Community colleges are the often-overlooked institutions of learning, that are hidden gems in one’s backyard.
In India, the system of community colleges is seen as an alternative system of education that can be used to acquire trade skills, but not as a conduit to institutions of higher learning. In the United States, on the other hand, community colleges are seen as junior colleges giving a leg up to those that need one, in climbing into the four-year college system. If the student so desires, he or she could earn college credits at the local community college and then transfer to a four-year educational institution in the United States. By completing two years worth of credits at a community college the student then needs to spend only two years at a University school like UCLA to earn a Bachelors degree.
The aim of both the Indian and American systems, however, is to empower the disadvantaged and the underprivileged through appropriate skills-development, leading to gainful employment.
The booming popularity of community colleges could also be attributed to President Obama, who was hailed as the “Community College President”, for funding and supporting these educational institutions. During his campaign, Obama spoke regularly of the importance of community colleges in keeping America economically and educationally competitive in the 21st century.
The Evergreen Valley College (E.V.C.), located on a sprawling 175 acres in the eastern foothills of San Jose, California, is just such an institution that prepares students to transfer to four-year college systems, such as those of the Universities of California and California State Universities. It has transfer agreements with all 23 California State Universities, 6 of the Universities of California, and some private universities. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges – a national accrediting body – the E.V.C. is the largest feeder community college to the San Jose State University.
Community colleges are especially attractive as stepping-stones to international students who need to improve key academic skills, including language skills, before obtaining admission to a Bachelor’s level program. The credits earned at the community college help complete university education in a time- and cost-effective manner.
The Evergreen Valley College has a large number of international students from India. Elizabeth Tyrrell, Director of the International Student Program, travels to India and meets high school students in order to explain the American community college system:
“We have the 2 + 2 system. At the end, students receive their Bachelor’s Degree from the 4-year institution (from which they graduate). Almost all of E.V.C.’s international students transfer to accredited 4-year institutions. 94% of E.V.C.’s transfer-ready students do, in fact, transfer. Students can apply and transfer beyond California and go to any university or college in the U.S.”
Evergreen Valley College is S.E.V.I.S. certified and approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to issue the I-20 Form, which is required to apply for a visa to study in the U.S.
Students from India do not need to take the S.A.T. or the T.O.E.F.L. exam, as long as their high school transcript is in English, and they come from an English medium high school.
The application process is more relaxed as well. Students may apply for admission till as late as June 30, 2018 for the Fall semester that begins on 4 September, 2018, or apply between October 15 2018 and December 1, 2018, for the Winter session that starts on 28 January, 2019.
There is no question that the savings are significant when it comes to tuition. While the annual tuition at a Universityof California would cost approximately $41,000, a student would only pay $6748 at the Evergreen Valley College – a savings of nearly $35,000. However, taking into account the cost of living – housing, transport, fun-money, books and supplies – students would be well-advised to budget for $21,500 for the year, per E.V.C.
In addition to the compelling financial savings, students also step into a learning environment akin to that of a University. While at the beginning of each semester, students are responsible for signing up for classes, maintaining attendance, completing course work and submitting assignments, they have the added advantage of having Counselors on hand, to guide them in the choice of courses and help them meet the necessary pre-requisites for their Major.
The average class size in community colleges is typically smaller. While the student-teacher ratio at E.V.C. is only 28 – 45 students to 1 teacher, the class size at a U.C. can sometimes run to over 300 students. Additionally, students in community colleges have Professors teaching the course themselves, while in large universities, the course may be taught by a Teaching Assistant.
The 2015 enrollment statistics published by the American Association of Community Colleges, reveal that 46%, of all the U.S. undergraduates, are community college students. Of the 12 million students who go to community college in the U.S. every year, 2.1 million choose California community colleges.
Community colleges cater to the needs of the local job market and have professors who work closely with the students to groom them not only for the needs of the local area, but also equip them with skills that are transferrable beyond. With the voracious appetite for new talent and the ever-changing skills needed in the Silicon Valley, community colleges provide an alluring and viable solution.
Says Michael Riordan, a tax accountant and teacher at a local Bay Area community college, of the merits of community colleges “This is a win-win situation. Save your money for (the students’) Masters.”
For queries please contact: Elizabeth Tyrrell, Evergreen Valley College, 3095 Yerba Buena Road, San Jose, CA 95135 E-mail: International@evc.edu Phone: +1 (408) 270-6453
Ritu Marwah is the Features Editor at India Currents and is an avid student of educational systems.