The Elite Community College

Community college is now for everyone. Or at least it is for more students than it used to be. According to an article in the Washington Post:

Increasing number of high school graduates… pass over top-drawer public and private universities to become honor students at community colleges. Recession-wary students are flocking to selective two-year programs, which allow students to complete half of their college education for about $8,000, then transfer to a more prestigious four-year institution.

Honors students are a new concept in American community colleges. Community colleges are looking to take advantage of the high cost of traditional colleges and universities by creating selective programs to prepare students who wish to transfer to elite universities.

It is not really clear what an “increasing number” means, in part because community colleges have always taken all comers, both students who are not really ready for college and students who are very ready but use community colleges because they are inexpensive and easy to access. But according to the article community college applications are up in DC-area schools.

The student profiled in the piece, Kira Cassels of Laurel, Maryland, was accepted to both the University of Virginia (about $30,000 a year) and Franklin & Marshall College ($39,930 a year) but decided to attend Howard Community College (about $5,000 a year) as an honors student. It is a somewhat dicey venture, forgoing acceptances to traditional colleges in the hopes of two years of savings and an eventual transfer to even more exclusive schools. Cassels hopes to attend to Barnard or Cornell.

It is worth pointing out that this solution is only viable for students who wish to transfer to relatively large schools. Students who hope to attend exclusive small schools are pretty much out of luck; these schools do not have much room for transfer students.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer