Three Community College Opportunities That Will Surprise You

Three Community College Opportunities That Will Surprise You

As a mathematician, my job is to notice patterns. What I’ve noticed about college students is that their success has less to do with IQ and more to do with digging deeper into their college experience. Community college is no exception.

While community colleges may best be known as a way to get the skills for a great job or the first two years of a four-year degree at half the price, the opportunities there may surprise you.

Scholarships

At a community college, you can get involved, do well, and get rewarded for it. Private foundations like Coca-Cola and GEICO are big players in the world of community college scholarships. Community college students who are really tuned in will apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship—it provides students with up to $40,000 per year to transfer to their dream four-year college or university.

Community college students who are really tuned in will apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship—it provides students with up to $40,000 per year to transfer to their dream four-year college or university.
Community college students who are really tuned in will apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship—it provides students with up to $40,000 per year to transfer to their dream four-year college or university.COURTESY OF PHI THETA KAPPA

SAT and ACT scores have forever dominated the pathway to a college scholarship. Not true anymore. Four-year colleges aggressively recruit the best community college transfers, and they show their love by awarding hundreds of millions of dollars in transfer scholarship each year. For example, Indiana State University offers 10 full in-state tuition awards; Columbia University in New York offers up to eight renewable scholarships of $8,000 each year; and Golden Gate University in California offers up to $7,500 each year — all to high-achieving community college transfers. Awards are generally based on academic performance and for students in stand-out leadership positions (more on that later).

Research

When we think of community colleges, undergraduate research doesn’t immediately come to mind. Think again. Last year, Jackson College in Michigan partnered with the Michigan Department of Corrections in its Prison Education Initiative to develop and provide co-curricular learning experiences for incarcerated community college students.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency to examine sharp declines in oyster reefs along the Gulf Coast and proved the validity of recycling the shells for re-habitation.

The Community College of Baltimore County collaborated with the University of Maryland School of Law to investigate the DACA program and how it affected their community. As a part of their investigation, students worked with college administrators to identify DACA students at their college and created resources for this underserved population. These examples are just a snapshot of the innovative work that is happening on your local community college campus.

Leadership

I recently spoke with Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise about his community college experience. Fred told me the time he spent there literally changed the trajectory of his life. His involvement with Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society was the first time he thought of himself as a leader. Today, Phi Theta Kappa inducts more than 120,000 students annually and gives them opportunities to serve in leadership roles locally, regionally, and internationally.

SkillsUSA offers another way for students to flex their leadership muscles by providing a competition-based platform to career and technical students who are entering the nation’s workforce. Student Government Associations provide leadership development opportunities that impact campus governance and promote civic engagement. Students who participate in SGA are seen as leaders among their peers. Community colleges also offer extracurriculars like band and high-quality athletic programs through the National Junior College Athletic Association. These and other campus organizations and activities can serve as a leadership laboratory for students who choose to get involved. Community colleges were invented to provide increased opportunity to the American Dream. They offer students an affordable and high-quality education, access to significant scholarships, opportunities to participate in undergraduate research, and meaningful ways to engage in leadership development. The core of their mission is to make education available to everyone.

Scholarships, leadership, and support are three gateway opportunities to help community college students get to and succeed at the next level. And these opportunities are primed for College Promise programs that are growing across the country. You see, College Promise programs are working; they’re getting more students to take that first step in starting their higher education. Through Promise programs, states and communities are making community college accessible and affordable to eligible students by covering college costs and providing support. Promise programs provide tangible solutions to the challenges that so often stand in the way of students with bright futures ahead of them—solutions like childcare for student-parents who are in class and access to food pantries on campus so that no student has to decide between paying for groceries or paying for tuition. That’s why I urge your support of College Promise programs. Together, we can ensure equity in opportunity and—for those who need it the most—the ability to earn a postsecondary degree or credential that leads to meaningful, family-sustaining employment.

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