How 'junior' colleges have grown up and up

Many, once called junior colleges, are now called community colleges or city colleges. Having shed the "junior," they want it known that they have grown up.

And they have indeed. These two-year colleges even have some advantages over four-year colleges and universities for certain students -- and for uncertain students, who may move on to a four-year college after one or two years.

For one thing, they cost much less for the student who has no scholarship and wishes to (or is willing to) live at home. Where I live, in southern California , we have two excellent community colleges, each of them only five or six miles away, in opposite directions. I have lectured and given commencement addresses at both.

For those who need to keep a job while studying, another advantage is that these colleges offer a full program of evening courses. It is possible for the student to work all day and attend classes in the evening. We hear of "moonlighting," and this might be thought of as educational moonlighting -- moonlighting of the best sort.

Community colleges have more "job-oriented" courses than four-year colleges and universities. But their curriculum includes many courses of a liberal arts kind -- courses in such fields as literature, history, art, philosophy, and sociology. Students can gain breadth as well as depth, and there is usually freedom of choice, with very few requirements.

Adults, even senior citizens, often attend community colleges to obtain "continuing education" or to add to their knowledge of the field in which they are working. This results in a wider range of ages in the student body than will be found in a four-year institution. I think it is good to bring persons of different age groups together. The generation gap is virtually closed, and I have found discussion not only in seminars but in large classes unusually vigorous and stimulating.

Another plus concerns the faculty, though there may be some difference of opinion about this. Since promotion and tenure are not based on the number of pages of scholarly pubication, professors can concentrate on teaching.

They have a heavy teaching schedule, it is true. But, not pressed to do research in the minutiae of their field, they have time to prepare adequately for the courses they teach. There are exceptions, but most community professors gladly learn and gladly teach, as did Chaucer's Clerk of Oxenford.

Yes, what we once called the junior college has come of age. It now has a secure and important place in our educational hierarchy. Recognition of this fact is overdue.

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