The Misconception of Community College


Katie Lawrence, Staff Writer

Ask almost any high school senior about their college plans, and they will likely respond with a list of schools far from home.

Somehow students decided that community college was not as up-to-standard to them as universities and other colleges.  To most 17 to18-year-olds going away to school and living in a college dorm is the more attractive choice anyway.  Staying home offers just as many educational opportunities, and it seems to be the thrill of leaving home with the misinformation of county colleges that drives students to attend a four-year college.

Brigid Keogh, a freshman at York College of Pennsylvania, went away to find more freedom from her parents.  She was able to experience life, outside of her childhood home, while discovering more about herself.  Since she received an appropriate amount of help, financially, from her school, she felt it made sense to go away her freshman year.  “I can learn a lot from this new experience and I’ve gained some new friends,” Keogh said.  “I think that it was the best decision for me.”

Students agree they are tired of being imprisoned by their hometown.  Among others, Keogh was eager to start this “new chapter” in her life.

A college junior, Holly Phillips, left home for Elizabethtown College.  She describes her basis for going away.  “The biggest influence in that was my independence as a person and seeing my sister do it and wanting to do something similar,” Phillips said.  She felt she needed to be somewhere new for her to grow.

Ocean County College student, Lauren Torick, thinks independence is a huge factor of college no matter where you attend.  “No one is holding your hand.  They don’t care if you fail,” Torick said.  Students are responsible for their coursework, grades, schedule, job, etc.

Community colleges are useful for all different kinds of students, especially those who are saving up or still finding their strengths.  Nicole Nigro, a junior at The College of New Jersey, originally planned to go away right after high school.  She wanted to discover what it would be like to be on her own at school, like her friends.  She decided to opt for Ocean County College to give herself more time to figure out her career and in the process, save money.  Nigro expresses her gratitude for the school and the experience and opportunities it gave her.

Nigro feels people dis community college because they do not believe their credits will transfer.  She admitted the process can be difficult, but worth it.  “You need to stay organized to make sure all your classes transfer,” Nigro said.  “You also need to talk to the right people.”

Coordinator of Transfer Services at OCC, Laura Wills, stresses the importance of being responsible for your transfer.  “Many students believe I send out the application and materials, but at the college level it is up to the student to complete the process.  I am here to guide students,” Wills said.

When a student has talked to a transfer representative and is aware of what is needed for the transfer process to be complete, it should not be as big of a headache as it is made out to be.  “Many states have adopted 2+2 transfer laws like our New Jersey Statewide Transfer Agreement,” Wills said.  “And therefore, have become more transfer friendly overall.”  These services are available for any student, unless they chose a closed degree.

Carolann Lulias, Guidance Counselor at Toms River High School East, has first-hand knowledge on the opinion of community college among high school students.  She explains most students attend county college due to their financial situation, to avoid long-withstanding and growing loans, or the fact they are not ready to go away.  These students also find community college dull.  They don’t find it exciting because “they’ll know other students and it’s not the fresh start they would have somewhere else,” Lulius said.  “Therefore, attaching a stigma to it.”

Lulius also debunks the claim made by high school and college students that community college courses are not as challenging.  This being the reason why county colleges have become many students’ “safe school;” incase they don’t get accepted into their top choices.  She points out that if the classes were not up-to-standard, four-year colleges and universities would not accept the credits.  “The programs are designed to prepare students for whichever major they intend to pursue.  College is college is college,” Lulius said.

Keogh recalls this attitude of community college from days in high school.  “I do think that since a lot of people told me that they hate Ocean County College, it did make it seem worse than it actually is,” Keogh said.

Community college makes more sense for some than others, but it is definitely not just the “easy” choice.