You’re fresh out of high school and all your friends are talking about their university choices. They ask you where you’re going and you respond “community college.” They don’t say anything that’s hurtful, but you can feel the air is heavier. Why though? You were excited about going to a community college, so why aren’t they? There’s a stigma against students who go to community college rather than straight to a university. But do those hold any truth or is it a result of classism?

Now, what exactly is classism and what does it have anything to do with community college and universities? Classism is prejudice against or in favor of people belonging to a particular social class. Universities are considerably more expensive than community colleges but people tend to believe it’s lesser educational value due to the price. But that’s not the only difference between community colleges and universities, so I went out to ask two people with reversed experiences with community college and a university.

Tarin, 24, went to Glendale Community College (GCC) for music education before transferring over to Arizona State University (ASU) for the same program. I asked him why he chose GCC as his first college and money was the primary reason. Unfortunately, not all of Tarin’s credits were able to transfer over, “about 8 to 12 credits so I basically had to redo an entire semester.” He went on to say that the repeated semester was more because his major was music rather than something more common like business. At the time he attended GCC, the school was only able to provide for half the classes he needed, but later said that the school now does. The final question of the interview was which school he preferred more to which he responded, “That’s a complicated question. I enjoyed the smaller size of community college and the students were more down to earth. But there was a lack of community since nobody lived on campus or around. Not a lot of GCC merch compared to ASU merch. I enjoyed my time equally at both but for different reasons.”

Stephanie, 23, went to NAU after high school but found herself taking classes at GCC after a year up north. Similar reasons to Tarin, she wanted to go to GCC as it was more affordable and closer to home. GCC’s classes were able to transfer over to ASU—which she chose after graduating. Funnily enough, Northern Arizona University (NAU) had credits that weren’t able to transfer to GCC since the classes were rather abstract. Across three different schools, her major stayed English through and through with GCC providing a majority of the classes. Stephanie said that community college and universities have their own atmospheres, but stated that GCC was more close-knit, class sizes were smaller, and it was easier to commute to.

Don’t let yourself fall victim to the stigma around community colleges if that’s the choice you want to make. If you choose one, good! If you don’t, also good! You know what path is best for you.

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