Community college has always seemed to have a stigma attached to it. Many people are under the belief that attending something other than a traditional 4-year university just doesn’t offer the same quality of education. Although community college has always seemed to have negativity attached to it by so many people, this is starting to change. An increasing number of the same people that always looked unfavorably at community colleges are starting to see some of the benefits.
Much of society still do see education from a community college as inferior and this is due to the numerous misconceptions associated with learning at a 2-year school. With the costs of higher education continually on the rise, a changing business world, and technology, community college is gaining in popularity. Even with a growing acceptance of community college, there are still a lot of people that refuse to believe an education from a quality community college can be beneficial.
Why does community college have such a stigma attached to it?
History, Culture, and Normalcy
A large part of society in general has always just had an unfavorable view on education from a community college. This is even at the same time while the quality of education has increasingly improved with 2-year schools. It may even be argued that some community colleges today offer a better education compared to some 4-year universities. For a lot of people, they have just grown up with the notion that a community college will not provide quality education.
Part of the difficulty with changing the negative association with community college is what a lot of people are still being told from a young age. They are being taught that higher education is the only path to financial success and a happy life. Although education is never a bad thing, the odds of success with a college education are certainly not what they once were just a few decades ago. This is particularly the case when large amounts of student loan debt are added to the equation.
Many times, young adults are told that not only is college the only way to succeed but going to a community college will not provide quality education. This is one reason why community college still is sometimes viewed negatively. Whispers of only losers attend a community college is not uncommon. Adults and even education counselors that are not educated on the benefits of a community college are still communicating to young adults that a 2-year school will not lead to anything.
Parents that want to brag about their children in social circles are also not helping with encouraging community college as an option. Even though there can be substantial savings for a student to attend a community college for the first two years, there are a lot of people that just refuse to go to community college because of the stigma it brings in their social circle.
Misconceptions of Community College
Because there is such a long history of community college being seen in a negative view, there are a lot of misconceptions with an education from a community college that is just no longer the case.
Community College Does Not Offer a Quality Education
There are good and bad teachers at just about every university regardless of it being a 2- or 4-year college. The quality of professors at a community college can be good despite what some people might believe. Yes, community colleges do tend to get newer teachers. However, a teacher that does not have a 20-year tenure might be more up to date on what they are teaching. They might also be more up to date on teaching methods.
College class sizes at a community college also tend to be much smaller compared to a lot of 4-year schools. Large 4-year universities can have classes with 150-300 students. This makes it easy to get lost in a crowd. Comparably, community college classes are typically much smaller in size. Reduced class size results in more student attention and often a better learning environment.
Employers Are Critical of a Community College
For students that have an end goal of a traditional 4-year education, it doesn’t matter where they start. It matters more on how and where they finish. A student that begins their education at a community college and transfers to a 4-year state college to complete a bachelor’s degree will ultimately have the 4-year school name on a diploma.
The truth today is a lot of employers are consistently looking to minimize costs and improve productivity. It might not even matter where a person goes to school if the potential job candidate seems to be a good fit for a job. Employers want value and a lot of them know prestigious school names automatically seem to come with the assumption of a higher salary.
For someone that even has a track record of experience in a field with a lot of success, education, and even where a person received a degree from might not mean much.
Earning an education from a prestigious college like Harvard might open doors. However, a lot of times today it isn’t because of the associated perception of Harvard offering a better education, but the people a student knows through attending that school. The same can be said about attending a community college and a traditional university. Probably today more than ever it can be about who you know and not what you know.
A college education for a lot of areas of study has always just been a prerequisite to a better job and networking is the ultimate hiring factor. This is even more than ever the case today. Getting an education today can still be important. However, the name of a university might not be as imperative. This even includes attending a community college for a few years.
If a student attends a good accredited community college, the result of having an education with the opportunity for employment really can be the same compared to someone that only went to a traditional 4-year university for all four years of their education.
Only Poor Students Attend a Community College
Community college can be a good starting point for a student that did not have the best grades in high school. However, spending the first few years at a community college in pursuit of an end goal of a bachelor’s degree is not something only poorly performing students do. There are several advantages to taking classes at a community college for the first few years and data shows that more students are starting to take advantage of this.
A study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that 66% of transfer students to 4-year public universities come from a community college. Another study by EducationData.org found that 36.9% of associate degree graduates end up enrolling in 4-year schools.
Although there is the misconception of only underachieving students enrolling in community college, this is not the case as the data shows. There are numerous reasons why students chose a community college and it’s not just because they have terrible grades.
Why do people choose to attend a community college over a 4-year university?
Probably one of the biggest reasons someone enrolls in a community college over a traditional 4-year school is the cost. Community college prices are typically much lower compared to a 4-year college. The overall college credit hour cost, according to Student Loan Hero, is $594. 4-year public schools have an average credit hour price of about $325. A median two-year community college credit hour costs just $135. The savings can easily be a difference of $10,000 or more by attending a community college for the first two years.
It’s not just the price of tuition a student can save on with attending a community college for a few years. A young adult that has the option to remain living at home by enrolling in a community college can also save on living expenses. College credit hours can be expensive, but the real cost with college can be the cost of living. The College Board estimates the median living expenses for a college student to be around $24,980 for 12 months. The additional cost of living away at college to attend a 4-year school can be substantial.
Time to Grow
Not everyone knows what they want to do with the rest of their life after graduating from high school. Deciding on a major area of study is important and it can take young adults some time to decide what they want in a career. Going to a 4-year school and paying higher tuition while trying to figure things out can get expensive. Community college offers students a way to get general education courses completed while maybe taking some other classes to see what they might be interested in at a much lower cost compared to 4-year schools.
Right out of high school not everyone is also mature enough to live away from home and go to school. If attending a 4-year university involves a student living away from home, a community college can be a good alternative for a student to mature and stay living at home. It is not uncommon for young adults to go away to a 4-year school only to shortly return home because they were not able to handle the lifestyle from a maturity standpoint.
Community college is often made for working adults. There can be a larger number of night and weekend classes available making a flexible schedule more attainable. Application and registration deadlines are also typically much later at a 2-year school. This allows students to enroll at the last minute to take some classes.
Not everyone has the luxury of going to college without holding down a job at the same time. A community college and employment flexibility can be a real benefit for the first two years of school.
Two Years of College Might Be Enough
The return on investment for a bachelor’s degree is not always better compared to an associate degree. There are a lot of careers that can have a good earning potential with just two years of school. Computer programmers, air traffic controllers, and dental hygienists are just a few careers that can be obtained without 4-years of school.
Contrary to what is regularly communicated about a community college not being worth the time or money, there are areas of study at 2-year schools that have the potential to out-earn a traditional 4-year degree. Some students chose to only attend two years of school and a community college can be a good choice.
The negative views on community college really do not have the same merit that it might once have had. Getting an education for a few years at a 2-year school can be just as good in quality compared to attending a 4-year university. The quality of education can be as good or even better.
Unfavorable opinions about community college only still exist today due to the misconceptions so many people seem to still have when it comes to something other than a traditional 4-year college. Furthermore, these fallacies are still being communicated and taught because numerous educators and parents are holding onto the history of what they were told regarding the disapproval of attending a community college.
Society’s social circles are also adding to the long-standing stigma of a student attending a community college. Parents and young adults want to impress their friends and families. Community college just doesn’t have the same prestige as a traditional 4-year school.
Although the status of a community college might not have the same impressive impression as a 4-year university on friends and relatives, it does have several advantages. There are some good reasons to attend a community college. The cost of tuition for two years compared to a 4-year school is certainly at the top of the list and smart students that realize this are increasingly taking advantage of it.
A college education today is still important. There is never really a valid argument that education is not worth the investment of time. However, the risk of financial investment with a college education is a larger gamble today than it probably ever has been. If there is a choice of lifetime student loan debt or attending a community college for the first two years and finishing school debt-free, community college is a better option and more students are figuring this out.
It shouldn’t matter what other people say about where you went to school. It doesn’t matter where you start, but it certainly can matter if you finish. The less expensive option of attending community college for a few years is not only many times a good option, but it should be a choice for more students. This is particularly the case for students that do not have the financial opportunities to attend a 4-year college debt-free.