Community Colleges Offer an Affordable, Quality Option
Byline: Robert Breuder
"Community colleges have an important role to play in making certain we have skilled workers ready to help businesses take advantage of all the opportunities in the Digital Age."
- Bill Gates
This year, more than 10 million of us - one of every 18 adults - will enroll in 1,123 community colleges nationwide for varied reasons: To pursue baccalaureate studies; prepare for new career fields; become certified in new technologies; remediate academic deficiencies; learn new job skills or engage in self-enrichment activities through continuing education.
Locally, 73 percent of adults in our community pursuing undergraduate studies (first two years) have chosen to take their classes at Harper College. In addition, one-third of all college-bound district high school students elects Harper for their first collegiate experience.
Collectively, Harper enrolls more than 24,000 students annually, making it the eighth-largest undergraduate college in Illinois and among the top 5 percent nationwide. Nolan Ryan, Hall of Fame pitcher for the Houston Astros, captures the critical role community colleges play for so many when he says, "I'll never stop pitching the edge a community college gave me."
That so many residents have chosen community colleges in general, and Harper College in particular, comes as no surprise. The commitment of community colleges to provide access to every American is real. It can be seen in the way community colleges reach out to those who may never have considered themselves to be "college material" - in terms of the diversity and flexibility of programs and services offered. But most clearly of all, it can be found in the community college's affordability.
NASA space Shuttle Commander Eileen Collins, once observed: "My parents told me, 'Eileen, we want you to go to college, but we can't afford it,' so I chose a community college which had an outstanding math and science program."
In a world of seemingly uncontrollable cost increases, community colleges remain remarkably affordable. Today, when a year's study (tuition, fees, books, computer technology) for freshmen at a private college can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 or more, Harper College can offer virtually the same first-year program taught by highly-qualified, dedicated teaching faculty for approximately $2,000. …