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Opinion: Unwarranted Stigma Surrounds Community Colleges

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

Most students’ high school careers are usually predicated on one trajectory: getting accepted to and attending a top ten college regardless of price, distance, or happiness. While many students manage to squeeze out the cycle unscathed, others don’t. Countless young adults view success as a straight line tunnel — correlated to how reputable the college they attend is. However, attending a community college, an option that many people view as unacceptable, is an option students should consider.

Community College Reaps Financial Benefits

Across the United States, college tuition costs have sharply risen. From 2008 to 2018, the average tuition at four-year public colleges increased by 37% to an all-time high of $17,000 per year. Furthermore, private college costs have risen to roughly $37,000. The ramifications that have been set off by the student debt crisis have had lasting impacts. Astoundingly, America’s college graduates owe 1.6 trillion dollars in total.

A study by ProgressNow, a multi-issue progressive communications organization, found that students with outstanding loan payments were 36% less likely to purchase a house. Additionally, a report by the social impact startup Summer found that overwhelming debt has prevented about 80% of participants from saving for retirement. One in three people stated that student loan debt was the biggest stress in their life. In large part due to these financial pressures, student debt loans will derail the life they had perfectly envisioned before.

At a community college, costs on tuition and other expenses are drastically reduced. In 2018, it was reported that on average, community college tuition was $3500 a year, a sharp contrast from many public and private colleges. Combined with the financial aid provided by many states, some community colleges are beginning to transition to being tuition-free. After community college, many individuals can pursue further education without worrying about repaying student debt.

Students Experience Offered More Flexibility

Many students do not have the privilege of attending a four-year college and taking a full course load. Due to external situations, such as needing to work a job due to financial limitations or family complications, attending a four-year college is unachievable. At a local community college, students are allowed to move at their own pace and have the ability to transfer to a different college or university after two years.

Classes are far more adjustable and include weekend classes and night classes to shift around a student’s schedule. These classes also allow for more in-depth learning, as class sizes are much smaller than standard colleges and universities, consisting of around as few as 20 students per class. In large lectures at universities and colleges, class size can reach around 200 students, a far contrast from a high school class size.

Attending community college allows for a seamless transition from high school due to similar class sizes and an education in a familiarized environment. Once a student finishes their time at a community college, they still can further their education. A large number of two-year community colleges have agreements with public colleges that allow them to transfer their college credits over. A study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that 29% of community college students who started in the fall of 2011 had transferred to a four-year institution within the next few years. Studying at a local community college enables students to study at the dream school that they so covet.

Quality of Education

Community college provides students with numerous opportunities to hone their skills to become competitive in our modern American workforce. With a curriculum that is standard to an average college or university, high-quality faculty that are required at least a master’s degree, and specialized classes, community colleges set up students for success at less cost. In particular, STEM opportunities in community colleges have prepared students for after college life. With STEM being a highly regarded field in the U.S workforce, the extra support that community colleges provide through a more extensive range of classes and outside resources allow students to excel. The improving quality has also correlated to the employment rate of community college graduates to spike rapidly. Between 2010 and 2020, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics has found an increase of roughly 17% employment rate growth of those with an Associate’s degree. As myths about community college begin to unravel, and graduates of community college reap the benefits, slowly but surely will the harsh stigma around community colleges disappear.


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