by Calvin Schoneck
How many people can look back at their time at community college and honestly say that it was instrumental to their success or even what made them who they are? Is community college really a place for people to learn? Or is it just a place for people to quit and see things halfway through? I’d wager it is the latter; and who could argue with me when our graduation rate just barely tips the scale at 15% of the student body?
I’ve been on my own since the age of 15, and in my 20 short years, I have experienced more of the world than many of its 7.5 billion people could ever imagine. I’ve lived on either side of the country, traveled outside of it, attended three community colleges and a university, and yet I see people make the same mistakes.
Somehow, somewhere, we forgot about the joy that comes with a challenge and instead became obsessed with the pursuit of pleasure, and nowhere seems to better exemplify this than the college campuses in the United States. Nowhere else in the world will someone throw away an education and drown themselves in loans just for the sake of an “experience.”
I think that the fault here really lies with the abysmal primary school system and their two party system of assigning academic identities to students. The focus of primary education is to send students to university straight out of high school, and all resources are depleted in their efforts. Some students will be college-bound, but the majority of us are part of the “leftovers,” who are responsible for their own success and short comings.
Excluding my short time at The University of Washington, I don’t think that I have ever been part of a serious academic environment. Even though I seriously over-estimated my interest of a career in engineering, never in my life have I felt more inclined by my peers to push myself to be more than I already was.
I think that this is what community college really lacks, and it is almost perplexing as to why. In a school with classes that are 1/ 12 of the size of their counterparts at a university, one would expect that peers would be encouraged to push each other, or at the very least, more than 15% of us would be graduating on time. In almost every course I have taken at community college, half of the class is chronically absent and without care.
I don’t think that it’s fair to blame instructors at community colleges. In fact, they constitute some of the most intelligent and influential individuals I have had the fortune to meet, yet they are forced to tailor their curriculums to the study habits of teenagers in the throes of pubescence. I think it’s because community college doesn’t have the environment conducive to the maturation that the students here really need.
While university is increasingly difficult and more expensive to attend, the experience of belonging to a community beyond the family that is away from the influence at home is when people finally start to develop their own perceptions about the world and how it works.
Community college is not without its purpose, it offers people who were unable or uninterested in university, a chance at shaping their futures, but I think that the lack of community present at two-year colleges is especially harmful to the young people who attend them. Young people need to interact and collaborate with their peers since success at a four- year university and the job market is so heavily reliant on cohesion and cooperation, especially in competitive fields of study.
The major obstacle that I see for students at two-year colleges is the different demographics that the students belong to, and I am not speaking to race, nationality, sex, or religion. I am talking about age.
The difference between community college and university is that the people at university are all there for the same reason at the same time in their lives. At community college, there are people as young as 15 and others as old as our great-grandparents in the same class, each with a much different reason for attending.
I believe that everyone is entitled to an education, no matter who you are or where you’re from. It is a privilege to be able to live in a place where education is as easily accessible as it is, but at a certain point a distinction must be made between students who are serious about their academic futures, and those who are just participating.
Can a 16 year old running-start student ever academically, or even socially relate to someone three or five times their age who is there just because? Or vice versa?
Community college is an excellent opportunity for many people, myself included, but in reality it is not much more than a hoop to jump through for young people on their way to university.