Q. I read your column every week in my local newspaper and enjoy it. But I don't think you should encourage people to go to community colleges. I have a friend who had a bad experience there. She lost her job and took a six-month course in a community college to learn to be a medical assistant. She got a job, but had to quit in a few weeks because she wasn't trained well enough. Now she's unemployed again, plus she has a big debt from the college tuition. Sometimes the costs are as high as $400 a credit. Recently TV's Frontline did an expose about community colleges and Congress has begun an investigation of them.
Ans. This column stands by community colleges. The PBS Frontline show you refer to exposed "for-profit higher education," not the non-profit public community colleges supported by taxes that I encourage readers to attend. It's too bad your friend had a bad experience, but many students use local community colleges successfully to gain entry to a profession through certificate programs. Many more use those schools to fulfill the first two years of required "college core courses" before going on to four-year schools for a full undergraduate degree or more. Most of these schools remain less expensive than four-year institutions. The answer is to check each school, talk with graduates of the programs you plan to take, and make sure they provide what they promise. If not, go to one of many others that are available.