Hawkeye Community College: Jr. College Meets Trade School

Yes, the name reeks of a Jr. College – and Hawkeye Community College fits the bill nicely.

But the school’s roots are more those of a trade institution.

While it’s true that HCC offers liberal arts classes and programs that award an associate’s degree good for transferring to a four-year college or university (and there’s one convieniently located across Waterloo’s border in neighboring Cedar Falls), a lot of the college’s programs have their roots in the former Hawkeye Institute of Technology (HCC’s own previous incarnation).

And many locals still refer to the institution as “Hawkeye Tech” – with plenty of good reason.

Because in many ways, HCC is still a trade school at heart.

While the college, which serves the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area in Iowa (including Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchannan, Benton, Grundy, Fayette, Chickasaw and Tama counties), does offer the Associate in Arts curriculum generally accepted by universities as completion of their core liberal arts programs, most programs at HCC are vocational-technical programs, which may or may not require a double-major in both the liberal arts and trade program of choice to move on to a university to further those studies, depending on the program. And most universities can only transfer limited amounts of technical credit towards a program as electives (sixteen is the magic number within Iowa) with the rest unapplied (but which may still be accepted) – and there are usually other limits in this regard. This can lead to some interesting combinations of studies.

However, since taking a technical career program in addition to a liberal arts college education gets you started on a carreer path faster while also preparing you for a university education, regardless of your academic history, this is a good way to get started on a future career even if you had trouble in high school – and since the training is hands on, you can be that much more the ready to apply those skills toward a university baccelaurette program and beyond. So the benefits do outweigh the added complexity such an approach precludes. Still, it could be quite hard to factor in articulation of a technical-natured two-year program toward a four-year education.

But it can in theory be done. Easier still is the fact that the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area has the added benefit of having the University of Northern Iowa available close by for easy university transfers. UNI is a favorite university transfer choice among HCC students due to its proximity – in fact, the university’s student body accounts for a large percentage of HCC’s annual university transfers, making UNI the largest source of university-level education for HCC graduates.

Hawkeye Community College, by offering the benefits of a liberal arts education with the addition of technical programs, offers the best of two worlds – the low-cost of a Jr. College liberal arts education prior to university studies with the added capability to offer a vocational education in many fields of study. However, the lack of liberal arts versions of certain technical programs gives HCC a mixed bag of education choices that could make obtaining a university education after graduation a little more complicated than otherwise possible. But at the same time, the benefits can outweigh the additional complexity, if planned accordingly. Because of this, HCC is still in many ways a trade school. Or maybe it is a true Jr. College. Or maybe it’s both. You’ll just have to decide for yourself.

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