Community colleges aren’t quite like universities. They accept everyone, offer fewer degrees, and tend to be a lot more affordable. That’s really the common knowledge most people know about them, but what do students at community colleges really think of them?
“A lot of people don’t consider community colleges as real colleges,” student, Asher Gulley said. “I’ve told lots of students about how great JCCC is and they reply with ‘great for a community college’”.
Gulley is recent graduate of Paola High School. He was able to hear all about the college through his brother, who is a graduate of the college, and his mother, who is professor of English at the college.
“I used to get defensive when someone talked bad about community colleges because my mom works at the college,” Gulley said. “She tells me how it’s really like and how most stigmas aren’t true.”
Gulley was able to experience the college firsthand in high school through the College Now program. The College Now program provides opportunity for high school students to take college courses for credit. While in high school, Gulley got to meet likeminded college students and see how the campus and professors are really like.
Although there are negative connotations associated with community colleges, there are high schools that advocate the benefits of community colleges.
“The high school teachers I have talked to recognize starting at community college is a smart idea,” Gulley said. “I think that played a role in seeing lots of students from my high school at the college.”
Gulley wasn’t the only one that had teachers advising community college.
I went to an inner-city high school, so they were pushing college in any way shape or form,” student, Ben Knight said. “They were advising we attend community college since its more affordable then transfer to a university. Most students didn’t even continue to college. So, they just cared that we continued our education, no matter where it was.”
Although Knight heard about community colleges, his plans to attend university was unchanged.
“I planned on going to university,” Knight said. “People were telling me to look into community colleges because they’re good to get the core courses out without worrying about the cost,” Knight said. “I was an idiot just, I thought ‘no it’s fine, I’ll takeout million dollars [of student loans for university out] and it’ll all be okay’”. But back then, I was also 18 and didn’t logically see things through.”
After graduating high school in 2008, Knight had change of heart and decided to go straight into workforce. It was only this past year Knight decided to start taking classes at the college to pursue a degree in journalism. During his time away from school, he witnessed the serious impacts college can have on the people he knew.
“I didn’t think about the repercussions [of college] or anything until I spent this time not going into college and seeing everyone I knew going into massive amounts of debt,” Knight said. “One of my friends took job in Japan just to make it harder for the [student loan] company to come find her.”
13 years after graduating high school, life looks a lot different for Knight.
“I have lot more responsibilities now than I did 13 years ago,” Knight said. “I also have a girlfriend and a kid. It really changed my perceptive and made me rethink how I’m going to get an education.”
Unlike Knight, Gulley was able to attend community college right out of high school.
“I didn’t even visit four-year universities in high school,” Gulley said. “For me, it never crossed my mind not to go here right after high school. I was already exposed to the college though College Now. The college one was such a positive experience and the reason my mind was so set.”
Although his high school did advocate for community colleges, Gulley noticed but there always seemed to be strings attached.
“Even though teachers talk about benefits of community college,” Gulley said. “It always follows with ‘and then’ go to university. But some students do just fine by finishing at JCCC.”
Although transferring from community college seems to be most common choice, the college does provide associate degrees that led to well-paying jobs right afterwards. McKenzie Seaux, who plans on graduating from the nursing program at the college this semester, has already gotten herself a job offer at Overland Park Regional Medical Center on the Ortho-Neuro Trauma unit.”
No matter where students end up going, starting a career in their field can be difficult. The college does provide career assistant through the Career Development Center: from writing resumes, picking a major, job shadowing, internships and many more.
“I still wonder if this major I’m pursing is going to be worth it,” Knight said.
Going to community college does not guarantee a job, but it does provide opportunities for people like Knight and Gulley. It provides an opportunity for anyone to become educated regardless of past educational experience.
“JCCC gave me opportunity to pursue my degree reasonably within my own pace, for relatively inexpensive means, not being sucked into an inescapable financial hole just to get a degree.” Knight said.
So, whether you are right out high school or later in life, community colleges can be a great opportunity for you, finically and academically.
Students need to be aware of the financial and academical benefits community college provides before making the big decision. That is reason I have created a website dedicated to all thing’s community college related. If you are interested in checking out my website and would like to learn more, click here.
By Yohannes Girma