Miami-Dade Community College has six campuses in the Maimi area. Shown: the scenic North Campus.
Community Colleges
by G.K.Sharman
The Florida state college system includes 28 community colleges, some of which are pretty high-powered in their own right. Photography is big at Daytona Beach CC; the film-making program at Valencia in Orlando has attracted national attention. Broward CC, meanwhile, has a distance learning program that includes online classes. (For more info about community colleges, access www.dcc.firn.edu.)

In Florida, it’s easy to transfer from a two-year school to a four-year college or university. Fully half of the upper-division classes at state universities are stocked with community college transferees.

When you look at the number of degrees awarded (more than 37,000 in ’99), the state’s community college system is the most productive in the nation. Nine of the top 20 producers of A.A. and A.S. degrees are in Florida. Miami-Dade Community College, which operates several campuses in South Florida, ranks no. 1.

In fact, with more than 750,000 full- and part-time students, there are more people in community college classrooms in Florida than there are at the big schools. About one-third of those students are minorities.

Surfing 101: College, your modem and you

You can learn a lot these days with a little web surfing. Research, for instance. Any college of any size has a web page; to find a college on the net, try attaching ".edu" after the www. and the name of the school. (It doesn’t always work; the University of Miami is www.ir.miami.edu. Go figure.) Web pages can tell you everything from degrees offered to student-body size to average SAT scores, plus a little about social life. You also can access a variety of college guides that offer the inside scoop on your chosen campus – wild parties or lack thereof, professors’ dedication level and even whether you need a car so you can escape on weekends.

In many cases, you can apply for admission online and check out and apply for loans and other financial aid.

In some cases, you can even take classes online. Information about distance learning – which can also include correspondence, video and TV classes – usually can be found on a college’s or community college’s website. Broward Community College in South Florida has a program worth checking out (www.broward.cc.fl.us). Www.distancelearn.com provides additional info about programs at community colleges.

The way online programs usually work is through a proprietary database. With a password, students can access the library, message boards, mailboxes and, of course, class assignments. Sometimes computer conferencing, or "live chats," are involved.

Not all programs are offered online. Most colleges also require some sort of campus residency, which can range from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.

Virtual students need not be contained by geographic boundaries. You can get a degree from anywhere – the University of Florida or the University of Phoenix, a European institution or someplace in South Africa.

The world is your classroom. The only downside – no parties.