Why Your Kids Might Go to Community College
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Instead of amassing immense student loans, many people are now turning to their local community colleges to obtain their bachelor's degrees.
Now more states have passed laws allowing their local community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees as an alternative option for many students who are seeking applied degrees in fields such as maritime technology, culinary arts or dental hygiene. During the past 10 years, there have been 10 states which now offer four-year degrees, including Michigan, Colorado and Florida, said Beth Hagan, executive director of the Community College Baccalaureate Association. Community colleges have been conferring four-year degrees for the past 40 years, she said.
Community colleges typically offer two-year associate degrees, but now the push for them to offer bachelor's degrees is increasing because of local workforce needs, a lack of teachers, more demand for nursing students with a four-year degree and a demand for a better trained workforce, Hagan said. Across the U.S., there are 1,655 community colleges with 1,047 public institutions and 415 private ones, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Florida has taken an even larger stance by renaming some of their former community colleges. The former Brevard Community College is now rebranded as Eastern Florida State College and offers bachelor's degrees in general business management and health care management. Its inaugural class began the program in August.
Michigan legislators approved four technical bachelor's degrees last December for the state's 28 community colleges, said Mike Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association. Now students can get degrees in maritime technology, culinary arts, energy production and concrete technology. The first students to enroll in the program will likely start in 2014, he said.
"The industries are evolving now and want their employees to have a four-year degree," said Hansen. "We've always maintained it is about access and affordability. For many students, spending $10,000 a year in tuition is just not within reach. We have to think of more creative ways to increase the pathways to a bachelor's degree."
In the 2010-11 school year, the average tuition and fees for a full-time student enrolled in a public two-year college are $2,713, compared to $7,605 at public four-year institutions and significantly higher levels at private for-profit and nonprofit institutions, according to The College Board.
Costs for college tuition have skyrocketed during the past decade . Outstanding student loan debt is now the second largest form of consumer debt, but about half of the $1 trillion in student loan debt isn't being repaid because borrowers are struggling financially, according to an analysis released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.