Roving Teen Reporter: Community College Calling

As the school year winds to an end, many high school seniors are currently weighing their options and deciding what college they’ll attend this fall. But for some, higher education doesn’t look like the traditional four-year plan often recommended to students through their formative years. Rather, as the price of tuition creeps steadily upward, many students are choosing to begin at community college.


According to a 2023 survey conducted by the University of California, Davis and the California Student Aid Commission, of over 10,000 Californian survey respondents, more than 38 percent planned to enroll in a two-year California community college in the fall. This figure comes as no surprise when considering the sheer cost difference between a four-year college and a two-year one. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of college in the United States is over $36,000 per year–including books, daily living expenses, and supplies. In comparison, the organization found that the average cost of community college attendance is $8,220 per year.


However, the benefits of community college go beyond the cost. Not only do these schools boast more flexible schedules and the ability to live at home, but also they often offer a wider range of technical education programs such as firefighting and culinary arts, according to U.S. News and World Report.


“Community college gives young people the option to figure out what they want to study without having to spend a lot and figure it out before they attend a traditional college,” Sophie Keller, a Torrey Pines High School senior who plans to attend Mira Costa Community College, said.


Despite these benefits, there seems to be a barrier to students attending community college; namely, the social stigma. As found in research conducted by Bradley Griffith, a graduating Doctor of Education student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the stigma around attending community college can affect a student’s college choice as much as factors like cost and distance from home.


“Everyone thinks community college is good, just oftentimes not quite good enough for themselves or for their children,” Griffith said in an interview with UA Little Rock. “These stigmatized perceptions have a very damaging effect. There are a number of high school graduates who are completely ignoring community college because they look down on them or think they will be belittled for attending.”


For Keller, taking her next steps at a community college is the right choice, despite the “negative stigma.” “There is definitely something to be said for leaving at 18, becoming independent and living on your own,” Keller said. “But personally I think that giving myself these two extra years will better help to prepare me and not the other way around.”