Do you know the value of a community college?: RCTC is not the 13th grade

Lydia Hansen

Managing Editor

I believe community colleges sometimes get a bad rap and are considered inferior to regular four-year universities.

Maybe it’s because they only offer a two-year degree. Or because the majority of students come with the intention of transferring somewhere else before too long. Or maybe it’s because community colleges tend to be less expensive than a four-year university.

But do we confuse the price tag as an evaluation of worth? I think so. And I think that’s a mistake.

Here’s why I’m at RCTC: I chose it almost as an afterthought when I realized tuition at the private college I’m planning to graduate from cost $50,000 per year. RCTC was closer to home and significantly cheaper, allowing me to cut the cost of my college career nearly in half and spend a few more years living at home.

I’m not alone in making this kind of choice. I’ve spoken to many friends and fellow students who have similar reasons for choosing RCTC, but in the end, we’re all heading somewhere else. RCTC is just the springboard for our next big adventure.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Why burden myself with more student debt when I have a more economical option readily available? Starting at a community college before transferring to complete a degree somewhere else, is just a smart move, and RCTC has worked hard to make itself a great starting point for transfer students.

But don’t fool yourself into shrugging off the importance of the springboard you’ve picked. You won’t get far unless you’re leaping from solid ground. You have two years here: make your best use of them.

I hope RCTC students don’t confuse the relatively low price tag with an inferior education. RCTC might be offering an education at a comparatively low cost when compared to larger universities and private colleges, but that has more to do with where RCTC is getting its funding and the kinds of programs it offers than it does the quality of education we’re getting here.

Sure, it’s not an Ivy League school or nationally recognized on a Top Ten list. But you are at college to get an education, and there’s no reason you can’t get one here. From genuinely invested professors, access to tutors and advisers, and an administration that has more than 100 years of experience educating students, the resources you need to achieve excellence are available right here, right now, at RCTC.

Just realize that no matter how hard they try to give you an education, you still won’t get one unless you take advantage of what’s being offered. A bargain isn’t a bargain until you use it. If you use a coupon to save money on groceries, but then never use those groceries, you’ve wasted your money, and you might as well not have used the coupon in the first place.

Your education is your responsibility. You’ll only get out of it what you put into it — and I’m not talking about money here. Time, effort, and dedication can make your education here world-class. The determining factor is what you choose to do. If you fool yourself into thinking RCTC is nothing more than a continuation of high school, you’re selling yourself short. You’ve just invested $5,000 into yourself — make it worth your while!

Take college seriously. RCTC is not the 13th grade. It’s a halfway point between a four-year university and high school. Take advantage of your unique situation and prepare yourself for where you’re going next. You have so much more to lose when the price tag is $50,000 instead of $5,000.

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