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Are you fit for Community College?

Uploaded: Sep 27, 2018
(Written by Lori McCormick)

I have written about this topic before but feel it is worth repeating. I love community colleges! For the right student, starting at a community college can be a place of self and academic discovery, not to mention affordability.

So how do you know if you are a good fit for community college? While there are many factors to consider, here are a few of my favorite reasons:

1. Financial. Community colleges are affordable. Using Foothill College, a local community college, as an example, current tuition is $31 per unit plus basic fees. The total estimated cost of attendance for a school year is about $3,000. In comparison, the UC estimates a student will spend $32, 000 per year.
2. Maturity. For various reasons, leaving home is not meant to happen for every recent high school graduate. Attending community college allows students to take the time to mature, explore who they are, and figure out their next steps, all the while taking transferable lower-division courses.
Did you know some community colleges offer residential programs? This is a wonderful option for a student who is ready to become more independent but wants to keep their college costs down.
3. Smaller class sizes. I love telling my students that when I was in my undergraduate program at a UC, I took a class in a movie theater off-campus. In fact, many of my classes were in larger lecture-style classrooms. It was fine after I had adjusted to college, but that first year was tough. There is something to be said about the intimacy of a small classroom. You get to know your classmates and professors on a level you don’t get when you are, well, in a movie theater. Another factor to consider is letters of recommendation. If you want to apply for an internship or a study abroad program, for example, you will need letters of support from your professors. How personalized would your letter be from a professor who doesn’t know you?
4. Certification Programs. Community colleges offer a variety of certification and apprenticeship programs that get students job-ready in their chosen field in less than two years. Popular programs include cosmetology, automotive, fire technology, law enforcement, dental or medical assistants, pharmacy technicians, and early childhood development, to name a few.
5. Flexible scheduling. Community colleges tend to offer an array of classes throughout the day and evenings. This flexible scheduling affords students the opportunity to take on full time (or part time) internships or jobs while earning their degrees.
6. Second Chances. Perhaps your high school transcript doesn’t reflect your fullest potential? Community college is a place to clean the slate. You get to reinvent your academic self, all while working toward a transfer plan. Look for Transfer Agreements with UC, CSU, and a variety of private colleges at your community college.
7. Be the First. Students who are undocumented, underrepresented, or first-generation have found strong support systems, like EOPS and Puente to help them become the first in their family to earn a college degree.

These are just a few of many reasons why I love community colleges. If any of these factors resonate with you, check out your local community college and see if this is a good fit for you!

Comments

 +   9 people like this
Posted by lan, a resident of Monta Loma,
on Sep 28, 2018 at 6:50 am

I used to think that the community colleges were the answer to many of our higher education problems, and I love what the community colleges in Silicon Valley offer to the community. However, after working with young adults who attended local community colleges, I have grave concerns. Not only are these individuals not as capable intellectually, but their their maturity level is very low. This unfortunately translates into low productivity, lots of excuses, and complaining.

These employees seemed great at the interview, resumes were organized, they were cheerful and upbeat. It was when they actually had to do some work that they tanked.

What I have heard from these employees who attended a CC for two years is they loved their time at the CC. What they also said is they felt lost when the transferred to a four-year institution. Perhaps community colleges have taken hand-holding to such a level that some (many?) students are not picking up important skills of independence and these students expect the four-year institutions they transfer to and their employers to replicate the CC's womb-like environment where everything is comfy and safe.

I realize my small sample isn't representative of the entire population of young adults who attended community college for their first two years, but going forward I will need to ask different questions in interviews to some how better identify the strong community college student graduates from the weaker ones, and unfortunately I will be extremely cautious in hiring anyone who did not go straight to a four-year institution.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 28, 2018 at 11:05 pm

>> I have grave concerns. Not only are these individuals not as capable intellectually, but their their maturity level is very low.

Today's students are hardly as capable or serious as previous students going to more respectable schools like Yale with the raping and "boofing" and the blackout drinking. Give me a break please.

I will agree that almost everything in our culture these days is designed to lead people off the path or responsibility, first towards debt. The movies, the TV, the radio, the music, and the pornography and most of all the noise and chaos in our discussion. When will we wake up to the fact that you cannot immerse a society in garbage and toxicity and expect to create good effective productive citizens?


 +   4 people like this
Posted by James Arthur, a resident of Community Center,
on Sep 29, 2018 at 1:20 am

I love community colleges! For the right student, starting at a community college can be a place of self and academic discovery, not to mention affordability. I will agree that almost everything in our culture these days is designed to lead people off the path or responsibility, first towards debt. The movies, the TV, the radio, the music, and the pornography and most of all the noise and chaos in our discussion. When will we wake up to the fact that you cannot immerse a society in garbage and toxicity and expect to create good effective productive citizens?


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Local Gems, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 1, 2018 at 11:33 pm

@Ian,

We must be seeing different community colleges. Our local community college had a ton of students transfer to UC's, 3 transfers to Stanford just last year, and a host of other illustrious colleges. We talked to a STEM department chair at one of the top UC's who said the transfer students do very well.

One of my spouse's best hires (engineering) started at another local CC. Community colleges are very heavily used by independent learners like homeschoolers who tend to be MORE mature and have an easier time adjusting to college because they are used to self-directed learning.

I took a class at that same local CC that was significantly better than the same subject I took in a very expensive class at Stanford Extension. The CC class was less "rigorously" academic and yet I understood the materials far better and was applying it far better.

Just how small is your sample size? What were the fields of these students? The local CC's have some programs for fields like physician assistant that are so competitive, the students usually have to apply more than once to get in.

I think we are really lucky to have such great local community colleges and disagree with your assessment.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 2, 2018 at 11:59 am

Posted by lan, a resident of Monta Loma,on Sep 28, 2018 at 6:50 am

>> Not only are these individuals not as capable intellectually,

Not everybody is above average.

>> but their their maturity level is very low. This unfortunately translates into low productivity, lots of excuses, and complaining.

I'm trying to understand if this is just your sample, or, has much broader implications. I see a lot in today's world that seems designed to force young people to stay as kids and to stay dependent on their parents for much longer than when I came up--

(during the postwar (WWII) baby boom, it was either sink or swim. But, in a world where there are so many only children, or, first-born/last-born but, no middle children, kids more or less forced to stay on their parents healthcare through age 25, what with the "gig economy" and all, it is very difficult for young people to be independent earlier)

-- it may be that young people are not as mature as we were at the same age:

>> These employees seemed great at the interview, resumes were organized, they were cheerful and upbeat. It was when they actually had to do some work that they tanked.

If that actually is true, at least for a large subset of young people, I wonder what could be done to improve the situation?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Local Gems, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 2, 2018 at 11:30 pm

@Anon,

I think there is no evidence that @Ian's experience is anything but a limited anecdote, and isn't representative. He hasn't answered how small his sample size is, but it sounds like he is extrapolating from just a couple of people to all community college. That's ridiculous.

Web Link

"At UCLA, for instance, more than 33 percent of the undergraduate population are transfer students. More than 90 percent of those students come from the state's community college system."

UCLA is one of the flagship UCs, and it is one of the few UCs that doesn't guarantee transfer, and yet it has a very large percentage of undergrads from community colleges.

That said, there is a lot of evidence that a large percentage HIGH SCHOOL students are not properly prepared to take either community college or 4-year college courses.



 +   3 people like this
Posted by Local gems, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 2, 2018 at 11:58 pm

@Anon,

Let's not have too rosy a view of the past. In the first part of the 20th century, an all too-high percentage of children stood a good chance of not even surviving into adulthood. We have a different standard now, thank goodness. I personally do not think things like safety or universal healthcare (which every advanced nation on the planet save the US has) "mollycoddle" anyway, and there's no evidence that children everywhere else where they have universal healthcare are less mature.

I have a different perspective, and it's the result of a lot of experience and observation over many years, and it fits with what many educational researchers are saying. The Prussian model of education, which is what our national education system is based on, was designed to create compliant workers for the industrial revolution. Doubling down on that system, dumping more and more homework on kids, is not the fault of their parents, and parents have little power to change this (just look at what's been happening locally). This is the single biggest challenge to student independence, the fact that their entire education, their entire developmental environment through age 18, is set up to compromise their independence. You can't blame that on parents when kids' spare time is supposed to be at the disposal of schools.
Web Link

Students in school get very little say over their lives and how they spend their time. Even in high school, adults think that letting them choose their courses and essay topics is some great freedom. This is one of the most frequently cited reasons people homeschool, for the independence, and homeschoolers who take their educations seriously tend to be more mature and better prepared for college. I heard that again just a few weeks ago from a college administrator, that their homeschool students handle college and the independence really well because that's what they've been doing all along. In fact, there is evidence that homeschoolers tend to do better in college and are better able to adapt.

Web Link

Web Link

I am in no way suggesting that everyone homeschool. In fact, I think a lot of homeschoolers wish for stronger partnerships with schools or that they could send their kids to school. But I am suggesting that schools can develop models that are much more respectful of students as human beings that would confer some of the benefits. Luckily, there is a lot of soul searching going on right now in education and reforms are in the works.

Reforms that respect the independence of students and try to customize and optimize education, rather than sort and sift, with lots of external direction, need to happen at the college level not just at the high school level. Reforms at the undergraduate and even graduate level, too, are happening nationally, albeit even more slowly. THAT is what can be done to improve the situation.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 3, 2018 at 10:23 am

Posted by Local gems, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,

>> @Anon, Let's not have too rosy a view of the past.

Seldom have I been accused of seeing the world through rose-colored glasses! I will do my best to correct the misapprehension. There was one thing that was much better, though: the graduated income tax rates that kept a lid on the spending of the super-rich.

>> I personally do not think things like safety or universal healthcare (which every advanced nation on the planet save the US has) "mollycoddle" anyway, and there's no evidence that children everywhere else where they have universal healthcare are less mature.

You misunderstood my comment. My comment was regarding having 25-year-olds on their -parents- -employment_based- health insurance. Although I support ACA, I always hoped that this was a temporary absurdity that will transition soon to universal healthcare.

>> The Prussian model of education, which is what our national education system is based on, was designed to create compliant workers for the industrial revolution.

Yes and no. The so-called Prussian model does two things: it stuffs some basic info into kids, and, it more or less teaches them that you must "show up". Now, whether working virtually or physically, you still have to -show up-, but, a lot of kids don't seem to get that now.

>> Doubling down on that system, dumping more and more homework on kids,

I don't respect the homework model and I think that it teaches the wrong lessons. Some young people seem to find it difficult to get work done at work because they are used to doing everything at home. I think much more time at school should be spent actually learning.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Local gems, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 3, 2018 at 12:11 pm

@Anon,

I think we are not far apart in some of our beliefs but we are maybe talking past each other in trying to make our points, because a forum like this is an imperfect way to communicate in such a conversation.

As for the 25-year-olds on parents insurance, I didn't misunderstand you, I was perhaps speaking too indirectly. Given the expectations of college, trade school,student loans, and the uncertainties of life for the 18-25 year-old set in our society, simply ensuring that kind of continuity as an expedient public health measure has, in my opinion, nothing at all to do with the maturity or independence of young people or whether they were educated at a community college.

When I pointed out that the Prussian model was designed to create compliant workers, you answered "yes and no" without any real support behind it, when this is just a fact. The Prussian model was brought back to the US by industrialists who admired the "human robots" such a system created. There was a major tweak in the '50 s when, given the "fixed" rather than "growth mindset" of the times, the schools became even more focused on becoming sorting mechanisms.

When the system is engaged more in sorting for certain kinds of (old-school, literally) talents, while at the same time inculcating compliance, a lot of the students are being set up to fail, frankly, in exactly the way you describe. Again, many homeschoolers see this learned helplessness kids develop from school only when they take their kids away from it.

There is a practice among homeschoolers that is described as "deschooling" -- which means basically unschooling for a period of time to deprogram kids from the constant external direction or feeling uneasy about being outside a situation with a steady stream of traditional school overhead. It's not just homeschoolers, many educators working with flipping classrooms and project-based programs find they have the same issue -- the "inmates" have to have time and support to adjust to the freedom or they may have trouble becoming independent in a healthy way.

Getting back to the issue at hand, a good community college is a good way for students to get career training or to prepare for good 4-year colleges, as the data show. The premise of the first poster is not borne out by the data.

However, the observation that so many students, even good students (especially good students) are coming out of high schools and even colleges unable to lead mature independent lives is not a new one nor a unique one. Solving that requires a reworking of an antiquated educational system, including, as I think we can both agree, giving students more autonomy and getting rid of the traditional homework model.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Charles95, a resident of another community,
on Oct 8, 2018 at 1:47 am

I used to feel it was better to just start working instead of going to community collage. After all, pursuing education is not for everyone and don't we all need trained specialists anyway? Needless to say, I've changed my mind.
I never had problems with studying. I was a gifted student, spent most of my school career getting straight As and succeeding in various competitions. Studying was easy for me/ The hard part, though? Everything else. I was an anxious kid, with very few friends, had trouble being social. I was always very close with my parents too and found it difficult to be away from them. I felt too anxious dealing with life, knowing there wouldn't be there to help me if I needed it. That's why I knew traditional college life away from my close ones would never be an option for me. I had what it took academically, but not emotionally. So community college it was. Now, five years later, I'm doing better than I ever was and I feel more confident than ever. It was the best choice for me and I believe there is no shame in admitting that.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Common sense, a resident of another community,
on Nov 11, 2018 at 1:29 pm

Common sense is a registered user.

Community colleges (formerly, and still in some instances that kept older names, called junior colleges) are a key component of California's rich public higher-education triad. Many people find them a good fit, or a path to further education. But they have limits, and must be seen in perspective.

Many of my Bay-Area high-school peers attended CCs, and some of those went on to other colleges. When I was a Berkeley undergraduate, engineering's most distinguished faculty member (with the rare rank of University Professor, privileged to teach in any department) had started out as a junior-college student.

But I saw the downside too. Large numbers of new faces arrived in my third undergrad year; they were the CC transfer students. And many of them truly weren't prepared. In one hard-science class that term, the CC transfers did so badly on the first mid-term exam (committing gross algebra gaffes that should have been shaken out of them during high school) that the professor gave an angry tirade, showing examples and predicting job incompetence in the event they even managed to graduate from UC.

I also got to know some transfer students, we studied hard together and did well. The reflection I got from them is that they'd taken CC classes claimed on paper as equivalents to those at UC. But the academic environment, the expectations, the diligence of their peers, weren't comparable at all. I've heard that repeated by others many times over the years, it is such a consistent message that I was surprised to see the defensive comments above by "Local Gems," who comes across intolerant of any critique of CC education. Yes we're very lucky to have CCs, but students aiming for further education still need a lot of self-motivation.



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