For many years, community colleges have had an unfair reputation as a less desirable option for pursuing higher education. As the national dialogue surrounding college is shifting and student loan debt continues to mount, it’s time to take a closer look at some of the damaging myths about community college.
There are some benefits of community college, the main one being that you can save on tuition and still end up with a four-year degree down the line. Let’s examine some community college myths and the advantages of community college.
Just because the tuition prices at a community college are on the lower side doesn’t mean the education quality is subpar. Just like any other major institution, community colleges have to meet certain education standards to achieve accreditation.
Many of the professors teach at multiple schools in the area, so there’s a good chance community college students are taking nearly identical courses from a professor that teaches at other, more expensive schools.
Wait, it gets better. The class sizes tend to be smaller at community colleges, so you can usually get more face-to-face with a professor who may also teach at the school you’re planning to transfer to.
It’s also important to remember just how hard community college students have to work to achieve their goals. In order to transfer, community college students need to have an impressive GPA, which may keep them on their toes semester after semester.
There’s a lot of shame and embarrassment surrounding attending community college, leading to some imposter syndrome once alumni enter the workplace. However, the school you obtained your degree from is what matters on your future resume. But, going to community college can lead to major success in its own right. Apple founder Steve Jobs, astronaut Eileen Collins, and filmmaker George Lucas all attended community college.
If you transferred from a community college to a four-year university, you only need to include the school you got your degree from. lnclude the year you graduated, your major and what college you graduated from on your resume. There is no need to mention that you attended community college first if you don’t want to.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: Is community college a waste of time? While one of the main community college myths is that students never end up getting their bachelor’s degree, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Just like starting your freshman year at a four-year university isn’t a guarantee of completion, attending community college isn’t a recipe for an incomplete. In fact, over half of the California State University system graduates and 29% of the University of California system (which includes both UCLA and Cal Berkeley) transferred to these schools from a California Community College.
While it may seem like there are lower four-year university graduation rates for community college students, the numbers surrounding this issue tend to be a bit skewed. For example, income plays a major factor in graduation rates and some students may have financial advantages that make graduating easier. After transferring, lower-income transfer students (39%) were less likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than higher-income students (53%).
It’s also important to remember that not all students who attend community college aim to transfer to and graduate from a four-year university. Many students choose to attend community college to pursue associate degrees and technical certifications. Some attend simply for fun, such as retirees looking to learn a new language.
Plenty of high school and four-year university students take a class or two over the summer at their local community college to scoop up some affordable credits. The point being, it’s a good idea to take community college transfer and graduation statistics with a grain of salt.
There are a lot of reasons people choose to attend community college, plenty of which don’t have anything to do with being rejected from four-year universities. You can attend community college if you don’t get accepted to the school of your choice to improve your grades and transfer. Many community colleges even have programs designed to make it easier to transfer to popular colleges. That being said, for some students, community college is their first choice, and for a good reason.
Community college tends to cost significantly less than attending private and public universities. You’re looking at closer to $3,500 a year to attend community college versus $35,000 a year to attend an out-of-state public four-year institution. Those savings can give young students some breathing room to take more classes and spend time figuring out what major they want to pursue and what school they want to transfer to.
Because students who attend community colleges commute daily in lieu of living on campus, they don’t get the “typical” college experience they might expect at a four-year university. At the same time, the campus social life is not as bleak as it seems.
Plenty of community colleges have vibrant campus life opportunities such as gyms, clubs, student governments, sports teams and fun on-campus events. Building a vibrant social life at a community college does take a bit more work than when you live on campus, but making friends and having fun is possible.
There are a few major benefits of community college that students may want to keep in mind when making important decisions about school. Is community college a perfect option? Of course not, but there are some really strong benefits worth considering:
• Saving money. As noted, the difference in tuition prices at community colleges and even public universities can be staggering. If you’re looking to avoid debt, attending community college for the first two years is a great place to start.
• Flexibility is key. Community colleges are very aware that they serve students from all walks of life. Single parents, veterans, retirees, high school students and twenty-somethings all attend community college for various reasons. To accommodate so many complex schedules (especially since many community college students work while in school), community colleges have plenty of night, weekend and online classes to choose from to make it easier to attend school.
• Less competition. Even with a perfect GPA and sky-high test scores, it can be hard to get into the college of your choice while in high school because of how much competition you’re facing. Once you have some community college credits under your belt, getting into competitive universities can sometimes be easier.
Universities feel more confident admitting community college transfer students who have already proven they can handle a college workload. Many community colleges even have programs designed to help students transfer to certain in-demand universities, so it’s always worth stopping by the guidance counselor’s office to see your transfer options.
Community college myths may always be floating around, but for many, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. From the cost of attendance to the flexibility of class offerings, community college could be a great fit for many students.
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