 

4) Teachers are retained because they are GOOD and effective with the students, not because they have tenure or are on some kind of "inside track."

 

5) Many classes have a low teacher to student ratio.  This is because some basic as well as some advanced program classes are scheduled at times convenient to the students, not to a few teachers' interests.

 

6) Adjunct faculty teach many courses.  Many adjunct teachers are good folks in the working world who have a passion to make a difference in our lives in school and out.  They relish the varied experience which students bring to their classes.

 

7) The entire curriculum is open at both ends.  This means that you can dabble around in many fields before deciding what you want to specialize in.  You can take as much time as you need.  You can enter a course sequence at mid-year.  When you graduate with an Associate of Arts degree, you may have a far better general academic background than students at four year colleges who take the same courses.  Junior colleges are definitely NOT one-size-fits-all institutions, and they are very proud of their reputation.

 

8) There is not the same kind of competition and pressure for students to outdo one another.  The drive to succeed comes from within you, and no one there sits in judgment as they often do at four-year colleges.  This also means parents and your other relatives who often ask questions such as, "Have you chosen your major yet?" and, "Why is it taking you so long to decide?"  People close to you know that two-year colleges are different.

 

9) Individual instructors often can devote much more time to you.  While their lives are busy, they are there to teach, not do research or supervise graduate students, or write grants, or even publish to survive.

 

10) Many community college teachers are often far more aware of real-world developments in the fields in which they teach.  This is because they are less driven by the factors in item 9, above.  They also tend to be more irreverent than their colleagues in four-year colleges and universities.  If something is really stupid or out of date and is still being promoted as gospel, they, like you, don't mind telling it like it is.  They don't have to suck up to their peers or their seniors, and worry about the tenure track.  If they do, you won't find them around the JC or CC much longer.  They simply don't belong there.

 

11) In comparison to four-year colleges and universities, two-year schools have a higher percentage of students with disabilities attending.  This means the disabled students' services folks are far more likely to be insightful and sensitive to your needs, and so are the teachers.  There is greater receptivity to accommodations, even physical ones, because the teachers don't "own" their classrooms or labs like they do in many four year plus institutions.  Because two year colleges are generally newer (the fastest growing part of post secondary education) and their buildings more modern, you may have more built-in accommodation for assistive technology than older institutions.  They are also likely to be located closer to where you live because they locate where there is a need in the community, not just in toney parts of town or out somewhere in their own isolated environments.

 

12) JC's and CC's have a very diverse student population.  Students enter at all ages and for all different reasons.  Frankly speaking, there is more of the real world on a two-year campus than there is on colleges and universities.  You will find greater acceptance there.  The isolation and "cultural protection" offered at colleges and universities are often a bad trade-off.  In bad ones, the college and faculty are not held accountable for providing good education.  Things change much slower there.  (This is true generally for all four-year colleges and universities.)  In the good ones, things can be great, but they are the first to admit they're not for everyone.

 

13) Teachers at JC's and CC's have respect for their more advanced degree colleagues at colleges and universities, but they have chosen a different route.  There is a good reason why a Master's degree is called a master's degree, although you'll find people with doctorates disagreeing about my next observation.  Masters are masters; that means that like trained tradespersons, they are not only knowledgeable about their field, but good at teaching it and apprenticing and mentoring others in it.  There are many brilliant but ineffective teacher-professors at four-year colleges and universities.  There, the inducement to prove yourself as a teacher and mentor to your students is simply less valued.

 

14) Students at JC's and CC's remain more diverse as they progress through their coursework.  Simply speaking, the creative juices are encouraged to flow.  Eccentricity is tolerated, even encouraged.  Many students thrive in ways they would never thrive in a more formal setting of a college or university.  Two-year colleges nurture and encourage growth of your self-esteem.  They are not "sink or swim" environments.

 

15) Here's one I've saved for last.  It's the best!  Community colleges do not require their entering students to have high school diplomas!  They were set up as institutions that literally trust the individual student to make the maximum number of informed choices at each step of their education.  All they require is subject-matter proficiency.  Many of them have placement tests which, if you pass the test, you don't need to take the course to prove your understanding of the subject matter.  Many colleges and universities have placement tests as well, but in order to gain admission to them, you must first have that high school diploma or have satisfied its secondary course class completion requirements.

 

     They are perfect places for late bloomers.

 

     Some of us graduating from high school are not ready to decide what we want to do with the rest of our lives.  I wasn't, and that is why my first two years in a four-year college were very stressful.  And I was lucky: I still lived at home while attending college.

 

     Even if you take a break between high school and further education, you still may not have a precise idea of what you'd like to do.  Two-year colleges are a great place to explore many options before taking a formal plunge at work or a four-year degree.  By the time you finish at a junior or community college, you may have a much clearer idea about your future.  When that time comes, you are better prepared for a four year institution and beyond, or work, or a combination of school and work. No matter what your choice, you will be more a mature and levelheaded person.

 

 

Copyright Issues

 

This article is copyright, all rights reserved by the author, Roger N. Meyer.  It may be reproduced in single copy once for personal use, and in no more than ten copies total for educational purposes.  Fair Use is authorized for all purposes and under conditions established by US Statute and the International Copyright Convention, to which the United States is a signatory nation.  No person shall publish, distribute, copy, or by other means make this material available to others for purposes of personal gain or professional self-aggrandizement.  Individuals wishing permission to exercise other than fair use or limited distribution as outlined above must contact the author, in writing, and receive explicit written permission from the author prior to engaging in further use of this material.

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