Some students say representatives from four-year schools now are more visible on campus year round.
"I see a representative at least three times a week," said Harford Community College student Nick Greives of Street. "They're in our student center at the very top floor, so it's a very high-traffic area. Towson's always here. I've seen two branches from UMUC, Salisbury. They're just excited to have our students with them because they know that we're ready to go."
Former Howard Community College student Sarah Blake of Columbia transferred recently to Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. She said she considered schools in the Washington area, but Dickinson offered her $46,000 in scholarships, enabling her to attend the school at around the same price as she paid at HCC.
"All of my friends are already piling on the debt and have loans from the bank, but I'm paying for college out of pocket, basically," said Blake.
Dickinson president William Durden said the school recently formed partnerships with several community colleges, including HCC, and is working with the students while they are still at the two-year institution to make the transition easier. He said he's invited community college students to his home for dinners, where he's introduced them to Dickinson faculty members who also graduated from two-year schools.
"It's adding to the diversity of perspective in our environments," said Durden. While four-year students will "always dominate" Dickinson's enrollment numbers, he said, the growing visibility and achievement of community college could prompt higher education officials to develop new alternatives to the traditional four-year school.
"What if there are institutions in the future that say, 'We're just going to do the last two years,"' Durden asked. "How do we contribute to the national puzzlement about how do we afford higher ed?
"That process can elicit ideas that might be put out there to change American education."