The Stigma Attached to Community College

30 08 2010

I began my college career at a private, four year university in New York. The tuition was almost $50,000 per year, and even with scholarships and grants, I was taking out a considerable amount of student loans. The school was tiny, the department for my major offered little more than basic classes, and the environment was incredibly hostile for people with disabilities. And yet, I wanted to stay. Why? Two reasons.
A0 I wanted to be back in my homeland (homeland being the New York/North Jersey Metro Area)

B) My only other option was community college.

So, when I got a letter in the mail saying tuition was going to go up 4% each year (I was already taking out the maximum in Stafford loans) I was looking for a way to stay there. This particular school has a pretty bad retention rate, and I know a lot of people who left for more affordable state schools and community colleges. But not me.

When I was faced with the very real prospect of going to community college, I was terrified. It meant losing all of my independence (thanks, NJ Transit!), and besides, only stupid people went to community college right? Right?!

Wrong. So Goddamn wrong.

This thought had been drilled into my head from the moment I began high school. From teachers, friends, office staff, family, etc. “Do well in your classes or you might end up at Brookdale!” “Join some clubs, you don’t wanna go to Brookdale!” “Your college essay could put you at a top school, or community college,” Over and over and over for four years. This idea that only unintelligent people attend community colleges was drummed into me (and many other students) so much that I believed it.

Let’s break down this hateful stereotype, shall we?

Higher Education is a hugely inaccessible institution for most marginalized people. People of colour, poor people people with disabilities and trans women and men are routinely denied the opportunity to attend a four year college or university. There are many reasons for this, including cost, ability to successfully get through high school, rigid admissions standards, etc. From the way public schools harm oppressed children, to the absurdity of the SATs, it is made damn sure than marginalized people have a difficult time getting into a four year school. This is where community college comes in.

Community college accepts everyone, regardless of SAT score, incomeand high school performance. It is infinitely cheaper than a four year institution (and if you get a Pell like I do, you might even get a stipend), some majors (like Nursing or Criminal Justice or Education) will enable you to get a job without a Bachelor’s degree, andn many state schools have agreements with community colleges that allown for automatic acceptance upon graduation. These are only some of the reasons why it’s better to initially attend a community college, but because many students taking advantage of this are marginalized, it is seen as lesser by the Privileged. And since the Privileged deem it unworthy, it must be so.

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2 responses

30 08 2010
NotPiffany

Not only is it ridiculously cheaper, you’ll find some darned interesting professors. I’ve had at least three professors who hold degrees from Oxford. One of those spent a decade as a Una-bomber suspect, and another did classified things for the NSA. Two of the three teach community college because they prefer to teach rather than publish. The third teaches philosophy for a hobby; his “day job” is working on the ethics board and as a financial director for a hospital.

31 08 2010
Leah

That, too. People assume that community college professors are also lesser (or something equally absurd), but when I was at Pace, many of my professors also taught at BMCC. And now, most of my professors teach at the nearby universities. Your professors sound particularly neat, though.

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