Are community colleges worthy of awarding degrees?
Community colleges, like this one in Anne Arundel county, Maryland, provide higher education at more affordable prices than traditional four-year universities. Photo courtesy of Djembayz via Wikimedia Commons.

Are community colleges worthy of awarding degrees?

Community college is an excellent resource for students who are unsure about their career path or do not want to pay an exorbitant amount of money in tuition fees at a four-year university. However, the education gained at a community college should not be discredited. The schooling provided at these places of learning is valuable in its own right and should be supported as an alternative to traditional college.

A bill in the Maryland house titled “Community Colleges – Baccalaureate Degrees – Prohibition” is threatening the abilities of community colleges to award degrees to students. Through this bill, the government takes away the possibility of publicly funded community colleges to properly reward eligible pupils even if they have the same level of knowledge as someone from a four-year institution.

This bill could negatively affect many if passed, as not everyone can afford an education at a four-year college. The more traditional university may have a less comprehensive major program in comparison to the community college.

Maya Mueller, a senior mathematics major at UMBC who transferred from a community college, says, “I’m glad that I had the opportunity to get accustomed to college life and explore my interests without going into debt. I could not have done this without high quality community college.”

Mueller, speaking on her positive experience at Anne Arundel Community College, also says “the professors were some of the most passionate and involved professors that I had ever met. Through their support and patience I was inspired to pursue a major in math, despite being ambivalent about whether I was capable of taking on a STEM major before.”

One primary concern with community colleges are that they do not operate on the same level as universities. On that, Mueller asserts that AACC, “definitely prepared me for my major … through [AACC] I developed a solid understanding of core mathematical concepts.”

Although usually only considered two-year institutions, community colleges have the means to be on the same level as four-year schools when it comes to specialized programs. Because of this, they should be allowed to continue with awarding bachelor degrees for supported majors.

Mueller believes “to prevent community college students from getting bachelor degrees would be limiting higher education to a privileged minority of the population.” This demonstrates a potentially classist issue as many people who attend these colleges are from non-traditional student backgrounds where community college is the best choice for their finances and personal life.

Community colleges not only serve as a gateway to four-year colleges, they can also provide a quality education with only a fraction of the cost. These institutions should be supported by the Maryland house instead of having their mission derailed.