By Staff Writers Ella Chen & Anagha Mandayam
It is with subdued whispers and sideways glances that the words “community college” are uttered in the hallways. To many MSJ students, community college is hardly an option for the future, especially with private universities and Universities of California (UC) as more glamorous choices. This perspective paves a narrow track for students vying for competitive schools, creating a climate that ridicules choosing more unconventional educational paths. In our society, community college is overlooked as a viable option due to people’s misconceptions that attending community college results in a less successful life.
“Going to De Anza [College] awarded me a second chance at the academic life I knew I was more than capable of achieving. I graduated after one year with a 3.9 GPA while also working part-time and interning for several different newspapers in the Bay [Area]…” — Tara Ruff, Class of 2014 Alumna
However, contrary to popular belief, community college courses are often just as interactive, informative, and difficult as traditional college courses. Even so, community college is still often viewed as a final option for students who have no alternatives to higher education left; this idea stems from assumptions, stereotypes, and a general lack of knowledge regarding the opportunities that these colleges hold for incoming students.
Many community colleges still offer the same extracurricular activities as four-year universities, including debate, sports, and theater. There are students who choose a two-year community college as their first option, opting to transfer later to another university. According to Community College Research Center, of the students who choose to transfer to four-year institutions, 62 percent are able to complete a bachelor’s degree. Moreover, community college is more financially feasible than any other institution. The College Board reports that the average in-state tuition at community colleges for 2014–15 was just $3,347, which is less than a third of the price of UC and way less than tuition for private universities. Because most community colleges are commuter schools, students also save money on room and board.
In addition, community colleges provide students with the flexibility to customize their schedule in a way that allows them to learn at their own pace. As a result of smaller class sizes, community colleges often offer more intimate lessons and interactive professors. Such flexibility provides students with the opportunity to study part-time and balance outside work experience with their academic schedule. For example, Class of 2014 Alumna Tara Ruff said, “Going to De Anza [College] awarded me a second chance at the academic life I knew I was more than capable of achieving. I graduated after one year with a 3.9 GPA while also working part-time and interning for several different newspapers in the Bay [Area]…Community college proved that my past failures would not define me. I wouldn’t let [them].”
“I made my decision based off of the goals I wanted achieve in one year’s time. I felt that I wouldn’t be able to achieve them at a UC or four-year university because I would fall into the same high school pattern, not being able to focus on objectives outside of my academics.” — Rudrik Suthar, Class of 2016 Alumnus
It is important to keep in mind that there are infinite pathways to success, whether that path entails attending a four-year school or a community college. However, in our community, attending a UC, private school, or other prestigious four-year university is often regarded as the only option. Our community has convinced students that community college is inferior to other forms of education, when in fact, several paths can result in the same outcome depending on how students make their educational choices. “I made my decision based off of the goals I wanted achieve in one year’s time. I felt that I wouldn’t be able to achieve them at a UC or four-year university because I would fall into the same high school pattern, not being able to focus on objectives outside of my academics,” said Class of 2016 Alumnus Rudrik Suthar.
Community colleges are not reserved solely for working parents and first-generation college students; they host a diverse mélange of cultures that span the ethnic and social spectrum.
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