Community college becomes an increasingly better option


The Catalyst / Lauren Fitzgerald

Students should consider community college because of its affordability and accessibility.

On January 1, 2023, community college will become free for thousands of students in San Mateo County. Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed into law SB 893, a California bill supported by local elected leaders and students alike, which eliminates a $46-per-unit mandatory cost for low-income students.

“Every student deserves access to higher education,” said State Senator Josh Becker in an Instagram post on the matter. “Costs are too high currently. This bill changes that for students in the San Mateo County Community College District. It will not only allow for free tuition, but will waive many fees and support transportation and housing for low-income students.”

Students across the nation are considering community college now more than ever as a means of saving money or staying home for a few more years, all while working towards a degree.

While unit fees will be eliminated, costs can still add up. Between textbooks, transportation to campus and general fees from the cost of living, many students may continue to struggle to fund their education. However, the new law is a start and an indicator that as community college is destigmatized, its advocates will become the majority.

At NDB, around two percent of graduating seniors attend community college each year, and ultimately transfer to a four-year university after two years. That number jumped with recent graduating classes impacted by COVID-19. Many students expressed a disinterest in paying the cost of a four-year university while losing access to facilities or being unable to attend the campus all together.

So is community college as good an option as a four-year university? It depends on a lot of factors. Sure, a bachelor’s degree may push a job application to the next level, compared to an associate’s degree. But the money saved on tuition never spent can fund a down payment on a home, or professional development opportunities, or educational travel experiences – all budget items that can help secure a job or advance a career just as much as that fancy degree. In the end, community college may not be for everyone, but it is an opportunity that should be considered by all. Just because it does not carry the social weight and implications that some may prefer does not indicate its importance and benefits.

Community college has historically been a more accessible option in higher education, and this new bill makes the opportunity open to more students than ever before.