Four-Year Colleges in United States
Those who want to go to college in the United States are spoiled for choice: there are more than 2,000 four-year colleges in the United States. “Going to college” is a common phrase in the USA and more common than the expression “going to university”. Everyday language usage therefore provides little information about which type of university is meant. Four-year colleges in the USA can, however, be differentiated from other types of universities on the basis of a number of characteristics.
A conceptual approximation of the colleges
The term ” college ” can mean two things in the USA:
- Independent institution, known as the Four-Year College, which exclusively offers undergraduate programs
- Part of a larger university in the USA that is explicitly responsible for undergraduate education. On the other hand, graduate programs (master’s, doctorate) are offered at the professional and graduate schools of the universities. Students who do their bachelor’s degree at such a college can then continue their studies at the same university.
Four-year colleges in the US get their name because of the range of courses they offer: the four-year college usually lasts four years.
The two-year colleges must be distinguished from this. The most common form of these, the community colleges, offer two-year courses leading to an associate degree – for many young people a door opener to an academic career. Graduates then have the opportunity to study for two more years at a university or four-year college in the USA. There they can catch up on their bachelor’s degree.
The term university usually denotes those institutions in the USA that offer graduate studies and are usually characterized by a strong tradition of research.
Four-year college hallmarks in the United States
Four-year colleges predominantly offer four-year bachelor’s programs that typically end with a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science.
Compared to universities, colleges are often smaller. This is especially true of many private colleges. Smaller universities have a number of advantages: In many courses, the group sizes are manageable, the atmosphere on campus is often familiar. The relationship between professors and students is also very good in many cases.
The benefit of many four-year colleges in the US: The only entry requirement is a degree from high school. Some universities also require academic admission tests such as the SAT or ACT.
Liberal Arts Colleges
A specialty among the colleges in the USA are the Liberal Arts Colleges. Many of these institutions are small, private institutions with an excellent reputation. You can compete with the larger universities in the USA without any problems and assert yourself in international rankings. The study places are correspondingly in demand. The tuition fees are usually higher compared to other universities.
Part of the philosophy of the Liberal Arts Colleges is the idea of teaching students to “learn to think”. They are therefore rather critical of the pure acquisition of knowledge. In addition, liberal arts colleges in the USA can be characterized as follows:
- Study objective: imparting a broad knowledge base; not a job-related, but a basic undergraduate education, which should contribute to the development of the personality.
- Course content: humanities subjects such as literature or history instead of a technology-oriented course
- Course structure: Studium Generale ; the main subject is often chosen in the third year of study
Good to know: When we talk about Liberal Arts Colleges in the USA, we sometimes refer to the size of the university and not the range of courses.
Community Colleges in the USA
Community colleges are an explicitly American invention from the early 20th century. They were originally founded with the aim of counteracting the shortage of skilled workers in the USA. A larger number of local educational institutions should encourage more young people to continue their education after high school.
Many Americans were denied access to a four-year college for financial reasons and due to a lack of academic qualifications. In addition, there was an increasing demand among the population for shorter, professional training courses – as an alternative to a four-year bachelor’s degree.
Today, more than 40% of students choose a community college in the United States. There are over 1100 facilities in the US. Learn more about USA and North America on thesciencetutor. They are mainly operated by the cities and counties.
Community College Goals and Mission
The declared goal of community colleges in the USA is to provide individuals with an education close to home. You represent an Open Door Admissions Policy, which guarantees all students fair and equal treatment. The idea behind this is that education should be made possible regardless of income, academic experience and origin.
For this reason, applicants for admission to a community college in the United States only need to meet a minimum number of requirements. Often a school leaving certificate and sufficient knowledge of English are sufficient. In addition, the tuition fees at community colleges are comparatively low and thus give a larger group of people access to academic education.
Typical community college: the transfer idea
Community colleges in the United States see their job as preparing high school graduates for their third year at a college or university through general education courses. So-called general education is generally an integral part of undergraduate studies in the USA. However, the community colleges place a special emphasis on this.
The transferability of academic achievements and the high degree of permeability are characteristic of community colleges. Therefore, there are transfer agreements between them and numerous four-year colleges and universities that regulate the uncomplicated transition to the third year of a bachelor’s degree. In this context, there is often talk of a 2 + 2 process.
For example, the California community colleges have transfer agreements with the universities of the University of California System and the California State University System. This creates the framework conditions for students with an associate degree to switch to a university of the UC system or the CSU system for their bachelor’s degree under certain conditions.
Courses offered by community colleges in the USA
Community colleges in the United States usually offer two-year courses leading to an associate degree. A distinction must be made between two different types of programs:
- Terminal Degree Programs: professional and advanced training programs
- Transfer Degree Programs: academically oriented programs that enable the transfer to a regular university
Because of their more practical professional orientation, community colleges in the USA are similar to vocational schools in Germany. The content of the vocational and advanced training programs is usually tailored to the needs of the regional economy. Basically, the focus at community colleges is on teaching. Research traditionally plays a subordinate role
Community Colleges USA: Opportunity for German applicants
More and more young people from Germany are realizing the chances of studying at a community college in the USA. This is an attractive study option, especially for applicants without a high school diploma: They can gain access to the American higher education system by studying at a community college and ultimately advance to the graduate programs. They also save money: studying at a community college in the USA is significantly cheaper than studying at a four-year college or university.
A degree from a community college significantly increases the chances of being admitted to a bachelor’s degree at a university. Many community colleges even guarantee their graduates a place at one of several universities. These often include renowned universities.
Because of their bridging function, the Transfer Degree Programs are particularly interesting for those interested in Germany. The associate degree is not recognized as a state qualification in Germany. Therefore, students benefit most from continuing their studies at a university or four-year college through to a bachelor’s degree.