Giving Community College The Praise It Deserves

While going off to university is a scary enough thought, all the bills and pressure that comes along with it puts many students at a disadvantaged position before they even start school. On the other hand, community college is an affordable and effective alternative that should be promoted more to high school seniors.

Rahul Raman

Education is vital to breaking the generational cycle of poverty, which we know disproportionately impacts marginalized communities. There is a direct correlation between a college education and economic mobility. However, in some cases, going to college only exacerbates financial problems when student loans are introduced into the equation. According to the Education Data Initiative, student loans in the United States total around $1.75 trillion—or 1,750,000,000,000 dollars. 44.7 million people in the United States have outstanding loans, which is about 1 in 3 adults. Education is often promoted as a solution to financial hardships, but this doesn’t hold true when economically disadvantaged students are failed by institutions and government programs, leaving them with the sole option of taking on student loans to pay for their education. Starting adulthood with thousands of dollars in debt already puts many fresh high school graduates at an immediate disadvantage, having not been endowed with the privilege of a paid-for education. Additionally, the prospect of taking on loans can serve as a deterrent when it comes to pursuing a college education. Why bother trying to escape a generational cycle if you risk ending in a financial state worse than the one you started with?

A stigmatized solution to this problem is the promotion of community college. Students shouldn’t be dissuaded from going to community college because education has never been—and will never be—a “one size fits all” situation. Ideally, community college (and other education opportunities) will be presented to high schoolers alongside the option of 4-year universities. Many have little faith in community colleges, labeling them as a second choice, or a safety net for when plans to go to a 4-year university fall through. However, these institutions are just as valuable and beneficial as any other education path, they just need to be taught and offered as such. 

Furthermore, 4-year universities often charge thousands of dollars per year for tuition, room and board, and a plethora of additional expenses, putting pressure on students to complete their credits in a specific window of time before they have to pay even more money. In fact, it’s reported that about 8 in 10 college students experience high levels of stress. When combined with the fact that many need to stay at home for college or simultaneously work and learn, it becomes clear that this isn’t an environment for everyone. Community college, on the other hand, provides a much more relaxed timeframe for students, accommodating their learning and living needs. This becomes more crucial than ever in an era where rates of mental health issues on college campuses continue to skyrocket. Without the worry of possibly making a decision that you can not afford to change, students are able to explore their options of what they may want to study and even simply complete their general education (which are required classes no matter the major) while they wait to make that decision. Moreover, student do not feel as pressured in picking a certain major, and do not feel forced to pursue a career they are not genuinely interested in or lost passion for. More options and more time gives students more hope and more motivation in not only their education, but their selves as well. 

A community college education emphasizes flexibility: students can go at their own pace without thousands in tuition adding up per semester, one can stay close to home (saving even more money), and class schedules can be crafted around someone’s daily routine.  The opportunity to earn an associate’s degree allows for students to go straight into the workforce, or pursue a bachelor’s degree at another institution. While there’s nothing wrong with going straight to a 4-year university, the stigma around going to a community college and the lack of promotion of this option is the real problem. Showing students that there isn’t only one path to success allows for them to branch out and even find relief from the college application process, the college decision period, and the many bills that come with attending a university.