Let’s be honest, when we hear community college, the first thing that comes to mind is the negative connotation. That community colleges are only for students that screwed up in high school, or aren’t serious about studying. While these opinions may be swirling around, it’s important to realize that community colleges are actually very important components of our academic community.
According to the Foundation for California Community Colleges, California serves roughly two million community college students annually. Of these two million, many of the students go onto transfer to four-year colleges such as different UCs and CSUs, or even Stanford.
If taken at face value, community colleges don’t seem ideal for anyone aiming for schools like UC Berkeley or MIT, but they are a great option for millions of people everywhere looking to either get a second chance at higher education or those who need to start off on a smaller scale and closer to home.
While community colleges may not be the creme de la creme of higher education, they serve a very important purpose in the academic community. We need them for students who need more time to transition into college, and to give those who need it a second chance at getting a degree they may not have had the opportunity to earn. Community colleges are also great resources for high school students who wish to get ahead with their studies, or catch up on credits.
The flexibility that community college schedules provide is one reason why it’s a great option for students who are working part-time, or are in need of night or online classes to fit their needs. Options range from taking the maximum amount of credits, or simply one or two classes per quarter for those who want to go on a slower pace academically.
For many students, a two-year school also gives them a chance to earn an associate’s degree before they transfer. This is especially helpful for some students to start working at entry-level jobs while also pursuing a bachelor’s degree at the four-year college they transfer to. Associate’s degrees may also be useful for those already in the workforce, individuals that have simply gone back to school to learn a new skill-set for their current career.
On top of providing flexible access to higher education, community colleges are known for how affordable their classes are. This is especially useful for low-income students, as they can complete classes they need without breaking the bank. Getting general education requirements out of the way without a UC or Ivy League price tag is also a plus, since much of the same introductory classes are taught at community colleges and four-year colleges alike.
Moreover, the notion that community college classes are too easy are also inaccurate. Depending on the subject matter, even community college classes can be pretty difficult—after all, they need to be to prepare students for a four year. In fact, by transferring, community college students actually have a higher chance of getting accepted into schools like MIT than if they had applied as freshmen.
Furthermore, for students that need to spend a transition period between high school and a four-year to mature, community colleges provide a stepping stone for that gap. Often times for many individuals, they need a bit more support before fully transitioning into a rigorous four-year schedule they may not be prepared for. Community colleges have some of the best support systems for students, especially because of the smaller scale. More guidance is available from professors and counselors than at huge universities where the professor can’t even tell their three hundred kids apart.
Ultimately, when it comes down to the perks of going to a community college, it’s time to look past the ugly stereotypes and see them as educational opportunities for all kinds of people. Community colleges aren’t just for the slackers commonly associated with them, they’re for people who want a chance at higher education, and the financial ability to do so.