The Case for Community College

Art by Sophie Liu

by Jenin Mannaa

The fall of senior year is so idealized. Going into this year, I anticipated breezy weather, warm sweaters, and pumpkin-spiced lattes. Instead, I have been overwhelmed with college applications. Between managing high school and contemplating my future, the pumpkin spice lattes I was excited for have been replaced with loads of espresso.

I know I’m not alone in my obsession over the future. Every senior is facing their own proverbial fork in the road. Following high school, a student could move to Hollywood in hopes of making it on the big screen. Another student might pursue cosmetology, while another may choose to pursue higher education. The possibilities are endless.

Personally, I’m set on attending college, and traditionally a lot of students follow that route. But while navigating the finances involved in the college process, it dawned on me how blessed I was for the opportunity to pursue higher education. This realization made me recall an encounter I had with a friend who was facing a decision between a state university and community college.

She mentioned that she desperately did not want to attend community college. She felt as if her academic potential would be better suited to what she perceived as a more prestigious institute. Her embarrassment communicating that she didn’t have the money to fund her education upset me, and I realized that there are huge misconceptions surrounding community college.

Instead of thinking positively about community college as academically rigorous, convenient, and economically sound, parents and students stigmatize it. According to a survey conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling in 2018, greater than a quarter of individuals held “very stigmatized” views of community college transfers. What is ironic is that the level of stigma amongst those who work in college admissions was lower than 8%. If college officials are implying that there is little difference between a community college transfer and a first-year applicant, why are we so easily swayed by societal views? The pursuit of higher education is respectable regardless of the institute. A student attending a state university and a student attending community college both have the same desire to immerse themselves in academics. Why is one type of student praised and another shamed?

Luckily, there are a lot of ways to destigmatize community college. First, we have to acknowledge that individuals attending community college are not less intelligent than individuals attending a four-year institution. We also have to recognize the advantages of community college. The American Association of Community Colleges states that community college is 50% cheaper than four-year institutes. The smaller classroom sizes, the student support services, and the available programs are also huge advantages. Moreover, community colleges and universities are very similar, and students can easily transfer to universities once they have completed their associate degree.

As seniors, whatever path we decide to take should not be shaped by societal pressures. We need to support each other regardless of our personal decisions, because we are all scrambling to make a future for ourselves. Personally, I just hope I get to sit back and enjoy a pumpkin spice latte by next fall.

About Jenin Mannaa

Jenin Mannaa is a rising senior at Dunlap High School. Her stellar academic performance has granted her entrance to the National Honors Society at her school. Jenin has expressed her love for advocacy through her involvement on the Dunlap Speech Team as Junior and Senior Captain. Within speech, her primary goal has been expressing her identity as a Muslim American woman. Jenin attended IHSA State for Oratorical Declamation her junior year of high school. Within her speech team, she was also awarded Sophomore and Junior MVP. Jenin’s passion for the arts is evident through her involvement in Stage 323, where she was inducted in the International Thespian Society. She has also been involved in Concert Choir, Women’s Chorale, and Show Choir throughout her high school career. Moreover, her devotion to garnering support for ethnic minorities motivated Jenin to create Dunlap’s UNICEF Club, which educates students about the tribulations of underprivileged individuals in impoverished countries. Within UNICEF, she leads fundraisers, and within the first few months of the club she raised approximately $500. During her summers, Jenin has spent over 200 hours volunteering at the Unity-Point Methodist Hospital within the daycare or shadowing various doctors within Peoria.