Why You (Your Kids) Should Consider Community College
Community College, huh? Why should my kids consider community college?
Well, because I never did.
I never really knew.
My high school counselor didn’t talk about it.
In fact, nobody talked about it.
Because Community College (“Junior College”) was Grade 13.
Only for kids who couldn’t get in to 4 year schools.
Flashforward more than 30 years later and boy, has my tune changed.
You might be thinking, “Hey, McPeak, this really doesn’t have anything to do with career bliss or work-life balance.”
The hell it doesn’t.
Because education isn’t just walking on the stage in your university stadium or football field and shaking hands with the President or Chancellor.
Education after high school is supposed to be all about Becoming a Fully Functioning Adult Member of Society.
I might have mentioned this before – this is exactly what my dad told me as I was getting ready to leave for college at The University of Arkansas….
“Kritter, I don’t care what you study…I don’t even care if you graduate.
Yes, my nickname growing up was Kritter.
And yes, my dad’s philosophy was spot on, but I didn’t understand it as he was saying it to me…and, well, parents don’t know squat. Of course I was gonna graduate. That WAS the main way I was going to get a job.
Now that I have made a career in higher education, I know so much more about what is offered, what it costs, and how it can be squandered and lost. I often say to myself, “Geez, if I could go back in time knowing what I know now….”
Maybe I would have gone to film school.
Or a music school where I could work on a singing career.
I might have found a college where I could design my own major and just be a self-made woman.
“And So Much More.”
What they used to call “Vo-Tech” at my high school – Vocational Education – now known as Career Education or Career and Technical Education…is not for the underachieving, or the loser kids whose parents drank too much, or the kids who just couldn’t handle any of Mr. Hill’s math classes (he was tough! I spent 1/5 of my senior year standing at the blackboard, clueless).
Career Education is meant to give you a trade, which will then give you a job.
Which will then insure you are Fully Functioning Adult Member of Society.
And that’s why – even though I don’t have kids of my own – I have a shit-ton of advice to offer those parents (or students themselves, I don’t really know who reads my blog yet) who are not exactly sure that their kid knows where they want to study or what they want to study. And that’s a pretty risky bet when you’re only 18 years old and barely understand how to vote or who to vote for.
So today I offer up my four reasons why students should consider Community College…
Across the board, Community College is less expensive than a four year college/university or private school. A study shared on College Board broke down four ranges of tuition costs for current students:
Type of College Average Published Yearly Tuition and Fees
Two-Year Public College (in-district students) $3,440
Four-Year College (in-state students) $9,410
Four-Year College (out-of-state students) $23,890
Private Four-Year College $32,410
“In District” means that the student lives within that particular community college district. Depending on where you live, you may have only one community college to choose from, or you could have five or six.
In addition to tuition costs, most four year colleges and private schools offer housing at an additional cost; but most community colleges don’t offer on-campus housing. Meaning, that should you choose the community college in your immediate area, living at home or with friends could be an option for you to save money.
2. Academic Programs Offered
One could argue – well, I’m going to argue – that a student has more choices at a community college. In addition to associate degrees and units towards transfer to four year colleges, most community colleges offer a wide variety of career certificates and technical associate degrees, as I talked about previously.
Just in California, the largest community college program in the United States, there are more than 175 degree and certificate programs in hundreds of vocational fields such as nursing, business and computer science. This fact sheet also shares details about the number of nurses, firefighters, and apprentices in skills trades.
You can attend community college and become a welder, making a median salary of just under $40,000 a year. You can study Biotechnology and receive a certificate in Stem Cell Culture. Culinary Studies, Cosmetology, and Fashion Design are more examples of programs you can study at Community College…paying way less than you might pay at a for-profit urban university.
3. Quality of Faculty
An article by Rob Jenkins in The Chronicle of Higher Education writes about why new faculty should consider community college. The main reason is because the emphasis is definitely on teaching rather than research and publication. And just in my own experience, I can tell you that the faculty teaching at my current Day Job Employer are among the most dedicated, caring, and passionate faculty members I have ever met. A Ph.D is not required – but there are just as many Ph.D faculty at my employer than any other school of the same size.
4. If It Has to Be…It Can Be a Baby Step
Now, as sure as I’m writing this, you’re thinking, “Hey, McPeak, you said that Community College wasn’t the 13th grade!”
Yes, I did.
But – I want to emphasize that there are some students out there who are just not ready to head off to a four-year school, nor do they have the motivation to go get a job. In cases like these, taking a year to attend community college can aid in a student’s adult development:
a. Making New Friends
sure, there may be some folks from high school there, but more than likely there are opportunities to make all sorts of new social connections, and that’s totally a good thing.
b. Finding What They Like
if you are a parent and you are reading this, encourage your student to enroll in classes they might really enjoy. Suggest that they try something new. Inspire them to think outside the box and try a vocational course, like Intro to Biotechnology, or Printmaking….something that doesn’t feel quite so “academic”.
c. Getting used to “college”
if you are a student, not quite sure what you want to study but know you want to do SOMETHING, Community College offers options AND security. Especially if parents are comfortable with Susan or Johnny living at home. The student can have independence during the day in classes, and come home to hang with family at night. Because let’s face it – some 18 year olds really do need that Challenge and Support with the emphasis on the Support.
In closing, I want to insure parents that Community College is a worthwhile step for your students regardless of who and what they wanted to be when they grew up back in the 6th grade. When the average student changes their major 7 times and four year schools getting increasingly more expensive, the real promise of community college is that IT’S. TOTALLY. WORTH. IT.