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Why I love community college

Uploaded: Nov 7, 2014

(Written by Lori McCormick)

Guaranteed admissions (with a GED or high school diploma), affordable tuition ($46 per unit), 112 campuses to choose from, housing at some campuses, and the option to transfer to a four-year university. What's not to love?

With more than 2.1 million students, the California Community College system is the largest in the United States. According to the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, here are some pretty impressive data points:

- California community colleges educate 70 percent of our state's nurses.
- California community colleges train 80 percent of firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and emergency medical technicians.
- Twenty-nine percent of University of California and 51 percent of California State University graduates started at a California community college.
- Transfer students from the California Community Colleges to the University of California system currently account for 48 percent of UC's bachelor's degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
- Community colleges offer associate degrees and short-term job training certificates in more than 175 fields, and more than 100,000 individuals are trained each year in industry-specific workforce skills.
- Nearly 42 percent of all California veterans receiving GI educational benefits attend a California community college for workforce training, to earn an associate degree or to work toward transferring to a four-year university.

Attending community college is an opportunity for a student to advance into higher education at an affordable rate. And, since " undecided" tends to be a popular major for many college bound freshmen, why not take general education classes at the community college and spend that time deciding what your intended major will be, then transfer? I have also found community college to be a clean slate for students who really wanted to attend an elite four-year, such as UCLA, but did not get accepted out of high school. Attending community college while working with the Transfer Center and their TAG (Transfer Admissions Guarantee) program can provide a second chance for admissions at a campus like UCLA, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, and University of San Diego.

However, community college is not for everyone. If a student is not academically, emotionally, or financially prepared for college, community college is a wonderful starting point. For others, attending a community college might hinder their higher education pursuit. In a previous post I wrote, someone commented that going the community college then pursuing the transfer route could be even more stressful for a student. This is definitely a factor to consider. Applying to community college is not a simple one-step process. You must first apply, then schedule and take placement exams, then meet with a counselor, then enroll in classes and pay for them. Phew! That is a lot of work – and then you'd have to do it all over again when you apply to a four-year as a transfer.

The good news is students have choices. With over 3,000 colleges in the United States, feel assured knowing there is a college that will meet all of your academic, social, geographical, and financial goals. Speak with your high school counselor, advisor, or college and career center and learn about Open Houses at local community colleges. You might just fall in love with a community college.
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Sea REDDY, a resident of College Terrace,
on Nov 8, 2014 at 3:32 am

Sea REDDY is a registered user.

Dear friends

Junior college; and specially a selective few are just as good as big name schools.

Even for those that live in the bay area; I will recommend two in southern California:

1.0 Santa Monica college

A great junior college that has the ambiance of Berkeley/Stanford. Very international; very much like Palo Alto with nice trees and much like Berkeley with city and small town ambiance. Additionally, it is close to UCLA, Beverley Hills and West LA.

I understand, if the student does well, they can transfer to many UC schools.

It is a great way to save money; yet have the experience of college; big clean city, good weather and access to beautiful California beaches in Santa Monica. I wish my second daughter went there.

2.0 Orange Coast College

This is in Costa Mesa. A very suburban area with large campus. Costa Mesa is near Newport Beach.

One needs to have a car. I understand this JC also provides transfer program like Santa Monica College. Orange County, where Costa Mesa is a rock bed of suburbia clean living; lot of malls and homes.


My experience in getting children through colleges without losing your store:a

I have three children; 35, 32 and 26.

The eldest Vanessa was a straight 4.0; 800 SAT Math girl. Never had to intervene/coach. She ended up at Berkeley undergraduate (Biology + Political Science) took 5 years - graduated 2002; In 2007, she went to Dartmouth School of Medicine for a one year program Masters in Health, and graduated in 2008. She is now in Basel Switzerland working for Genentech and has a 2 year international assignment.

The second one; a 3.0 GPA and average SAT. Leila went to UC Riverside in 2000; left 16 months later and returned to Irvine Valley College took 7 classes and had 6 As and 1 B; went to a private college Concordia University and got a degree in Child Psychology.

The third, Andrew; a 3.5 GPA from high school; went to University of Michigan Ann Arbor. He graduated after 6 years with a degree in Chemical Engineering.
His mom raised him.

So, my experience; some children are not that ready for 4 year college; they might do more well in a junior college as they are 60%uni cheaper than an university.


Posted by GinnyMcShane, a resident of another community,
on Nov 8, 2014 at 9:55 am

Lori mentioned that with Community Colleges you are burdened with the process of college entrance paperwork twice. I think that is a small price to pay for the experience of community colleges. Having been a high school counselor for years, I have witnessed the positive consequences of sending students to community college.

Let's not forget the pressure that is lessened to high school students and the financial savings to families who send their children to community colleges. Our high school students currently experience pressure for grades, advanced placement classes, high test scores, bullying; and, students are exposed to peer cheating, peer drug and alcohol usage, and student depression and in some cases suicide. Let's start trying ways of reducing these social pressures. Community colleges are wonderful stepping stones for our children. And, they are one way to create a more fulfilling high school experience by deemphasizing competition for just grades.

Posted by Lori McCormick, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 8, 2014 at 10:40 am

Well said, Ginny McShane. Thank you for your additional comments! I always appreciate hearing input directly from the high school counselors.

Thank you, Sea Reddy for your thoughts. You have experienced first-hand how unique your own children's college application process has been - and can appreciate the diversity in college selection. There really is a fit for everyone!

I recently helped my babysitter, a senior at Gunn high school who is graduating this winter, with the first two steps her community college application. It took us about 20 minutes to create her profile and register for her placement exams. She is very excited to be starting her college journey at a community college.

Another benefit of appying to a four-year as a transfer student is you have gained a couple of years in maturity and exposure to a college culture before determining where to complete their Bachelor's degree.

I used to work in Transfer Admissions and spent a lot of time on community college campuses recruiting students. I also met a lot of the Transfer counselors in my former role, and can tell you all with certainty that those folks are a tremendous help to students. They can find colleges to fit their student's needs, evaluate their transcripts to determine which classes will transfer, and assist them with the entire transfer process. It's up to the student to seek the help, but once they do, their transfer process will be quite simple.

More reasons to love community college!

Posted by Phil, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Nov 9, 2014 at 10:20 am

I have an elementary school student in the PAUSD system, so I am several years away from this issue. But, I sometimes hear about all of the AP exams the kids take in high school, and how much pressure these courses bring to the students; and, while AP courses may have existed when I was in high school in Southern California, I never took one -- so I don't have a personal sense of their difficulty or value.

I was wondering, if a high school student is ready for college-level work is it also possible for that student to take single courses at a community college, instead of AP courses at their high school, and to have those CC courses count toward their high-school degree? If so, what are the benefits and downside to this approach? Would colleges, then, potentially allow the student to skip an equivalent course taken from a CC in high school since it really was a college course?

Is this a viable alternative to AP courses? Is it allowed? Wouldn't actual college courses be even better than high school courses with college content?

Posted by Phil, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Nov 9, 2014 at 10:25 am

(forgot to add this in the post above)

Are the courses AP courses easier (or harder), or do they cover less (or more) material than the equivalent CC courses? Is there a content or difficulty reason to go with AP over CC courses?

Thanks, Phil

Posted by dorms?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 10, 2014 at 12:25 pm

The link you provided for residential CCs only listed a limited number of geographically restricted CCs. Do you have a link that includes those closer to the Bay area and down the CA coast? Thanks in advance.

Posted by Chris Gaither, a resident of Mayfield,
on Nov 10, 2014 at 2:50 pm

I have had great continuing education at our local community colleges as an adult. At Foothill, I earned certificates in both Real Estate, and Travel Studies. The first helped me as a property manager in affordable housing, the second enabled me to work for American Express Corporate Travel, Cruise Holidays, Carlson Travel Network, and start and run my own travel business selling cruises and tours. Currently, I am taking paralegal courses at Canada Community College (beautiful campus). The program is so thorough that it enabled me to get a position in the legal field after one year of classes. I highly recommend community colleges for anyone, at any time of one's life, for any reason - be it higher learning; don't know yet what you want to do when you grow up; or simply to transition into a new career.

Posted by Lori McCormick, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 10, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Dear Dorms,
I do not have a list of colleges in the Bay Area that offer housing. However, I have suggested to students in the past that they could always move to the community college closest to their desired geographical location and find housing with other community college students. Many of the community colleges websites provide housing options for students.

For example, Santa Barbara City College Web Link and City College of San Francisco Web Link

Hope this helps a bit,
Lori McCormick (author of this article)

Posted by Community College Transfer, a resident of another community,
on Nov 10, 2014 at 10:05 pm

California's Community Colleges are great! I agree with the pros listed in the article above.

However, I think that, in fairness, the public needs to be aware that overall completion/transfer rates are low. Students who are not 4-year college eligible in high school are probably most at risk if they need to take "remedial" courses before taking transferable-level work. And, while, community colleges are flexible with working students' schedules, student not taking full-time courseloads often don't complete their educational goals.

And, not living on campus means that students need to be proactive in getting involved in the campus community. There isn't a set "lunch" period like high school and if students are commuting to campus and not staying to participate in clubs, athletics, etc., there can be less of a connection socially.

Dorms have school programming and support. Private student housing might not have any oversight and require students to be more independent right out of high school (e.g. cooking, paying bills--which they might otherwise due at 4-year college after their first transition year). It's also expensive.

Finally, transferring to another college is a big transition, too. There are orientation programs but most students will be freshmen. Transfer dorms are typically more limited. Many friendships have been established and it can be challenging to make connections if students don't proactively get involved in the school community.

Every student's experience will be different. Many will be successful. I just wanted to point out other food for thought.

Posted by Jim H, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Nov 13, 2014 at 3:10 pm

A quick internet search came up with these California CC's with housing. There are 11

Web Link

Posted by Thanks, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 14, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Thank you Jim H. This is very helpful.

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