Viewpoint: Community College Stigma

Andrea Johnson studies outside the Cambridge cafeteria on Dec. 11. PHOTO BY MARY SCHMITTAndrea Johnson studies outside the Cambridge cafeteria on Dec. 11. PHOTO BY MARY SCHMITT

Andrea Johnson studies outside the Cambridge cafeteria on Dec. 11. PHOTO BY MARY SCHMITT

Andrea Johnson studies outside the Cambridge cafeteria on Dec. 11.

During our time at Anoka-Ramsey, we have noticed there is a bias or stigma against community college students. In fact all of us have incidences where people have questioned why we go there. What these people don’t realize is that a community college offers a quality education for people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

A stigma is hard to quantify, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Each of us has had experiences, and know other people who have had their attendance at a community college questioned.

Rachel Tschida, a student at ARCC, recently took a trip up to Duluth, with the ARCC art club, in the college’s van. While on the freeway a group of young men in another vehicle pointed and laughed at the community college logo. Jenna Kolke a current student at Anoka-Ramsey was asked and is still asked when she is going to go to a “real” college. Sarah Solomon who is a student working towards becoming a physical therapist assistant, has also been asked by friends if she is attending the community college, because she couldn’t make it at a four year college.

Many students in high school are not getting the full story about furthering their education. There are seniors in high school that think they cannot go to college because they can’t afford it. Many of them have friends who are going away to college, because their parents have saved money for college over the years. There is still a misconception that college is just not affordable if you can’t acquire loans and that you can only get a good education from a university.

Honestly speaking, if the level of education was not acceptable at a community college then universities and private colleges would not accept credits that were transferred from a community college. These credits are accepted and can be applied to a four-year degree. Solomon said if she had to go to four-year college she would be broke and paying off her debts until she was 80. In this day in age with such high education tuition rates at the big universities, it’s smart to start your education at a community college, where the credit cost is more reasonable.

Kelsey Derner, an academic adviser at the Cambridge campus, had many things to say about the advantages of attending ARCC. There are many advantages of attending for anyone and everyone. People always talk about the rising cost of education and student debt. Anoka-Ramsey has the lowest cost of tuition and fees in the state. Adding to the low cost, a lot people are not sure what they want to go to college for. Attending Anoka-Ramsey for the first two years allows students to finish their general education requirements, and explore their interests at a cheaper rate. Being on the smaller side, especially the Cambridge campus, many students are able to get to know faculty and staff, and vice versa. Anoka-Ramsey has a transfer agreement in place with other four year colleges. This allows students to finish two years here and transfer their degree in its entirety to earn their bachelor’s degree.

We will look into the benefits for three specific groups of Anoka- Ramsey students.

The first group is PSEO students. ARCC has one of the biggest programs in the state. They want to help high school students get ahead of the game and earn as many college credits as possible. PSEO is at no cost to the student so it is a smart way to earn credits before they graduate. They will also be able to take those credits with them to any institution they end up attending.

ARCC graduate Adam Swanson said he was very pleased with his choice to attend a community college for his PSEO courses. He said he was able to have the best of both worlds by taking courses at ARCC, meaning that he was able to get a year of free college education, while still living at home, keeping his job, and staying involved in his high school; most of which would not have been possible at a four-year institution. Swanson went on to say that he fully believed the education he received from the community college he attended was just as prestigious and fulfilling as that of a four-year state university.

He is now attending Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu. All of his PSEO credits transferred to HPU without any trouble. “Overall, I’m really glad I did PSEO at a community college. I really enjoyed my year at ARCC and I don’t regret it at all,” he said.

If you are a recent high school graduate it is also a great choice that has many advantages. One advantage is that you can explore your interests and career paths at a lower cost than other colleges and universities. If you are from the area, you may also choose to live at home, and save some money while you figure out where you want to go. The small class sizes, approachable faculty, and great student resources may also help smooth the transition from high school to college.

First-year nursing student Shane Meyer is a recent high school graduate from Blaine High School. He decided to attend Anoka Ramsey, because the tuition was affordable, he would be able to stay at home and keep his job. He lives in Ham Lake, so the commute is a short distance from home and work.

Meyer said friends from high school did give him a hard time about attending a community college. He said it wasn’t about the level of education he was getting, but not going away to college with them and staying on campus. Most of his friends decided to attend a four-year university or private college. Meyer has been very happy with the level of education he has been receiving thus far. He really enjoys the professors, and feels that they are people who really enjoy teaching. He has not decided where he will finish his degree yet, but he is very happy that going forward he will not have large student loans following him there.

There is another group that benefits from attending a community college, those returning to college. If someone wants to return to college, and is working full time, ARCC offers flexible class times and formats, such as evening classes and online classes. ARCC would also work with that student to see where their credits come in, and figure out what degree is best for their educational goals.

Christina Kennedy is a returning student pursuing a nursing degree at ARCC. The benefits she likes about this community college is the fact that it is affordable and an easy commute. She did run into a few issues with the advisers concerning which classes will help her pursue her degree, which was a negative of her experiences so far at AR. She has attained a free ride through her program benefiting financially from the help of scholarships and the lowered tuition rates. In her experience with being a little older than the typical college student, Kennedy has a greater appreciation for knowledge and self-confidence to fulfill her academic goals.

Kennedy plans to finish her RN degree at Anoka-Ramsey then move on to working in the field as a registered nurse. In the future she may decide to transfer to another college to pursue an advanced degree in the healthcare field.

A lot of people have a problem with thinking the education isn’t up to par with that of a university or private college. The quality of education an Anoka-Ramsey Community College is high. Anoka-Ramsey is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and is part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System. Part of the mission at the college is that they are committed to excellence in teaching and learning.

The difficulty and quality of education is also questioned. Classes at ARCC are definitely comparable to those at traditional four-year schools. We have very knowledgeable faculty, and staff that are dedicated to our students. For example, at bigger institutions class sizes can be large and are often times not even taught by the professor. They have a teaching assistant do most of the lecturing. It is also worth mentioning our transfer agreements, again. The four-year schools that partner with us would not accept our degrees if they felt the quality of education was not up to par.

When you want to further your education, make sure to check out your local community college when making your decision. You might be surprised at all it has to offer.

About the Author

The Campus Eye Staff
The Campus Eye is published by students of the Cambridge and Coon Rapids campuses of Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Campus Eye articles in print and online represent the opinions of the writers and not the college or the student body.

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