By Douglas Fehlen
The Value - and Risk - of Enrolling in a 2-Year Institution
Most college students interested in earning a bachelor's degree attend a 4-year institution directly out of high school. Increasingly, however, individuals are recognizing the value of completing their first two years of postsecondary education at a community college. The logic of this approach is compelling. Completing general education courses at a 2-year institution can yield thousands of dollars in college savings. With tuition and living costs rising significantly at schools throughout the U.S., this is no small fact.
Some students who attend community colleges to complete general ed requirements do so for reasons other than economic. Many individuals are concerned that the grades they have earned in high school won't qualify them for admission into a 4-year college or university of their liking. These students set about completing community college coursework with the intention of improving their academic standing so that they might transfer to a 4-year institution after their sophomore years.
While enrolling in a community college can be a good move for freshmen with financial or academic concerns, students who have taken this route haven't traditionally had any guarantee of ultimately being accepted into 4-year institutions. For this reason, there has been an element of risk for individuals hoping to transfer from a 2-year institution to a college or university where they can earn a bachelor's degree.
An Alternative That Comes with a Guarantee
Increasingly, colleges and universities, in an effort to eliminate students' uncertainty, are implementing 2 + 2 programs. In these programs, students who are able to maintain a certain level of academic achievement while taking specific classes during their freshman and sophomore years at community colleges get guaranteed placement as juniors into 4-year institutions.
The 2- and 4-year institutions that offer 2 + 2 programs do so in close conjunction with one another. Typically, precise articulation agreements are worked out so that students who earn a particular associate's degree can pursue a specified major at a given university. For instance, students who earn a Computer Information Systems associate's degree at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York, can pursue a bachelor's degree in Information Management and Technology at nearby Syracuse University.
While 2 + 2 programs have some very compelling benefits, they are not for everyone. The programs require that students be confident that their academic goals will not change. Participating individuals must be full-time students who have decided not only on their ultimate majors, but also where they want to earn their degrees. Part-time students, or those who are unsure about what or where they'd like to study, aren't good candidates for 2 + 2 programs.
Not sure which type of postsecondary institution is right for you? Get a tuition comparison of four different types of institutions.