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Myth of the College Experience

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I do not agree.
sshzp4   10/4/2012 10:13:02 AM
The article and the subsequent comments only dwell on personal opinions, not facts.


CCs are meant to cater to the lowest common denominator of the general student body, they are meant as 'trade schools' where you learn to be a skilled worker. So that's exactly what you get out of a CC - you get technician level instructors who teach technician level courses. The skills taught in CC are just labor-oriented, not thought-oriented.


4-year degree programs are designed to give a student the widest possible exposure to a whole technical field, and to teach them how to apply logic to understand and solve problems in that field. You have to be fairly smart to understand why you are in that environment.


The problem is the lowest denominator manages to get into 4yDPs by agreeing to pay the tuition. And since they are just too simple to understand what that environment is about, they resort to the hi-jinks out of the ennui; Which you then hear about leading to the common impression that 4yDPs are a waste of time and money. And you also conveniently forget all the MIT/Harvard/Stanford/UIUC/Caltech grads that have changed your life as you know it.

The statistical truth is you don't have many thought leaders in either industry or research that went to a CC. Here are some rhetorical questions: How many articles on DN that talk about breakthrough science or world-changing technology actually come from CCs? How many designers/engineers at Apple/Google/MSFT actually went to a CC?


In the end, the parent needs to decide if the child is smart enough for a 4yDP. Otherwise as we well know, a fool and his money are easily parted.

User Rank
Experience and employment
Battar   10/4/2012 10:09:12 AM
First, employers don't take associate degrees seriously. They often seem more interested in an applicants' paper credentials than in actual ability.

Second, I've worked with many engineers in the past, and I have found little correlation between the engineers' ability and creativity and their education (apart from Technion (Israel) EE graduates who all seem overqualified).

I've also found that a stint in the armed forces gives valuable work experience and instills a sense of responsibility that the private sector does not always provide.


Plastics Engineer
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close but not quite
Plastics Engineer   10/4/2012 10:08:56 AM
When I graduated from high school I didn't have much of a choice as far as "community colleges" were concerned.  First, there were none close by, and secondly, my parents INSISTED I go to a 4 year college.  As it turned out, the university I attended had a branch campus 20 minutes away, so I did live at home for the first 3 years.  3 years because midway through my sophomore year I changed majors and essentially started over.  I graduated with an associates degree and then went to another campus of the same university to get my bachelors degree.  Looking back, my college "career" has essentially the same elements of attending a community college then moving on.  If I can, I will definately encourage my children to take the same approach.

User Rank
Community Colleges
xchngcoef   10/4/2012 9:32:58 AM
Dave Palmer's observations on the value of community college are close to my experience. I followed the conventional route, 4 year college then graduate school, but both of my sons started in a local community college. This was the better approach for them for much the same reasons that Dave noted and the transition to 4 year institutions was seamless. The reputation of community colleges has improved from my time in the 60's and while not the best route for all students they are a useful alternative for others. 

User Rank
Re: Small flaw in the logic
ttemple   10/4/2012 8:28:55 AM
Oddly enough, in 1979 when I finished my associates degree from a community college, I could have gone to Ohio University to complete a BSEE in 2 years.  They had an agreement with the college I went to at that time.  I went and looked at OU, but didn't end up going there.  So even back then work was starting on the problem of transferring out of 2 year colleges.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Small flaw in the logic
Beth Stackpole   10/4/2012 7:32:53 AM
One of the most important aspects of the college experience, whether at community college or four-year universities, is hands-on training. Call them internships or whatever, but today's engineering programs should encompass some type of training where business, in tandem with the learning institution, offers on-the-job, real world experience to the students. I will cede that community college is perhaps better suited to provide this very necessary part of the education experience than four-year colleges. Even way, I'd like to see more of this cross-collaboration.

Dave Palmer
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Re: Small flaw in the logic
Dave Palmer   10/4/2012 2:07:46 AM
@TJ McDermott: You're absolutely right, and I was wondering how long it would take for someone to point that out.

Depending on the four-year college and the program, students who transfer from a two-year school may need an extra semester or two for the reasons you mention. (I wound up needing two additional semesters, but I took advantage of the extra time to get a head start on my masters degree).

Fortunately, an increasing number of community colleges and universities are working out agreements to minimize or eliminate this problem. It's definitely important for students who are planning to transfer to focus getting the credits they need for the specific program they want to transfer into.

On the other hand, students who don't have a very clear sense of what they want to go into (i.e. most students) should focus on accumulating general education credits, while taking classes in a variety of subjects to see what interests them the most.

Rob Spiegel
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Great points about CC's
Rob Spiegel   10/4/2012 12:57:16 AM
Great blog, Dave. I have a son in CC because he feels he isn't ready for full-time college. He wants to chip away at classes. I used to teach part-time at our local CC, while also teaching at our state's largest state school. One talk I always gave my CC students is to let them know the demands on them were every bit as great as the demands at the four-year college students. Also, I told them their performance was as strong or better than my state college students. Most of them were taking a relatively inexpensive first two years at the CC, with plans to complete their degree at a four-year school.

TJ McDermott
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Small flaw in the logic
TJ McDermott   10/3/2012 11:41:33 PM
I took a look at sample curriculums for electrical engineering and aerospace engineering at University of Washington.

In general, going the community college route for the first two years makes sense, assuming the community college offers the math, chemistry, and physics courses that would be equivalent to those offered by the university and required by the major desired.

The flaw is that some of the major-specific required courses begin in the sophomore year.  A student taking the community college route would have to try to get these classes in summer semester, or try very hard to cram them into junior year, or end up going for five years calendar time.

It would still be less expensive in the end to go the community college route, but longer in duration.

Charles Murray
User Rank
Another good point
Charles Murray   10/3/2012 7:01:40 PM
Another good point in Dave's article: Community college teachers are there to teach, not to do research. Too many big university professors view their teaching chores as an unpleasant distraction.

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