Community college education needs consideration and respect

January 21, 2015 — by Becky Hoag

Many people dismiss the idea of community college because of the negative stigma around the education at these schools.

The first semester of senior year is notorious for being one of the most stressful times in a student’s life, filled with numerous AP classes and a barrage of college applications. But most seniors get so caught up in the stress of applying to a four-year college that they don’t even consider other — and perhaps smarter — options.

Community college is a case in point. Many people dismiss this idea because of the negative stigma around the education at these schools. Misconceptions include the idea that it is only for students of low income or low academic standing. However, those who believe this are disregarding several other factors, like extended time for major decisions and the low cost of education.

There are other perks to attending community college, such as the easier ride to many colleges in the future. By getting general education courses out of the way locally, students may have the opportunity to go to a plethora of top-tier colleges that might have not been in reach previously.

Furthermore, most UCs, including prestigious UCs like San Diego and UC Davis, guarantee community college transfers a spot at their school. Last May, The Los Angeles Times reported that the UCs want to increase their rate of admittance for transfer students.

There’s also no need for community college students to take the SAT or ACT for admittance. More money is saved, considering how much is spent for standardized testing preparation.

What’s more, going to a community college is cheaper. While money might not seem like a big concern in a wealthy area college costs can challenge even well-off families. Let’s say a student decides to apply as an undetermined major to private university. According to College Board, they would have to pay, on average, $30,000 per year at a four-year institution. What’s the point of spending all that if you don’t even know what you want to do? It’s as if higher education has become a competition of who can get into the most prestigious university.

It’s more important to do what would be reasonable and cost effective. While students at universities pay outrageously high tuition, community college students in California only spend about $5,000 per year, according to the organization that represents them.

Additionally, with so many seniors wanting to go to four-year colleges nowadays, many public universities are being flooded with applicants, making it much more difficult to ensure that students get the credits needed to graduate. Fulfilling general education requirements at a community college allows students to bypass the rush and jump directly into classes specific to their major. Furthermore, the class sizes tend to be more reasonable in a local community college than in universities.

One of the most appealing aspects about attending a community college is that it provides a transition between high school and college life. There’s a sea of new peers, new teachers and new classes, and yet, there’s no need to worry about paying to wash laundry, staying in a dorm or having a meal plan.

While it’s good experience to learn to live on your own in a four-year college, going to a two-year college first allows students to save up money for living independently later. In the end, they are likely to have less financial difficulties than those who go a four-year school right away.

Recently, President Obama has proposed providing around $60 million to community colleges over the next decade years in order to improve the overall American educational standard. This program would help 9 million students get a low-cost or even free community college education.

Tom Hanks, who attended Chabot Community College in Hayward, is a major supporter this movement because he found that attending community college himself changed his life by giving him the support and resources he needed to excel.

There can be a million paths to get to the same spot. Don’t discount community college just because that isn’t what everyone else is doing. Just do what’s best for you, not what’s the best looking to the outside world.