Community College: Overcoming the Odds

Mamacita says:  The community college is one of the best things that ever happened to higher education.  Go ahead – turn up your nose and be all snobby about it – but it’s true and you know it.

So many of my students are overcoming tremendous odds to be in school right now. They’ve got families and mortgages and spouses/partners, some of whom disapprove of the whole “college” thing; they’ve got needy parents and in-laws and overdue bills and a sad lack of daycare options. On top of it all, most of my students have no job right now, and the defunct factories and Workforce are both being poopy about promises they’d previously made concerning tuition and books and actually coming through with things because education is the key to the future and you can count on us to back you up.

And yet, most of them show up, day after day or night after night, homework done, papers David beat Goliath. You can, too.written, knowing exactly which page we’re on and ready to begin again.

The majority of my students are fine, hardworking, upstanding people who genuinely want to better themselves: not just so they might get a better job at some future time, but also just so they’ll be, well, BETTER.

Sure, there are some clunkers. In any group there will always be losers. But the vast majority of my students this semester are prime. In their prime, and prime.

Follow your dreamsI love a mixed-age group in an academic setting.  The young have so much to offer the older, especially older students who are not responsible for raising them.  The older students have so much to offer the younger students, especially since (see above).  I firmly believe that all young people need older people to be mentors, people who are not related and who demonstrate love and friendship and genuine liking that are not required by blood.  In a community college classroom, there is a healthy mix of ethnicity, age, sex/gender, and you name it – it’s sitting there, notebook ready, pen in hand.  Usually also with cell phone silenced but turned on, because adult students have responsibilities beyond that classroom, a fact which many instructors and institutions choose not to acknowledge.

There is no shame in working a low-end, minimum-wage service believe in yourselfsector job – don’t misunderstand me.  NO SHAME in that.  But I do hope my students, many of whom are working such jobs, understand that this college degree, even more than many four-year university degrees, will open the door to better jobs.

Yes, that’s what I said.  Ofttimes, a community college degree will open more doors than a fancy university degree will open.

Community college degrees represent real life.  They represent practical, actual knowledge that the world not only needs; it requires.  I am not referring only to the many awesome and necessary skills that the world needs, truly NEEDS, such as air conditioning/heating/ the many vocational degrees that represent real abilities, nursing, etc; the community college offers many of the same academic classes that the university offers.  Students can take all kinds of math, from algebra all the way up to finite and calculus, and every math in between.  Students can get almost all of their English credits at the community college, with many of the same professors they would have at the expensive university.  Psychology, sociology, philosophy, most of the sciences. . . .  the community college is a COLLEGE.  And we will gladly welcome students the university rejects, knowing that most of such students just needed a helping hand to get them well on their way to the same and often higher standards met as the student who had the money to go to university.

I am not in any way putting down university; that’s where I got all my degrees and I loved it.  But after twelve years as a professor in the community college, I have come to understand that THIS is where it’s at.  This is where the groove thang resides.

Look closely and analytically and lovingly at your child.  Higher education is a requirement for almost every job that pays enough for basic survival, but there is more than one kind of higher education.  Explore them with your child.  Check out all of the possibilities and opportunities.  I highly recommend a year or two at the community college; those credits will transfer to the university.  Community college costs so much less than university; those savings will also transfer!  Some students need a little time to learn without stress.  Some students have been out of school for so long that they, too, need some time to get back in the learning mode.

In a community college classroom, students will come from all kinds of backgrounds.  There will be a mix of ages from 17 to 90.  There will be all kinds of lifestyles, all sorts of ethnicities, all manner of appearances.  The community college classroom is a rainbow of color, of wonderful everything, of wonderfulness in general.

The community college is one of the best things that has ever happened to education.  I will fight you on this one.  I will win.

I will win, because it is true.  It is wonderful, and it is true.



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