Stigmatization of community college causes harm to seniors

The paramount concern of being a high school student is what to do after graduation. Students usually have to decide whether to apply to four-year universities and colleges in their senior year.

Opinion

The paramount concern of being a high school student is what to do after graduation. Students usually have to decide whether to apply to four-year universities and colleges in their senior year. A not as well known option in this process is open to anyone with a high school diploma: community college. 

Community college is defined as a nonresidential junior college, one that offers two-year courses to lead towards either an associate’s degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree transferred into another institution. They are often open to enrollment from anyone who has graduated from high school, and even students still in high school looking to take additional courses. The best part is that compared to the cost of a University of California or California State University, it is the most financially accessible option for continuing your education. Attending community college was formerly considered nothing close to a long-term school, but that stigma is losing strength as time goes on.

After two years of getting a high GPA, students in California are guaranteed admission to a UC. This is through the Transfer Admission Guarantee program. Six campuses are required to admit students who have completed the first two years of UC-transferable credits. 

Matt Fillinghim, an adjunct professor at Berkeley City College, said, “I think that the biggest stigma is the perception that academics at community college, in general, is not as rigorous as at a four-year school. I think that many people think that community college is easier, and so it attracts a lower quality of student. … Similarly, professors and instructors … are sometimes thought to be not as good or not good enough to get jobs at four-year school.”

This explains what that stigma is the belief that community colleges are not as academically rigorous and attract less spirited students. 

However, he soon countered this, explaining, “You get out of it what you put into it. … Classes … are just as rigorous as classes at four-year schools. Some students may go into a community college thinking it will be easy. It’s not!” The academics and difficulty of classes are similar to any other format of college, putting all students on an equal level.

A first-year student at Contra Costa College, Konrad Crebbs, responded, “I don’t think there’s much of a stigma anymore. Most people I’ve talked to think it’s a fine choice.” Coming from a current student, this shows that the stereotype has weakened as more and more generations discover the benefits to community college.

Of course, not every solution works for everyone. Crebbs spoke doubtfully when asked whether community colleges are a choice everyone should consider by saying, “I think most students should live away from their parents out of high school, and everyone I know … that is going to a community college is still with their parents.” This hinders students from coming into their own and experiencing living on their own for the first time, as is typically associated with college. However, financial benefits heavily outweigh the experiential cons in this area of life.

As four-year universities continue to become more and more expensive with each passing year, community college comes to the front lines as a cheaper, simpler alternative to work towards a degree. While not for everyone, it is an excellent choice that has endured stigma for many years and is finally being recognized. Berkeley High School should strive to educate students about this post-graduation path.