Community college gets an undeservedly bad rap. These 2-year schools are seen as inherently inferior to their fancy 4-year counterparts, and students at these schools are viewed negatively in tandem. Between the general social and fiscal elitism and shows like “Community” that love to make these institutions the underachieving butt of the joke, community college has been mistakenly stigmatized.
During my time at a community college, I constantly made self-deprecating jokes, but it wasn’t until I transferred to a university that I began to appreciate community college. If you’re considering going to community college but have been deterred by negative connotations or if you’re a current student whose self-esteem has taken a hit, I’m here to say that you should not feel bad about community college. Quite the opposite, in fact. Here’s why.
Saving Money (Obviously)
This is the obvious reason that’s slapping us all in the face with a stack of the cash that you’ll save by going to a 2-year college first, then transferring to a university. If you are, in fact, going for a Bachelor’s degree, why would you not want to pay significantly less money? Why do you want to accrue tens of thousands of dollars of debt that you’ll be paying off for the next decade?
If you’re lucky enough to get massive scholarships to a university, then that’s great. Go for it. But for the rest of us, we’re likely looking at saving thousands every semester if you opt for the community college route. When I transferred, my tuition skyrocketed from about $3,000 per semester to roughly $16,000 per semester. If you don’t see those numbers and conclude that community college is a great choice, then you sound like someone who will spend thousands on a bottle of wine that tastes no different than some gas station box wine. How very high-class.
The Quality Of Education Isn’t Necessarily Worse
The intuitive conclusion about the difference between university and community college is that the quality of education is just that much better, but that isn’t necessarily the case. From my personal experience, it’s actually been the opposite at times. Some of the most thoughtful and passionate professors I’ve ever had taught at the junior level, yet my university has subjected me to a few of the laziest and most apathetic instructors imaginable.
Everyone’s experience will differ, but the idea that universities are just categorically better because they cost more is incorrect, asinine, and an unfortunate byproduct of the clutches of capitalism.
Stick It To The Snobs
Along the same train of thought, universities are a scam perpetrated by the financial elite that only serves to relocate young people’s money from their pockets to administrator’s hedge funds. They create a carnivorous cycle of classism that upholds financial inequality, ensuring that the rich stay rich while simultaneously shaming the poor for not aspiring above their means.
Okay, perhaps that was a bit harsh, and surely there are plenty of well-meaning educators out there in positions of power at these institutions, but there is no denying the slimy snobbery that exists when it comes to universities. As a current university student, I can’t help but feel a bit guilty for enabling this system, and I go to a private Catholic university, no less. Opting for a community college experience instead means you’re not participating in a predatory system as much. Why not be a maverick?
If there’s one thing most 18-year-olds are not is decisive. I guess there are people out there who knew exactly what they want to do from a young age, but I don’t know very many of them. When I was young I always thought I’d figure out my career path by the time I finished high school, would graduate in exactly 4 years, and have a fulfilling career and my own home in my mid-20’s. Hilarious.
The reality is most people don’t know what they want to be when they grow up by the time they’re done with high school, and many live their entire lives never really figuring it out. That’s where community college comes in.
It’s totally normal to be undecided, and it’s totally normal to change majors. While it is possible to do both of those things at a university, it’s much simpler at a community college. There is just so much money at stake at a university, taking the most efficient path to a degree is critical. At a community college, however, you can feel free to change as many times as you want! Take that totally superfluous piano class, you deserve it!
Everything Is Smaller
Lecture halls are horrifying to me. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid them at both of my schools, but they’re far more likely to be found at a university. Sitting in a giant hall with around 50 students just sounds so anonymous. This likely won’t be your experience at the junior level.
No, you’re far more likely to have smaller class sizes where you can actually get to know your professor a little bit and receive more direct instruction. Chances are you’re not going to understand everything immediately while sitting through a lecture, and raising your hand to ask a question in front of that many people seems petrifying.
Beyond the classes, community college campuses are generally much smaller as well. Even small universities tend to spread everything out into confusing areas of campus, and navigating between your classes turns into a journey. I’d much rather drive up to one single building and have a clear sense of where I’m going than feel like Lewis and Clark every new semester.
The community college umbrella is vast and all-encompassing, and in fact, there are many short certificate programs that can get you into your job field much more quickly. A welding certification can be completed in less than a year and be far more lucrative than, say, a master’s in philosophy.
We should embrace a shorter, more salt of the Earth education experience because for many, that is absolutely the best option. It is possible to land a solid job with no student loans in a relatively short amount of time, despite what universities might like you to believe. If you’ve opted for this route, then you are absolutely no worse than anyone with a fancy degree. If anything, you’ve just seen through the façade.