Competing with the big leagues

Community Colleges should offer four year degrees

By Elizabeth Casella, Managing Editor

Traditionally it is thought that one would attend a community college to get the basic general education classes out of the way for a more affordable price and then transfer to another college. Some may obtain an Associate two-year degree while attending or receive a certification for certain careers. It is the easiest route to get in, get a degree and to get into the workforce as quickly as possible.

Many careers won’t accept just an Associate’s degree anymore and it is becoming more difficult to find work without a four-year degree or higher. With this in mind, college tuition keeps rising every year, making it financially crippling to attend a university or obtain this fouryear degree without loans.

Some community colleges are starting to receive the certification to allow students to receive a bachelor’s degree without ever leaving campus and for a lower cost. According to communitycollegereview.com, this new system of bachelor degrees should be offered nationwide at all community colleges, to help students receive a useful degree for less and in a wider variety of degrees.

There are differences in the community college’s bachelor degree from the traditional four-year institutions though. In most cases these degrees are offered to students that have obtained an Associate’s and are given as an extension of their own Associate programs. This means that students acquire the Associate first then apply for the bachelor’s program of study.

They also differ with the variety of degrees offered. They are limited to degree programs that take students directly into the workforce. Instead of offering a general bachelor of the science or English field of study, the degree is specialized to fields such as nursing, radiology and information technology.

According to the Education Commission of the States, in 2012, Lawmakers in Michigan enacted H.B. 4496. This authorized all 28 community colleges within the state to offer bachelor’s degrees in energy production, concrete technology, maritime technology and culinary arts. The community colleges within Michigan act independently, on a decentralized level and do not address the core policies laid out by the commission. Individual institution’s board of trustees can decide to undergo a review process by the regional accrediting agency to receive authority to offer bachelor’s degrees.

Since 2012 some institutions within Michigan, such as Macomb Community College and Northwestern Michigan College according to The Detroit Free Press, have tried to become accredited in other general degrees. This should be allowed because it offers many benefits to the general population. Some of the benefits are that community colleges give access to degrees for those that live in more rural areas and may not have access to fouryear colleges or are not able to relocate and uproot their lives.

It also benefits low-income, first generation and older students returning to school. Many of these students may have never considered receiving anything more than an Associate’s degree or a work certification in a certain career. It also is an advocate for non-traditional students and makes it a seamless transition for students to receive these higher degrees without having to transfer.

With so many colleges aiming to benefit their students with as many resources as possible and as many ways to get students to succeed, adding bachelor’s degree programs that are more than only three or four specialized programs benefits the entire population.

It helps to get additional students to graduate with higher degrees that many may have never considered pursuing and keeps cost lower. It does start to pose new grounds than the original purpose of community colleges, and could have some challenges, but in all benefits the overall population for the better.

Breaking new ground and expanding education within community colleges seems to be in the near future, which will change the lives of many