Community College: Challenging the Stigma

The Same Education for a Cheaper Price

Kamille Ritchie, Cactus Editor

When a person graduates from high school, a question they are likely to encounter is “Where are you going next?” Now some students already know they are attending a university, but for others, community college is the way to go. Both options are great because either way they will get a quality education; however, one option is far less expensive than the other.

Unfortunately, some consider one less favorable than the other. For many, there’s a certain stigma surrounding community college. “It isn’t ‘real’ college.” “It’s easier than university.” There are many who think community college is “beneath” them, but when you check the facts they may be more similar than some may think. While it’s an accomplishment to be accepted into a university, especially if it is one with a low acceptance rate, it may not be the best way to start your college career.

Unless they completed dual enrollment classes in high school, the average college freshmen will need to take core classes before they can focus on their higher-level classes. Many choose to attend community college because it is adaptable to any student in any situation and it costs a fraction of what it costs to attend a four-year university. In a 2017 Forbes article, one student, Adam Reres, found that tuition at a community college was one-third the cost of a four-year institution. “With all of the core requirements accounted for, it was my gateway into a four-year program without wasting money on unnecessary credits,” Reres says.

The average cost per credit hour for Arizona’s three state universities is $671. At Central Arizona College, the average cost per credit hour is $84. According to calculations, a full-time student who completes 24 credit hours of core classes at an Arizona state university will spend $16,104. If that student completed those credit hours at CAC, they would have spent only $1,968. With a difference of $14,136, the money saved can be applied to other important things. While this is one way community colleges can be more beneficial, there are three other ways these institutions can be advantageous.

The pursuit of a vocational degree takes less time and less money to complete. A vocational degree is career or trade-specific. Community colleges offer a diverse range of programs, such as dental hygiene, culinary arts, electric utility, manufacturing, computer science, and early childhood education. Instead of paying a large amount of money towards a degree that takes, on average, two years to complete, a student can spend a fraction of that at community college. Plus, because most community colleges are smaller, students can have more one on one attention from their instructors.

Another bonus provided by community colleges is an Associate’s degree. Many people underestimate the value of this degree. However, it is important to realize that for some careers, a bachelor’s is not necessary. According to PayScale, some fields relating to dental hygiene, computer engineering, computer science, and economics do not require a four-year degree. Pursuing an associate’s allows individuals to graduate at an earlier time, and start earning money faster. In the same Forbes article, a Georgetown University report showed that 28 percent of those who hold an associate’s degree earned more than graduates with a bachelor’s degree.

Then there are others who don’t want to earn a vocational degree or an associate’s degree, and for those students community college can still be a stepping stone on their path towards a bachelor’s degree. The “2+2 Plan” is when a student spends two years at community college and two years at university. As mentioned in an earlier paragraph, community college is a great and inexpensive way to get core classes out of the way. Many times, community college also provides redo opportunities for students who wish to attend university. If a student did not have the best grades in high school and were not able to get into their first-choice university, going to community college can give them the opportunity to improve their application. By doing well in college, a student will not only improve their grades, but also increase their chances of being accepted to a university later.

The final decision is up to the individual, and there are solid arguments for both. The benefits of attending a university, such as a lively atmosphere for students, a wide, diverse range of courses and certain resources that are not available at community colleges are certainly positive incentives. However, for many, community colleges have their perks as well. Whichever route a prospective student decides to take, it is important for them to make sure the institute will cater to their goals and nurture their success.