With the announcement of President Barack Obama’s plan to invest $175 million into apprenticeship programs at 46 community colleges across the nation, the concept of community college has taken its long awaited step into the limelight. With student loan debt being the largest form of consumer debt outside of mortgages, the option of a lower price tag for higher education should be nothing to scoff at. The stigma around community college is very clear to attendees who have probably all experienced the inevitable, “…Oh,” that follows telling someone where you go to school.
The idea of community college seems to be generally regarded as a failure on the part of the student – that they couldn’t make the grades to get into a bigger university. Or on the other side of the spectrum, students who achieved the grades view it as a punishment to stay home and decline an acceptance letter. This is the perspective that needs to be shaken. It isn’t a matter of being too good or not good enough, it’s about making a fiscally responsible decision.
According to the University of LaVerne, 50-70 percent of students change their majors at least once, and most will change majors at least three times before they graduate. At the age of graduation, it’s not uncommon for a student to have no idea what they want to do. So even if you have the money and the grades to attend a big university, diving into such a big decision and investment could be a choice you regret later down the line.
Two-year schools give students a chance to acclimate to the college structure before putting down the big bucks for it – as well as time to really figure out what they want to do with their future. The allure of the on-campus, college experience is undeniable, but it can wait.
Community college provides the foundational, general education classes that all freshmen and sophomores would be required to take anywhere. With many community colleges strongly focused on making their credit classes transferable, two-year schools are designed to be a segway to the intensity of the university setting – while also cutting the cost of the “college experience” in half. Also, if a student’s main worry is starting a life outside of their parents’ house, with $2,000 tuition, they can use the 20-sum thousands they saved to get an apartment near their school of choice.
Whether you have what it takes to get accepted to a university or not, what community college provides is a way to build a foundation for your education without burdening yourself with debts that could follow you for your whole life. A report by the New York Federal Reserve showed that in 2012, the last year for which there are records, 4.7 million people who owe money on student loans are between and ages of 50 and 59.
There is credit to be given, however, to those who knew what they wanted right out of the gates of high school and had worked those four years away to make sure they got it, but there is no shame in delaying that on-campus experience to give yourself a monetary safety net between college graduation and the quick dive into the adult world.
It may feel like a punishment to not bask in the glory of welcome week or rushing a sorority/fraternity, but the gift of time and lesser financial burdens that community college provides could be one you’re very thankful for down the line with today’s economy. And President Obama’s Community College promise has recognized that and is helping society to see the beacons that two-year colleges can be in this era of climbing tuition rates.