Nobody who’s anybody attends community college. That’s what a lot of students think. But as graduation looms closer and the thought of going deeply in debt for an expensive university sinks in, more students begin to realize that starting at a community college makes financial sense. But choosing a community college is not as easy as one might think. There are so many to choose from, and they all seem to have the same programs. If you’ve looked at your choices, you’ve seen the similarities. What are the differences? Are there any colleges that stand out as special in some way?
Here in Oregon, there are 17 public community colleges spread across the state with tuition rates that range from $66 to $84 per credit. Fees beyond tuition average $400 per academic year. That’s not a lot of difference in cost. So how does someone go about choosing a community college when they all seem so much the same?
Besides cost, there are a few other factors to consider. What do you want most? Is it a friendly and personable faculty? Is it a safe campus? How about an online community? Is quickly getting a job after graduation worth putting up with crowded classes and long lines? Or would you prefer to stay home and do all your classes in your pajamas? Here are the best community colleges in Oregon in five different categories to help you decide what’s most important to you.
Best Distance Education Program–Chemeketa Community College
In-State Tuition – $81 per credit + $50 per distance class
Average Fees – $120 per term
Chemeketa Community College is located in Salem, Oregon, and has six satellite campuses. But if you are looking to get an online degree, it really doesn’t matter where the campus is, because you will rarely, if ever, have to go there. Chemeketa currently lists nine associates degrees and twelve certificate programs that can be had from the comfort of your sofa, and with the exception a a few science labs and perhaps a few math tests, you may not have to see the campus at all during your community college career.
Chemeketa Online offers associates degrees in Accounting, Management, Business, Speech Language Pathology Assistant, Hospitality, Tourism, General Studies and a couple of transfer degrees. They also offer certificates in those areas as well as Tax Preparation and Juvenile Justice. Online classes can be combined with on-campus classes for students who wish to go into other fields, making even more degrees accessible. Although most community colleges are offering some online classes and even a few degrees online, Chemeketa is leading the pack.
Best Job Prospects–Mount Hood Community College
In-State Tuition – $83.75 per credit
Average Fees – $100 per term
Mount Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon, has some of the most demanding restricted-entry programs in the medical and dental field, and it appears to be paying off for its graduates. Alumni often report having had job offers before they were even finished with the entire program. This is because employers trust Mount Hood graduates to be the most prepared for the work that they will be doing. The college offers degrees or certificates in Nursing, Dental Hygiene, Physical Therapy Assistant, Respiratory Care, and Surgical Technology among others.
While there are a lot of additional costs associated with these programs, the job prospects are excellent, and the reputation of Mount Hood Community College has made it a highly sought after place to enroll. With good reason, competition for these programs is stiff. It is not unusual for an applicant to be vying for one of 32 spots with 500 other people. Fortunately, there’s nothing that says a student cannot reapply, and many do because Mt. Hood’s reputation is that good.
Best E-Learning Environment–Lane Community College
In-State Tuition – $83.00 per credit
Average Fees – $180.00 per term
Located in Eugene, Oregon, Lane Community College offers General Studies, Medical Assistant, Nursing, and Computer Science degrees and certificates. It also offers Aviation training-flying and fixing the planes. But what’s different about Lane is that it has a different way of teaching online, and has apparently decided to spend its money elsewhere. Using the free, open-source software called Moodle, Lane has set up an e-learning environment to be envied by the best of the community colleges. The main difference between Lane’s Moodle and other colleges’ Blackboard Distance Learning programs is that Lane is primarily supporting on-campus classes with this system, at least for now. The other difference is Moodle is free and that means an eventual switch to more distance education classes might not cost the student any more than on-campus classes.
With a number of Computer Science geeks learning right on campus, Lane Community College might be the college to watch for innovations in distance learning in the near future. In the meantime, Lane has 828 classes listed for Winter term in the Moodle and several of them have some previews for the curious. The decision-makers at Lane Community College picked a winner with this one. Not only are they saving money in this depressed economy, but they are setting the example for other community colleges to follow. When you can do it yourself and adapt the program to your own needs, why pay someone else to do it for you?
Friendliest-Clatsop Community College
In-State Tuition – $86.00 per credit
Average Fees – $120.00 per term
Tucked up at the northwest tip of the Oregon coast in Astoria, is Clatsop Community College, and from the moment you get on their website, everything about it says, “We’d love you to come visit us.” This small school offers four associate degrees-Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer, Associate of Science Oregon Transfer in Business, Applied Science, and General Studies. Despite its small size, Clatsop also has an impressive list of programs for high school students who wish to start getting college credit early or are at risk of dropping out, including Running Start, College Now, Simultaneous Enrollment, and Upward Bound.
Clatsop’s user-friendly website answers almost every question a potential student could ask and the links to “Request Information” and “Contact” sitting right next to each other at the top of the home page attest to the college’s desire to answer any questions they haven’t already thought up. Student’s feedback is almost all positive with regard to the friendliness and caring attitude of the staff and faculty. Although some classes have 30 or more students enrolled, the average student to faculty ratio is 16:1, making it easy for Clatsop professors to be well acquainted with the student body and their needs. The scenery, the smaller class size, and the dedicated professionals who work at Clatsop Community College all combine to make the experience a memorable one for its students.
Safest Campus-Rogue Community College
In-State Tuition – $75 per credit
Average Fees – $300 per term
On the outskirts of Grants Pass, Oregon, you will find the 80-acre Redwood campus of Rogue Community College and you can’t ask for a more serene and pleasant location for studying for an associates degree in General Studies, Nursing, Medical Assistant, or Business. In spite of the campus enrollment of more than 5,000 students, it just doesn’t feel that big. There’s a peacefulness to the campus that eludes many others this size. Maybe it’s the trees. Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s so much safer than other campuses. The other campuses of Rogue Community College are just as large or larger, but maintain the same safety record.
The campus crime statistics is basically a very long list of zeros. A few robberies in a past few years and some vandalism is all they have to report. In spite of these statistics, the campus security office takes its job seriously. There are emergency call buttons scattered around the campuses, emergency phones in buildings and classrooms, and escort services available for those who don’t want to walk to the parking lot alone. Perhaps that’s why the crime stays low.
Do A Little Digging
Choosing a community college these days can have more to do with the services and amenities they offer than just their cost. Many students plan to transfer to a four-year college after their inexpensive, two-year stay at community college. Others want a two-year degree or certificate where they can immediately get to work in their field of interest. Whichever the case, community colleges are a smart financial move. While lots of community colleges offer the pre-professional and degree programs you may be looking for, to find one you like takes a bit of research. Whether it’s distance education in your pajamas, a friendly teacher in an oceanside classroom, or a little safety in the woods, with a bit of digging, you can find the college that’s right for you.
American School Search
Chemeketa Community College
Clatsop Community College
Lane Community College
Mount Hood Community College
Rogue Community College