An ugly reason students avoid community colleges

While I was at the Bloomington leadership conference for two-year community college students on Friday, I was taken aback by the answers a few of them gave to a seminar question on why high school students don’t consider them in their post-graduate plans.

The biggie: Stigma.

One student told the group:

The attitude was, “If you don’t go to university, you won’t be successful. I was thinking it was beneath me if I had to a community college.”

One of the culprits, apparently: teachers.

“They don’t try to aim you toward a community college, but to a university.”

I’ve been puzzled by this, and I wonder whether it’s a regional thing.

When I grew up in California, a lot of my friends went on to community colleges as a money-saving measure before they transferred to University of California or California State University campuses. Seemed perfectly natural.

But when I moved to Georgia as a high-school junior, I sensed a supreme lack of enthusiasm — even disdain — for the community college. (The area I lived in also seemed much more class-oriented.)

Now two-year colleges are getting their time in the sun, especially with the recent Obama summit on the issue, the Washington Monthly community-college rankings — which St. Paul College topped, and columnists like Zac Bissonnette writing how the smart and savvy students are going to community colleges.

Note that last one. With affordability a much bigger issue now than it was during my time in the mid-1980s, I’ll be curious whether teachers  — along with everyone else — will be changing attitudes.