Long derided as repositories for underachievers, as trade schools devoid of academic rigor, community colleges are recasting themselves as wise first choices for the serious student looking to sidestep crushing debt. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/15/education/15COLL.html?8bhp=&pagewanted=print&position=top">Community colleges have been busy reshaping their curricula in order to attract the more academically elite</a>. To gain admittance to the new honors collegeat Miami-Dade Community College, a student must score a minimum of 1200 on the SAT and have a 3.7 grade point average -- and studying abroad is 'strongly encouraged': 'You'd have to be crazy not to take advantage of us.... You get all this for practically nothing, you save $30,000 at a minimum and then get to go the university almost of your choice, very often on a scholarship.' More than 168 community colleges now have honors programs, 68 of which were started just in the last five years, compared with about two dozen 15 years ago. We have a few professors on this forum, so I'd like to hear their thoughts of this evaluation.