Community colleges personalize learning
Community colleges have a reputation for allowing students to inexpensively complete their general education before transferring to a university, but to imagine this as the only benefit of community colleges would be a mistake.
The two-year colleges in the state, such as Contra Costa College, not only charge bargain-bin prices for higher education credits, but also provide individual support, certificate programs and the necessary services that allow students to develop strong academic foundations before moving on to a university.
"Above everything, (community colleges) are more personal," David Houston, humanities and philosophy department chairperson and professor, said. "But it's not just more personal encounters and individual attention, it's the personal commitment of professors to the students."
Houston said that classroom settings in universities are less intimate and often times students are taught by teaching assistants instead of the actual professor. The result is a research oriented setting in which students rely on themselves and their own fact-finding abilities with little to no individual attention from the professor to address their questions or concerns.
Journalism professor and department Chairperson Paul DeBolt said, "We don't lower standards, we work with students and provide support where they need it. Students who think that's the norm will be surprised when they go to a university."
"The teachers here have such a high level of commitment. They are real teachers," he said. "They are more focused on their teaching than their dissertation."
Associated Students Union President Ysrael Condori said his experience at CCC and service on the ASU Board changed his outlook on life and ultimately his career path. He said what inspired him most about some of the college's employees was hearing how they too began their higher educations at CCC and, after completing higher level degrees, returned to work at the college to make it better.
DeBolt is a prime example of this phenomenon.
He has taught at CCC for 34 years and was a student here from 1973-75. He also had his four children attend community colleges before going to universities, to ensure they had a firm idea for their futures and strong foundations before paying high tuition costs at four-year schools.
At CCC specifically, DeBolt said students exploring their higher education options and themselves have some of the best support structures made available to them.
"Students really have an advantage with all of the services offered at Contra Costa, from counseling to financial aid and assessment," he said. "It's first class."
Middle College High School student Diamonique Spain said, "The number one benefit (of community college) is you save a lot of money."
After graduating from MCHS later this semester, Spain will return to CCC for another year, or at least one more semester, to help her decide what she will major in, she said. She is currently considering majoring in African-American studies or marketing and communication.
"I don't really know what I want to be and I would hate to spend money at a four-year school while figuring that out," she said.
Houston said, "Community colleges open the door to higher education. They give students a chance to get a feel for what college is like and for what they want to do with their education."
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