Many students plan to attend a university right after high school graduation. Yes, it costs a lot of money, but the alternative is community college and that sounds so…unexciting. No prestige, no college experience, limited offerings.
At least, that’s the common perception. But more and more, community colleges are expanding their services to compete with major universities. Many have campus housing, sports, campus life and lots of activities. Plus, they can save you tens of thousands of dollars on the cost of your degree.
Unfortunately, they face a negative—and completely false—stigma. We’re here to help lift that stigma by clearing up some common myths about community colleges that need debunked.
Myth 1: They don’t have my program.
It doesn’t matter. Almost every degree at every school requires general education classes such as math, English, art and science that can be taken anywhere. What’s the point in paying $1,500 per class when you can take the exact same class at a community college for $300? You could save $1,200 per class by taking those courses at a community college instead. Times that by the average eight required general education classes and you save $9,600—that’s the price of a nice used car.
Often though, you can complete more than eight classes at a community college—usually the first two years of a bachelor’s degree. It could result in savings of up to 80%.
Myth 2: The quality of the academic programs is not as good as at a university.
Actually, the academics at a community college can be much better than those at a university. For one thing, many university instructors are required to continually contribute relevant research to their fields. They are under a ton of pressure and frankly, teaching you is not their first priority. In fact, many times teaching assistants, who may only be a year older than you and have no idea what they’re doing, teach class instead of the faculty member. At a community college, 100% of instructors’ time is devoted to students and to teaching, and all classes are taught by instructors with advanced degrees.
The class sizes are also much smaller, which means you can get to know your instructors personally, and they are more available to help if you are struggling.
Myth 3: There’s no prestige in a community college degree.
Here’s the thing: after you get your four-year degree, most employers aren’t going to care where you spent the first two-years; they are only going to see where the final degree came from. To an employer, your degree from the University of Michigan is the same as a student who spent all four years at the University of Michigan.
Myth 4: I won’t get the “college experience”.
Yes you will! Community colleges (and SMC in particular) are realizing the importance of the college experience and are going to great lengths to provide it for their students. Some have even built dorms so you can live on campus just like at a university. Most have sports, student centers and student events. Plus, the small size of community colleges often creates a tight-knit community and caring atmosphere.
Myth 5: There aren’t as many opportunities at a community college.
This is an understandable objection, but it isn’t true. The opportunities are there, you just might have to work harder to get them. Take studying abroad for example. Your community college might not have a formal program like a university (though some do), but there are other organizations that provide study-abroad outside of universities. Whatever you want to do, you can find a way to do it…you just have to be resourceful (a great skill you can add to your resume).
And, because of the small size of community colleges, students are often able to start their own organizations or begin a campaign. If you don’t see something you like at a community college, just ask about it! You may be able to bring a program to your campus or start your own group or campaign—leadership skills that are also resume worthy.
Community college is a great starting point for everyone, regardless of his or her educational goals. The significant cost savings, access to faculty and resources and student life offer many advantages over a four-year university that can’t be beat.
Do yourself a favor and compare the cost savings of completing two years at your local community college before ruling them out. And don’t forget to check out Southwestern Michigan College! Start exploring what we have to offer.