An overlooked opportunity: community college

UCLA, Northeastern, Boston University, University of Illinois, NYU, Stanford. These are the names that are constantly flooding our campus’ hallways, counselling offices and classrooms throughout the year. Every once in awhile you’ll hear about a friend going to a small school in a rural town or university in the UK or Australia, but those options are not as common. What’s mentioned even less frequently is the topic of community colleges.

Pasadena City College
Pasadena City College, Creative Commons by Giodude

“Teachers and students are always surprised when you tell them you’re going to community college because I feel like they expect more, you know? SAS breeds students to go to the most prestigious colleges in the world, and when they hear you’re going to community college, they question it and they look down on the idea. Once I tell them the reasoning, they always seem to jump on board and say ‘Wow, that’s smart’ or ‘You have your whole life planned don’t you?’” said senior Grayson Barnes.

The fact of the matter is that almost 45 percent of the student population in the US are committed to community colleges throughout the country, and that number has only been growing since 2012. What are the benefits of attending a community college? It comes down to three simple ideas.

San Francisco State University's Student Center
San Francisco State University’s Student Center, Creative Commons by Brian Trejo

Affordable tuition. In today’s world of education, big name universities can cost up to $60,000 a year, which can lead to serious student debt. In contrast, community college can be as low as $5,500-$10,000 a year, according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The average student debt per person has reached an all-time high of $30,000, according to US News. Attending a much cheaper alternative can be life-saving.

“Forty percent of our college students choose community college,” President Barack Obama said. “Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt.”

Transfer Options. After attending two years at a community college, the doors to other prestigious colleges open. “We give California community college students first priority over other transfer applicants,” states the University of California’s administration.  “Many campuses offer guaranteed admission for well-prepared transfer students. Why? We know that transfer students add to the fabric of our UC community and arrive at our campuses with a diversity of interests and backgrounds and the intellectual passion to graduate and succeed.”

Number of students that transfer into UC schools are attending these top community colleges.
Number of students that transfer into UC schools are attending these top community colleges.

Each year, approximately 30 percent of UC graduates attended a community college before transferring to a UC school. In the year of 2012-2013, a total of 14,000 community college students transferred into a UC. This is because the UC program highly respects community college students who show academic success within their first two years.

Santa Monica College Campus.
Santa Monica College Campus, Creative Commons by Gates

Warming-up to life.  The vast majority of SAS students have privileges such as helpers who wash, cook and clean for them every day. In addition, most of us are not currently employed. Unlike most colleges or universities, community college students do not get offered meal plans, 24/7 cafeterias, or campus buses. Instead, community college students have to live independently, cooking for themselves and living without academic peers. 

Senior Lisa Hussey said, “I think the benefits of a community college, socially, would be learning to grow up faster. I know when my siblings moved into their own apartments, they had to cook, clean, pay rent, laundry and do everything on their own without my parents or a helper. They also had to get a car and learn how to drive since they lived in California where basically everyone needs a car.”

Fortunately, the Obama administration has seen this great opportunity and decided to further the benefits. Recently, Obama outlined his proposal to offer two free years of community college. He explicitly stated his goal: “To lower the cost of community college — to zero.”

Will SAS students decide to take advantage of the benefits community colleges have to offer eventually? The answer to that question is uncertain. What is certain, however, is the beckoning opportunity.

Author: Ethan Fisher

Ethan Fisher is a senior and a new addition to the The Eye staff and the morning show; however, this is his twelfth year at SAS. Outside of the classroom walls, Ethan takes pleasure in watching new films and finding new places to eat. He can be contacted at fisher17656@sas.edu.sg.

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