They’re giving honors students a boost to big-name colleges. Alex Almanza, whose 4.75 GPA put him in the top 5% of his high school class, could have gone to one of several state universities, including the University of Florida. But the offer from Miami-Dade Community College was too good to refuse: Free tuition, fees, and books, plus a chance to transfer later to a prestigious institution like Georgetown or New York University.
“I decided to risk it,” says Almanza, 18, an accounting major who just finished his freshman year. “I have a shot at going somewhere better, a step beyond a state school.”
Community colleges have long been the gateway to a bachelor’s degree, particularly for those who aren’t quite ready for the rigor of a traditional undergraduate education. But more and more, two-year institutions are serving as launching pads for the best and brightest, luring students like Almanza with merit scholarships, intensive academic programs and the potential to be discovered by a big-name school.