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Community Colleges Rule!

September 14, 2010

There was a segment on NPR this morning about the growing number of higher education students defaulting on federal school loans. The numbers are astounding: More than 238,000 students with federal loans are in default. And we’ve all heard the horror stories of students accruing debts that will take a decade—or decades—to pay back. (That’s crazy!)

A little factiod popped up near the end of the story:

Deborah Cochrane of the Institute for College Access and Success says many students at for-profits should be at much cheaper community colleges.

“Whereas only about 13 percent of students at community colleges are even taking out student loans, about 97 percent of students at for-profit two-year colleges are taking out federal student loans,” she said.

Community colleges—the plucky little schools that could! We’re doing a story on the history of the community college in next year’s Bathroom Reader. A few factiods to look forward to:

• In 1896 University of Chicago president William Rainey Harper became the first school to designate freshman and sophomore years “junior college” and junior and senior years “senior college.”

• In 1902 high school officials in Joliet, Illinois, about 40 miles from Chicago and at Harper’s urging, founded Joliet Junior College, the nation’s—and the world’s—first official junior college. (They wouldn’t be called “community colleges” until much later.) High school graduates could attend Joliet free of charge, and upon graduation could attend the university of Chicago as juniors.

• Joliet offered the first Associate in Arts Degree, earned after completing two years, and William Rainey Harper is known as the “Father of the Community College.”

There are more than 1,300 community colleges in the country today, more than 1,000 of them public and very affordable. Some notable CC alumni:

Walt Disney (Metropolitan Junior College, MO); Clint Eastwood (Los Angeles City College, CA); H. Ross Perot (Texarkana Junior College, TX); Jackie Robinson (Pasadena City College, CA); John Belushi (College of DuPage, IL); Billy Crystal (Nassau Community College, NY); Tom Hanks (Chabot College, CA); Calvin Klein (Fashion Institute of Technology, NY); and Queen Latifah (Manhattan Community College, NY).

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