Oh, So You Go To Community College?


Alyssa Greco

Does the stigma of community college outweigh the benefits it provides?

Westminster teachers and staff pride themselves on the prestige education provided in our curriculum. From thirteen, students here are trained to start brainstorming for college. It is assumed that all Westminster students will attend a four-year university, maybe even graduate school, but why is that the general assumption among the student body? 


College tuition has tripled since 1980, according to CNBC and New York Times. This makes it challenging for students to attend college when loans and debt are considered. Though it can be assumed that most students at Westminster live in a household where college is paid for, it is not fair to think that every situation is the same. 


Community college presents more positives than it does negatives. While it does not mean the traditional four-year university experience is completely cut out, the basis of community college is providing a higher level of education to undergraduate students for a better, more affordable price. 


Andrew Warner with US News stated in May of 2022, “According to data from the College Board, community colleges cost, on average, about one-third of in-state tuition at four-year public universities. For example, Washington residents attending North Seattle College will pay a little more than $4,100 per year in tuition and fees (without financial aid). Those attending the University of Washington—Seattle, on the other hand, will pay just over $12,000 per year.”

Community college often holds a stigma around it, especially at a prestigious school like Westminster. In reality, is there anything wrong with community college besides the fact that people view it as inadequate? Community college allows young adults to be more financially comfortable, get their grades up before attending a university if needed, and is a softer transition into adulthood. 


A two-year college program, like a community, can be defined as a blueprint, in my opinion. It gives a preview of what classes at a four-year college may look like and can help students decide if that is something they want to commit to. Getting to a four-year university, out of state even, and realizing it is not for you and deciding to drop out is a much more complex process than going to community college to take the time to decide. By the end of senior year, students are considered adults, but they still have a lot to figure out: and that is ok. Community college lets students know it is okay if they still need time to decide what direction they want in their future. 


The problem with attending community college is not that someone is following the community college itself; it’s the reaction people give when someone says they will be attending a two-year college. They judge as soon as “community college” comes out of someone’s mouth. It’s assumed they are inadequate, fall short of success, and are “lazy.” for those calling community college students lazy have not heard of the “A Plus Program,” The A plus program is a statewide organization that provides students with two years of community college paid for if they live up to certain requirements in high school. Some of these requirements for the program induce maintaining a 2.5 unweighted GPA or above, 95% attendance rate, and a minimum of 50 hours of community service for the high school. Any student that can reach these requirements receives the opportunity to attend community college for free and then continue to a university once done with all of their core classes. These requirements are attainable, but it requires hard work and dedication. Students attending community college on an A Plus scholarship are hard workers, which is clear.

Mark J. Drozdowski from Best Colleges stated that “roughly 7.7 million undergraduate students attend community college.” The popularity of attending community college is apparent, but its lousy reputation still draws attention away from the actual benefits of community college.

In an article written on June 14th, 2022, Drozdowski explains, “A lot of students believe they are too good for community college, or they could never attend there because their parents expect better or their peers will make fun of them. As community college leaders face enrollment problems, they need to realize that stigma is a real reason why they miss out on a lot of students.”

Community college by no means shows that the student falls short of the criteria of attending a traditional university; it is not something for which someone should face criticism. This has become a significant issue that some schools have entirely dropped the community from their name. The real problem is the pride and ego of others; they believe that they are above these people in some sense, but why? Undergraduates who chose community colleges have the upper hand over those at four-year universities. They save money, get their degrees quicker, and have smaller classroom sizes.


It is no doubt that community college sells students short of the original university experience. Community colleges do not have huge football teams, sororities, fraternities, or resident halls. Students who attend community college do this with the intention of commuting. They will either continue living at home or find an apartment on campus. For some people, this may feel like high school, waking up in your parent’s home, going to school, and then coming back: it’s almost like deja vu. Most people do not realize that living at home for the next two years is an additional way to save money. Half of the tuition that students pay tend to go toward resident halls. Living in a dorm is not as glamorous as it seems, especially when it costs $8,000 to $15,000 on average. These costs are even more expensive than buying an apartment, but community college students do not have to worry about this. 


Community college allows students to see life in the real world. Traditional universities are like a bubble. Students live on campus, go to class on campus, go to the dining hall, and rarely find themselves having to leave campus for something they need. Living in such a close-knit community is nice, but it is not realistic. In the real world, these students will find themselves going all over town for their jobs; they might live in an apartment that is a far commute, and much more. It can be overwhelming, but students of community colleges have been doing this for years; they got it.


Allow this to be a lesson for the student body of Westminster. As a proclaimed Christian school, treating others with respect we would want should be expected. With this being said, a student here should never be ashamed to tell others they will be attending community college but rather applauded for this decision.


Deciding to go to community college is not easy because while there are positives, students still need to give up a lot of college experiences to be here. Attending community college shows a particular type of responsibility rare in this world. A significant proportion of community colleges is the decision itself; it takes a lot of rationalizing and evaluating the positives and negatives. 

These students will look back years later and realize their decision to attend community college helped them tremendously. They won’t care about who said what about attending community college, so why bother saying anything? It is time for society to let go of their sense of entitlement and realize achieving any level of higher education is honorable, community college too.