Why Consider Community College (Seriously)?

Samuel Cotta

March 01, 2024

When a Bay Area high schooler asks about what college to attend, the response of almost every parent is something like “4-year private college.” Indeed, this is the intuitive answer lying dormant on most of our tongues. However, we may be excluding a key piece of information at this table of future consideration—and much more than a lack of hospitality may be at stake. 

California boasts the largest system of higher education and some of the highest-rated community colleges in the country. For example, Santa Barbara City College (5 hours from the Brutus HQ) is rated #8 on Niche.com for Best Community Colleges in America and #3 out of 116 community colleges in-state: a world-class education with the added bonus of substantially subtracted stress.            

Not only is admission into colleges like this both free and guaranteed, but later on there is a much more decent chance of getting into a UC—that is, after 1-2 years of getting a better idea of what you want to do with the rest of your life. The UC system also happens to offer an exclusive TAG program (Transfer Admission Guarantee), guaranteeing admission into a UC if you fulfill certain course requirements at a California Community College. Even so, taking part in the program is far from a requirement, as ⅔ of accepted transfer students are not involved. Here’s a more detailed explanation to check out if you’re interested: https://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/_assets/uc-tag-matrix-2024_2025-2.pdf

At a community college, you can not only fulfill general education requirements, but also complete lower-division study for your degree. For a CSU, you can go straight into higher-division coursework in an Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) pathway. Concerning the transfer process itself, in-state students have a slightly better shot at financial aid, and the vast majority of the transfer population is also in-state. According to UC Berkeley, nearly 30% of UC undergraduates are transfer students (https://cogsci.berkeley.edu/undergraduate-program/resources/transfer-students-resources#). Additionally, UCs don’t usually accept recommendation letters for transfer students, but some majors request them as part of a required supplemental application. 

Upon statistical investigation of community colleges, a con that immediately sticks out pertains to graduation rates: only 3% finish community college in 2 years, but this is “almost always because students transfer to new schools before graduation,” according to the short documentary “A Choice,” which can be found on SHS Map [YouTube Channel]. Later in the film, Leo Villaboso, director of outreach at West Valley Community College, states, “We have so many different clubs, opportunities for students to get involved…and we even have a study abroad program.” Especially in California, it’s entirely possible to get the same lower-division experience—or better—than you would at a 4-year university at a much more affordable price, saving tens of thousands on tuition and making your time at private college a lot more worthwhile. 

Even with all this going for community college, cons concerning prestige and opportunity remain an obstacle for this educational route, shunning it as some kind of emergency detour. Many parents are wholly convinced about the right path for their child in an ever-increasingly competitive admissions landscape. For that very reason, however, students should be educated on all available options in order to make their own adaptive decisions. Also, excessive stress typically doesn’t do any favors when a success goal can be achieved in a more economical and enriching way. If the community college path seems paved with pros for you, trying it out may perhaps be worth the patient process of parental persuasion. Maybe it can be a sunray on your horizon—and a pretty refreshing one at that.