The Bigger Picture That is Community College

Andrea Gill, Opinions Editor

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We all start somewhere.”

This condescending comment is disguised as encouragement to those who decide that their pathway into higher education is through community college. Community college is often stigmatized as the lesser option for students seeking higher education. All too often, uninformed people suggest that community college is not a step forward and is seen as failing rather than a strong investment. However, this thinking could not be more wrong. Not only should people strongly consider community college, but also it should be seen as a respectable and intelligent first choice.

The latest Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Household Debt and Credit states that, collectively, Americans hold nearly $1.58 trillion in student loan debt. Much of this debt comes from students who attended a public or private four-year college or university, which are significantly more expensive than community college. The College Board reveals that the average yearly cost for out-of-state students who attend a public four-year college is $23,890, and for in-state students, the cost average is $9,410. The College Board also reveals that the largest student debt comes from those who attend private four-year colleges, which cost around $32,410 yearly.

 Conversely, in-district students who attend a public two-year college can expect to pay  up to $3,440 yearly. This is an important fact as to why community college is economically preferable for students who don’t want to be pressured and adversely affected by the extreme tuition and fees charged by public and private four-year schools. 

One fact of community college that some might not fully realize is that students are offered many of the same classes in community college that students pay significantly more to take in a four-year university. Courses such as English 101 and Statistics are common general-education credits, or gen-ed’s, offered at both types of colleges, and tend to be accepted when transferring to a four-year college. College Consensus reports that “according to US News, many colleges have agreements with other local institutions of higher learning that make it easy to transfer credits from a two-year school to a four-year university.” The main purpose of community college courses is to aid in preparing students who plan to transfer to a four-year institution for a bachelor’s degree.

The flexibility offered by community colleges have another benefit. Most community colleges offer “night class options in multiple degree pathways, making it easier to earn the credits each semester within a schedule that works,” reports Louise Gaille in her article “15 Pros and Cons of Community College.” Gaille notes that community college students have more freedom with their scheduling which, for many, means having the opportunity to work. 

This schedule flexibility is not new to Andrew Josuweit, a college graduate who accumulated over $74,000 in debt. In his article, “Why Starting At Community College Is Better (And Why It’s Not)” for Forbes, he notes that community colleges, “often have a larger slate of night classes than many four-year universities, providing you more options if you need to work during the day.” In an attempt to assist student loan borrowers manage and repay loan debt, Josuweit founded his company, Student Loan Hero, in 2012.

One of the big issues that students face when they choose community college is perception. Students should not feel ashamed because they chose to attend community college. Instead, they deserve to be celebrated for taking advantage of the opportunity and value that these schools provide. These students deserve to be proud of wanting to pursue a higher education, not devalued simply because it is not at a four-year institution. The education system needs to take measures in order to inform students and families of the rewarding experience of a two-year college education. Nonetheless, the most important factor of college is the education gained, not the cost of it.