MiraCosta College Serves Unique Student Body
Spring semester is under way, and 14,400 students are taking credit classes at MiraCosta College. For some students, this semester is the first time they have set foot on a college campus. Others are here for their second, third or fourth semester, and are well along on their way toward completing a higher education. A growing portion of our student body is also students who have returned to community college, even though they already have bachelor’s or, in some cases, master’s degrees.
A university newspaper in North Carolina recently published an article about a trend they are seeing—bachelor degree graduates eschewing the pursuit of an advanced degree to return to community college, where they can learn technical skills necessary to begin a well-paying career. This is a familiar trend that in California, and one that we experience here at MiraCosta College.
Take our Registered Nursing Program, for example. The college’s new cohort of nursing students began on January 14, and the group is once again strong with several students holding bachelor and master’s degrees in other fields of study.
Then there are student like Briana McClure, who earned a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts from UC Irvine in June 2012. Just a few short months after graduation, she enrolled in business courses at MiraCosta College.
“In the future I want to create my own theatre production company, so it makes sense to take business classes to learn how the business side of it works,” Briana said.
Briana is not unique; one of every 11 students at MiraCosta College has already earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Students with four-year degrees who return to a community college run the gamut of experience and interest. Some have come to brush up on the latest developments in their professions. Others have found that a bachelor’s degree in their original field of study isn’t enough. Still others have come for an edge in boosting their chances of getting a promotion at work.
Most have come because our tremendous value and our earned reputation for teaching excellence. When compared to the cost of taking classes at a public or private university, $46 per unit for classes at MiraCosta College is among the least expensive in the nation.
“It’s an excellent value,” said Natasha Roark, pictured, a 31-year-old Carlsbad resident with a bachelor of science degree in molecular biology from UC Santa Cruz, who is taking classes at MiraCosta College to brush up on her technical knowledge and skills.
“MiraCosta College has such a great reputation and such a great offering of courses in biotechnology,” she said. “I heard from several people in the biotechnology industry who recommended the college.”
Mike Fino teaches biology at MiraCosta College. He estimates that one quarter to one third of the students in the college’s biotechnology program have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
“Some of the time, it’s just situational. A student may have decided to stay at home after graduating and raise a family, and now they want to get back into the workforce,” he said. “But some of the time, students with bachelor degrees haven’t really developed the skills that are going to get them hired.”
“We’re helping them build employable skills,” Fino said.
Natasha Roark agrees. She and her husband were raising a small child when Natasha decided to work as a tutor, giving high school students lessons in everything from AP physics to calculus and biology. The work afforded her the flexibility to spend more time with their child, but once he began going to school, Natasha decided it was time for her to get a full-time job in her field.
“It had been a few years since I graduated, so I enrolled at MiraCosta to gain some needed skills.”
Natasha now works as a paid intern at Life Technologies Corp. in Carlsbad. “I use everything that I learned at MiraCosta College every single day at work,” she said. “The things they teach you are just invaluable.”
The first course Briana McClure enrolled in at MiraCosta College after graduating from UC Irvine was an Introduction to Business class. She is planning to take classes in entrepreneurship, marketing and finance in the future.
“Nowadays to get to where you want to go in this world you need to have multiple skill sets. You need to know a lot about a lot of different things,” Briana said. “It would be a waste of money to go to grad school when I can come here.”
We’ve always known that community colleges are wonderful places to start your higher education. In fact, a National Student Clearinghouse study showed that 45 percent of students who earned a four-year degree in 2010-11 had previously enrolled at a two-year college. That figure is higher in California, where nearly two-thirds of students who obtained a 4-year degree in 2010-11 had previously taken courses at a community college.
As the needs of the workforce change, community colleges are here to efficiently respond to those needs. Today, more than ever, we are positioned to become a great place for students complete their higher education as well.