More Minn. Students Choosing Community College over 4-Year Universities

Updated: 08/29/2014 11:41 AM
Created: 08/28/2014 10:00 PM
By: Beth McDonough

As Minnesotans head off to college this week, many are increasingly choosing community college over a four-year university.

That's the word from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. In a newly-released report, it shows enrollment has doubled at two-year institutions from 60,000 in 1980 to 120,000 in 2012.

Jenny Molina is one of the thousands choosing community college.  She has her heart set on being an accountant.

"Since I was a little girl I always enjoyed doing math, always dreamed of working in a bank," she said.

But she wasn't ready to go from high school immediately to college.  She took two years off.  Now 20 years old, Molina is starting her first semester at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park.

"For me community college has a lot of benefits," she explained.

Cost is one of those benefits.  Tuition runs about $5,500 per year for full-time students.  It's nearly twice that at the University of Minnesota and much more, $35,000 plus, at a private university like Hamline.

At North Hennepin, officials say there's been a 15 to 20 percent burst in enrollment over the last decade.

"The price tag is the big driver, but location is also important because a lot of students come from the area," according to Landon Pirius of North Hennepin Community College.

Molina commutes from Columbia Heights.  Plus, there's the convenience of evening and online classes.

A report from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education also reveals two-thirds of the students plan to transfer to a four-year university, but many have concerns about their credits transferring to another school.  That's why North Hennepin signed agreements with other universities in the state guaranteeing that credits will transfer.

Another study by Georgetown University points out 74 percent of the jobs available in Minnesota through 2020, require employees to have education beyond high school, like community college. That's a welcome statistic to Molina, a mathematician, who'll be out of the campus door and hopefully into a job in just two years.

The Minnesota report also says the state ranks fourth in the country in terms of adults with a two-year associate of arts degree.

In 2012, 69 percent of high school graduates in the state enrolled in post-secondary public, two-year or technical college. Twenty percent enrolled in a state university and 19 percent in a private university.

The report also recommends when selecting colleges, visit their websites or the call the school to make sure it's accredited, and the credits you earn can be transferred to another university.  There are 32 community colleges in the state.

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