Community college to UCLAFormer Skyline College student Alec Roa wrote a compelling article posted on the jobs/networking website LinkedIn. Writing about the reasons why it’s advantageous for high school students to attend a community college, Roa says “My experience at Skyline College influenced a great deal of my article. Thank you Skyline College!”

His article, edited for length, is below. A link to the full article is located at the end of this section.


Dear California High School Student, go to community college!

Something that will instantly remove the negative stigma and shame your peers cast upon you for attending a community college out of high school is receiving your bachelor’s degree from a university you want to go to, in a field you enjoy and find yourself debt free in the process. If you are an outlier that worked hard enough to get accepted to a top 25 school and are fortunate enough to have parents that are a part of the top 10% of earners in California disregard this article. However, if you are a part of the majority that does not fall into these two categories, I would highly advise you to read this article thoroughly. Three years ago, I entered community college with the negative narrative of community college blasted in my ears, it is a narrative that most high school students are constantly fed. Three years later, I left my community college with acceptances from UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Barbara. I left my community college with an Associate’s degree. I left my community college with friendships and social capital I was told I would miss out on. I left my community college with valuable life skills and direction. However, best of all, I left my community college with $0 of debt thus far, along with scholarships and financial aid that will ultimately cover 100% of all my expenses at UCLA. I’m going to list various arguments in 3 separate categories that will hopefully open your eyes to the best-kept secret in higher education.

1. Finances

Instead of pulling out a high-interest loan for the first two years of my education I was actually getting paid to go to community college (Yes, I actually made a profit).

Finances Argument 1: You will save thousands of dollars.

Private Universities in California range from 30k-60k annually, the highly sought after University of California (UC) education averages at around 33k annually, the California State University (CSU) option, which is undeniably the cheapest choice for a student, still exceeds 10k annually when you factor in all expenses. When you compare these three options to a California community college, there is no question which is the smartest fiscal option. A full-time California community college student will only pay around 1-2k annually.

Finances Argument 2: Financial Aid is for Everyone.

Most individuals are under the impression that financial aid is only awarded to those who attend a 4-year institution. This is a common misconception that is merely a myth. The first step starts with filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) no matter what your income level is. After that, your community college will assess your eligibility for two primary forms of aid. First, the California community college system offers what is known as the Board of Governors (BOG) Fee Waiver. The (BOG) waives your per-unit enrollment fee (the current rate is $46) at any community college in California. It is important to note that you do not have to be in extreme poverty to receive this waiver, in fact, one million California community college students receive the (BOG) waiver throughout the state annually. If you demonstrate even more financial need on your (FAFSA) the second form of aid you can receive is a Federal Pell grant on top of your BOG Fee Waiver. The Pell grant does not need to be repaid and can award you up to $5,840 per academic year for any expenses.

Finances Argument 3: Scholarships and Financial Programs.

Scholarships are readily available regardless if you are at a community college or a 4-year university. It does take some effort in researching and applying in order to receive scholarship money, nevertheless a great deal of community college students receive at least one scholarship to aid their education. There are various financial programs offered at specific California community colleges. Scholarships are given on both a financial need and merit basis. Additionally, there are government funded programs that are present at virtually every California community college such as TRiO and SparkPoint. These two great government-funded programs can aid with a broad range of needs. These needs consist of the basics such as school supplies and books, groceries, financial planning, to even helping you get your first credit card.


2. Academics

I was taking the same exact course as the students at San Francisco State just at a remarkably lower price tag.

Academics Argument 1: General Education is General Education.

The first two years at a 4-year institution you will be forced to take “general education” courses regardless of your field of study. The general education courses at 4-year universities in California are the same exact courses that you can take at any California community college to fulfill your requirements.

Academics Argument 2: Academic Flexibility.

Community College gives you much more academic flexibility. What is academic flexibility? Simply put, academic flexibility is the ability to do what you wish to do with little to no consequences. In other words, there is significantly less pressure to commit to a particular field of study or commit to school altogether. When you are investing thousands of dollars in a course or a semester, it is tough to back out and switch paths. Whereas in community college, you have the freedom to test the waters to see what you truly want to do in the future. You do not like a course, that is fine. You rather do a trade program, that is fine. You want to work full-time for a semester, that is fine. Community college gives you the option to find your unique individual path.

Academics Argument 3: Professors are highly qualified.

A full-time position at a California community college is a highly sought-after position with a multitude of qualified candidates. Even young part-time professors have their masters finished at a minimum. These professors are highly motivated to help you develop as a student, with loads of one-on-one attention.

Academics Argument 4: Accessibility to professors.

Community college professors have one single job and that is to teach you. With this being said, you will get the luxury of constantly interacting with your professors on a daily basis.

Academics Argument 5: You can still get a degree!

I like to compare an Associate’s Degree to a minor, understanding that an (AA) by itself will most likely not hold a great deal of weight in the job market. However, when you supplement an Associates Degree with a Bachelor’s Degree (BA), you naturally become a much more attractive candidate in the job market. Employers love a candidate that is diverse with a multitude of skills. Community college gives you this extra opportunity to help diversify yourself for the job market, also if you end up not finishing your bachelor’s degree for any reason you will at least have something to fall back on.


3. Chances of getting into the four-year university of your choice

The UC system has a program for transfers at California community colleges which is arguably the best-kept secret in California higher education. This program is called “TAG” which stands for Transfer Admission Guarantee (yes, you read that right “guarantee”).

Everybody is different and we all have unique personal goals, so I will divide this specific argument into 3 parts that suit 3 distinct students.

High school student #1 you got rejected to every school you applied to and are debating school altogether.

High school student #2 you got into a couple impacted schools with 50-75% acceptance rates across the board.

High school student #3 you got into a multitude of great schools 35-50% acceptance rates, but feel admissions at the elite universities got it wrong, you only want to go to one of the top 5 Universities in California you know you belong at.


Read the rest of this article here:

Article by Alec Roa

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