Community college students save money, have abundant options

December 9, 2017 — by Daniel Bessonov and Michael Zhang

2015 SHS alumna Bianca Oliveri is one of the approximately 15 percent of the school’s graduates who has chosen to attend community colleges.

Like others who have taken this path, she sees it as the right decision for her.

“Going into community college was very difficult at first, because I felt like a lot of my friends were leaving me behind as they went off to college,” Oliveri said. “However, by putting myself out there, I made many new friends and became so much happier.”

Most students choose the community colleges for financial reasons, guidance counselor Alinna Satake said.

In fact, Oliveri cited this as her primary reason to attend De Anza College. Having finished her coursework there, she now attends UCLA.

While community college students pay about $1,500 to $2,000 a year in tuition and fees, tuition and fees totaled $12,630 for UC schools and $33,480 for private universities on average during the 2016-2017 school year, according to collegedata.com. Some private schools can be $60,000 a year or more, and some out-of-state public universities can run $35,000 a year or more.

Those costs are beyond what many families are willing or able to pay.

Additionally, Satake said that community college also makes sense for some students because they may not have decided on a major or are not quite ready to leave home.

The main challenge prospective transfer students face is taking the correct classes at community colleges, since universities are selective about which credits they will accept.

“Students have to take 60 semester units or 90 quarterly units of the right classes in order to transfer,” Satake said. “It’s not like 60 credits of bowling and spin class or other fun classes will allow students to transfer.”

When selecting a community college to attend, students will often choose one that increases their chances of transferring to their target university.

Some students take advantage of special transfer agreements, such as the one between UCLA and the honors program at West Valley College. Meanwhile, other students may decided to attend community colleges near a favorite four-year university, such as going to Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo and then transferring UC Santa Barbara, Satake said.

Additionally, in 2014, UC officials put in place a policy that makes it easier to transfer to UC schools from community colleges. Notable changes included streamlining course requirements and reaching out to a wider range of community colleges.

Although some students may feel like attending community college forces them to skip two years of the college experience, Oliveri said this was not the case for her.

“Your college experience is what you make of it, so I definitely don’t feel like I really missed out on anything,” she said.

Oliveri said going to community college allowed her freedom and job opportunities.

“There’s just so much good to say about it,” Oliveri said. “Not only was I able to stay home and eat my parents’ food, but I was also able to work at a software company during the school year. It just gave me so much more freedom to do what I want and figure out what I want to do with my remaining couple years.”

 

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