Life At A Community College Essay, Research Paper
Life at a Community College
Through the years, community colleges have always had a negative stigma attached to its name. Even today, this negative stigma is still present. However, the misconception of an undergraduate curriculum from a junior college is inferior to an undergraduate curriculum from a university is becoming widely accepted. The popular notion that people foresee in a community college is that it is mainly a place for those people who did not possess the knowledge to attend a four-year university. This, however, is a big assumption towards some of the students that attend community colleges because many people enter into a community college for many different reasons. One reason, for example, people attend a community college first is the financial disadvantage many people have; therefore, it seems that going to a community college is their only choice. The price for a general education in a community college is significantly lower than that of a general education in a university. Because of the lower costs, the possibility to receive a quality education or trade comes into reach for everyone who is financially challenged or hasn’t made a career choice. Despite the negative
misconceptions of junior colleges, they bridge the gap between high schools and universities and create opportunities for more of the United States population to achieve higher education.
Understanding the need to establish a college, of which, provides an opportunity for the United States population to achieve a higher level of education, William Rainey Harper, the first president at the University of Chicago, created the first junior college in the year of 1892. He did this by dividing the university into two different parts; one was called the upper division and the other called the lower division. The upper divisions were known as the ?Senior Colleges? while the lower divisions as the ?Academic Colleges? (Witt et al. 14). Harper wanted these two separate colleges to focus on the different levels of training; primarily, the ?Senior Colleges? was to focus more on the advanced courses while the ?Academic Colleges? focused more on the less advanced courses. Harper also envisioned that a two-year school would soon stand on its own; however, it would still be affiliated with the university.
Junior colleges, also mostly known and referred today as a community college, were first thought about because educators began to realize that students needed more educational opportunities after high school. The idea of these smaller colleges came about because educators saw that a lot of students were not able to go away to a four-year college after high school and they also saw that extending high schools for two more years could never happen (Brick 8).
Although Harper was highly associated with these ideas in the creation of a two-year institution, he was not the only one involved with them. Alexis F. Lange, Dean of the School of Education at the University of California, also wanted to encourage students to further their education. Lange realized that there were a lot of students that did not need, nor want, to go on to a four-year college and he felt that community colleges should focus more on providing vocational preparation. Thus, he urged college administrators to prevent the ?wrong persons? from attempting to fulfill transfer requirements when these courses would only hurt them instead of help them. Lange proposed that community colleges should prepare students to be active and effective in community life. As more people became aware of the many benefits that a community college would offer a student, the creation of such an idea was inevitable to stop.
The first actual junior college was Lewis Institute in Chicago and was established in 1896. Since then, hundreds of junior colleges have been established throughout the United States, with most of them being affiliated with a major university. This also made it easier for students to transfer to upper levels of education. To date, there are 106 junior colleges in the state of California, of which, San Diego encompasses a good portion of them (Mesa 1). These include City, Mesa, and Miramar community college. As of yet, Mesa community college is one of the most prestigious of these colleges.
The notion of establishing a San Diego community college was in 1914 when the Board of Education authorized a decision to bring the many benefits of a community
college into San Diego. In 1916, the first real community college classes were held in the classrooms of San Diego High School, but later moved into its own facility. Having only 4 faculty members and 35 students, classes were relatively small with little benefits given to the students. This, of which, is understandable because of the fact that the class size was so small. In 1939, San Diego Community College provided college classes in the evening; as a result, this would allow adults who are unable to attend classes in the day to attend classes in the evening. Allowing classes in the evening greatly increased the number of adults returning to college to further their education. It also greatly diversified the environmental factors in the community college. In 1964, San Diego Mesa Community College was opened to students and provided a 1,800 capacity limit at that time. Five years later, San Diego Miramar Community College was opened. Although Miramar College only emphasized vocational education, it later on changed their curricula to provide areas in general education. With these three community colleges greatly emphasizing curricula in general education, the goal intended for a community college to possess was fulfilled. In 1972, San Diego community colleges became its own district when the voters decided that these community colleges would beneficially provide better services to the students if it were to become its own district. Being separated from the San Diego Unified School District has changed the way the curriculum was run and also provided new services and programs to their students. As seen through the years, community colleges have greatly increased in size, the average
number of attending students go up to the thousands in size each year, providing better benefits in higher levels of education for those who want it.
Along with the benefits of attending a junior college, there are some negative aspects associated with it as well. The most striking negative aspect is the notion that junior college is inferior to four-year universities. Unfortunately, this opinion is held by many in our society ranging from journalists to students who attend junior colleges. By many, junior colleges are viewed as ?high school with ashtrays? or ?? places you went if you couldn?t get in anywhere else, couldn?t afford anywhere else or didn?t know better? (Featherstone 87). Yet for some, a junior college is a last resort for students who were unable to attend a university, but this does not represent every student at a junior college.
This assumption causes apprehension and embarrassment to the students who attend junior colleges for reasons other than the ?last resort?.
Junior colleges allow anyone to attend which gives everyone a chance to further their education. Since anyone can attend, another assumption arises. It is thought that junior college students are lazy or lack the knowledge to attend a four-year university. Yet junior college have become a primary bridge leading students into four-year
universities. Thus, junior colleges are adequately preparing students to compete at a university level.
The increase in tuition and competition are causing many students to choose junior colleges over universities. Junior college offers many students a cheap alternative to
equivalent expensive university classes. They are not wasting their money on required classes that have little impact on their major. These students who are attending junior college to complete the general education requirements are making wise monetary decisions. At any level, junior college or university, a student must be serious about learning to achieve an education. Thus it takes more than wise educational decisions to create a successful student. Yet the stigma attached to junior colleges is a notion students learn to accept.
Community colleges are different from other colleges and universities in many ways. The tuition fees are the most noticeable difference. Unlike universities, community colleges are lower in cost and size. The cost of attending a university could mean paying more than $10,000 a year. The fact is that many students wanting to attend a university are not able to afford that amount of money. Some are forced to rely on a second job or find some type of financial aid to help assist them for the expenditures. At a community college you can get the similar courses you would get at a university for a much lower price. Not only is it lower in cost but the population of students compared to a university is much smaller. There are a number of students who are not able to take the courses they
want due to the fact that the classes they choose are overcrowded with students. In community colleges, classrooms are not as overpopulated therefore enabling more students into the course.
In California, community colleges have a low cost per unit. Each student is required to pay $12.00 per unit, and typically a course is between three and five units. Twelve units per semester are considered full-time, which means a full-time community college student pays only $144.00 for their courses. This equates to $288.00 per academic year. This is significantly inexpensive compared with fees from other colleges and universities.
State funded schools are typically less expensive than private universities. In San Diego, both San Diego State University (SDSU) and University of California San Diego (UCSD) are state funded. SDSU charges its students two different rates. These rates are based on the amount of units the student takes in a semester. A student taking less than six units pay $618.00 per semester, whereas the student who takes more than six units pay $950.00. A full-time student pays $1900.00 per year to attend SDSU (Emanski 319).
Subsequently, UCSD has a different payment philosophy. They believe all students should be full-time, therefore all tuition fees are relatively equal. UCSD bases its academic calendar on the quarter system rather than the semester. This means per quarter, students at UCSD spend $1400.00 on their courses, which amounts to $4200.00 per year. Yet this is also relatively inexpensive when compared with private universities (329).
Private universities, such as University of San Diego (USD) and Point Loma Nazarene, are very costly. They do not receive financial support from California therefore
their revenues are created directly from the student’s tuition. Courses at USD are $510.00 per unit, which means full-time students pay $6120.00 per semester and $12,240.00 per
year (333). The tuition is practically mirrored at Point Loma Nazarene (316). There are other cost considerations such as books, supplies and parking permits, which have not been equated into their tuition costs. These other expenses will further increase the cost of attending college.
Yet cost is not the only difference between universities and colleges. Each school offers a limited range of degrees. These degrees can range from Associates degrees (A.A., A.S.), to Bachelors degrees (B.A. or B.S.), to Masters and Ph.D’s. Associate degrees are offered at community colleges. This degree requires roughly two years of course work, compared with the four to six years for a bachelors. Unfortunately, community colleges are limited to associates degrees. Yet a community college allows students to transfer their courses to a university where higher degrees can be attained.
Universities offer bachelors, masters and Ph.D degrees. It is at these universities where students are exposed, in depth, to their major (316-333).
A student must complete many courses to obtain their degree. Within these courses, students are exposed to classrooms, laboratories and lecture halls. Universities are known for having larger class sizes than community colleges. An introductory lecture’s average class size at UCSD is 300, where at a community college it is usually less than 40. Schools with smaller class sizes typically have greater success rates usually
because instructors are able to devote more attention to individual students when the class size is small. The student/teacher ratio is another factor regarding the success of the student. At SDSU, the ratio is 21:1, whereas the ratio at a community college is closer to 13:1 (316-333). Each of these differences contributes to stereotypes of the individual schools and the students who attend them.
The misconception that the junior college is a place for the educationally challenged, or that it offers an inferior education, is complete hogwash. The junior college student will generally find the level of education to be on par with the four-year colleges. As we have seen, the community college has become an essential part of the educational system in our society by being the right step for many different people with many different circumstances. For some students it provides a vehicle to transition from high school to the four-year college or university. For those people that are considering a career change, the community college provides the opportunity to learn a new skill or trade at an every reasonable cost. Yet for others, it simple affords the opportunity to continue ones educational goals, whenever one decides to resume his or her education. Education is important in life. Had there not been a community college system, many people would not have realized their educational goals. As research has shown, without a formal education, most people are less likely to tap their full earning potential. It is important to look at the positives that the community college system provides to communities across the nation. If the people who discredit the community college system
would take a deep look into it, they too would see the great fulfilling value of this institution known as the community college.
Brick, Michael. Forum and Focus for the Junior College Movement. New York:
Teachers College, 1963.
Emanski, Joseph G., ed. Four Year Colleges. New Jersey: Peterson?s, 1998.
Featherstone, Liza. ?The Half-Price Diploma.? Rolling Stone. 797: 87-90.
Mesa College 1998-1999 Catalog. San Diego: SDCCD, 1998.
Witt, Allen A., et al. America?s Community Colleges: The First Century. Washington,
D.C.: Community College, 1994.