Why Do Community Colleges Have Such a Bad Rep?

Across schools throughout the City, bulletin boards proudly display colleges and universities that high school seniors will be attending in the fall. It is commonplace for teachers, students, and visitors to view these boards and comment on the fine schools into which students have been accepted.

Recently, I was viewing one such board with a fellow teacher. Before long, several other teachers gathered around each of us vying to see who got into what school. I was looking to see if anyone got into any of my alma maters (Hofstra Pride, lol!) and everyone was looking at the board from a different perspective. One teacher said with disgust, “too many of these students are going to community colleges. That’s horrible!” I was both shocked and offended. I am a proud graduate of Nassau Community College and I attribute much of my success to the exceptional education I garnered there. Over 90% of my teachers held Doctorate degrees and were very well-versed in their content area.

I was a mother who hadn’t been in a college classroom for over twelve years and it was my beloved professors at Nassau Community College who took the time to encourage me. They told me what a great writer I was. They saw how awkward I felt as the oldest student in the class and found ways to draw upon my life experiences as meaningful components of our studies. Most adult students attend classes in the evening, but I went during the day when my children, who were very young at the time, were in school.

Given all of that, you can see why I was so taken aback by the derogatory comment about being accepted to and attending community college. Community college plays a vital role in building a bridge for students from the support of high school to the independence of college. Community colleges are usually smaller in student enrollment and therefore have smaller class size,  affording more personalized attention from professor to student. Monetarily speaking, community college is affordable, especially for students who may have to pay their own way through school and who do not want to accrue a lot of student loan debt.

According to Bridget Kulla, “[m]any students don’t know what to major in when they graduate from high school. Two out of three students will change their major at least once during their college career. Community colleges are good places to explore fields that interest you before committing to a major.” I don’t think it’s healthy to shame students for not knowing what they want to do with the rest of their lives at the tender age of 18 and being wise enough to take some time to figure it out without breaking the bank.

The article goes on to articulate what I saw to be true not only  for those few students on the college acceptance bulletin board whom I knew personally, but for myself when I decided to go back to school:

If you don’t have the highest grades after graduating high school, taking classes at a community college can help improve your GPA. Unlike most four-year colleges, community colleges have an open-door admissions policy – all students are accepted regardless of past academic performance. Improving your academic record at a community college lets you meet the minimum admissions requirements at four-year colleges and shows you are serious about your education.

I cut class a lot in high school and my grades in no way reflected my ability. I made choices that led me further and further away from education and into a life of adulthood, motherhood, marriage, and divorce. Attending community  college gave me the room I needed to ease my way back into the rigorous world of academia. Many students who struggle in high school, for whatever reason, relish the support that community college offers.

So to all those who frown upon students who go from high school to community college, take note: While at Nassau Community College, I got into the Honors program, graduated Cum Laude and on time, received a scholarship to Long Island University’s Post College where all my credits were accepted, graduated from there Magna Cum Laude and on time, got a scholarship to Hofstra University, graduated from there Summa Cum Laude and on time, and have been gainfully employed not only in my career as a teacher but now as a blogger. I’d say getting accepted to a community college is pretty awesome and I salute all students who are pursuing their dreams by attending college in the fall! Congrats! Don’t let anyone cloud your shine!

What do you think?

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