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The Mash: Change the Way You Think About Community College

1/23/2015 12:00 AM

President Barack Obama put community colleges in the spotlight earlier this month when he proposed a plan that could cut tuition in half for interested students.

“Put simply, what I’d like to do is see the first two years of community college free for everybody who is willing to work for it,” Obama said. 

For some, community college might not even be on the radar.

Although community college is often seen as a freshman year solution, there are students who take the opposite approach.

Adonnis Williams briefly attended Ball State University in Indiana before he decided to return home to attend Harold Washington College, part of City Colleges of Chicago.

“Scholarships just couldn’t cover enough,” he said, adding that Harold Washington was a more practical option. “It’s right by home and it’s flexible, so it gave me a lot of options with time, convenience and financial concerns.”

Of course, cost isn’t the only benefit. Faculty and students often cite flexibility, location and variety of classes as perks of attending a school close to home. This increased freedom also means that community colleges provide diverse learning environments and smaller class sizes.

“About 40 percent of our students are between the ages of 18 and 22,” said Nikole Muzzy, senior communications officer for City Colleges of Chicago. “However, we have students of all ages, ranging from high school students taking dual enrollment courses to midlife career changers.”

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