Why Community College is Underrated


Picture by Sierra Gutierrez

By Sierra Gutierrez, Staff Writer

As college application season begins for this year’s QH seniors, they, along with the rest of the student body, face the difficult challenge of choosing a college that is right for them. Although some may harbor dreams of attending Ivy League schools like Princeton or Yale, the truth is that few students will be able to attend those universities – and perhaps, it’s a smarter choice not to. On the other side of the spectrum, students apply to community colleges like Antelope Valley College; many students view this as a desperate measure, but these students are making a wise decision.

When you mention community college to anyone, including teachers, students, or parents, you are likely to be met with an unenthusiastic nod and quick condolences along the lines of “I mean…there’s nothing wrong with community college… Really.” They mean well, but the tinge of shame hidden even in the gentlest of these answers is enough to deter many the college-bound students from applying to AVC.

It is time to look past that shame and talk about why community college is not only a valid choice but a better choice for many students this year.

For many people, the most important reason to consider community college is the price tag. The average tuition for college, according to the College Board, is nearly $35,000 for private schools and $9,000 to $25,000 for public universities (with UC’s generally middling out at about $12,000). The average tuition for community college, on the other hand, can be as low as $3,000 – one-third of the price of the cheapest 4-year university estimate. Some families may have no problem paying the higher prices, but for others, a few thousand dollars goes a long way. In addition, those who attend community colleges typically live closer to their homes, potentially saving several thousand dollars more due to the lack of housing expenses in addition to the low tuition price. These and other savings can be vital to a family’s struggle to achieve higher education and can provide quite an incentive to families who don’t have money to burn. If the Harvard experience is what you really want, then perhaps a four year, $45,000 university is what you’re looking for. If you consider saving money and freedom from student debt a priority, a local community college is certainly the wiser choice.

Many students, however, still desire to at least get a taste of a real university and to be able to say they graduated from a recognizable school. This isn’t something you sacrifice by attending community college – in fact, many students get their first two years of education done at a community college, then transfer to bigger schools to complete their undergraduate degree. For these transfer students, attending community college was an excellent choice that served as an important stepping stone for them to reach their goals. Economic benefits aside, attending community college for two years while completing general education requirements can help prepare students for the heavy workload they will experience in college in a less risky learning environment. The Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education conducted a study, which showed that when 2-year community college students transfer to 4-year universities, they  “…are much more likely than their similar native peers to graduate within eight years of college entry.” Because of these extra years of preparation, transfer students are better able to adjust to university life and save thousands of dollars in the process.

Each person’s college journey is unique. Some will attend AVC, some will attend Harvard, and some will not attend college at all. It is important to make the decision that’s right for you – if that means a community college, then go to community college. If you choose not to go straight to a 4-year university because you want to save money or you want more experience before leaving home, don’t let anyone belittle you for that decision. Make the smart decision: choose community college.