Attending a Community College Does NOT Mean you are a Failure

Because my mother’s highest education level was high school along with a few certifications here and there, I viewed college as the only way to make a way – a different way rather,  a better way. I never even considered the idea of attending a junior or community college.

But, in the humblest of spirits, I also never struggled academically throughout my school years.

Academics was always something where I excelled and had confidence. Prior to college, I believed I was disciplined enough to manage college expectations.

Even those who have historically struggled academically throughout their school years and/or don’t have the financial resources to avoid encountering debt for higher education and costly living expenses, still believe a four year school is the only way.  While this is an ambitious mindset for some of our school-aged kids, it can be damaging.

Every single year, I watch  students cycle through a pattern of negative emotions during their senior year as the time they have to decide what’s next closes in. I hear students’ tone and demeanor change to low and uncomfortable when they identify Delgado Community College as the college they will accept admission.  I see school staff parade around and praise those who’ve received admission and financial aid for state and Ivy League schools. I hear underclassman mirror the sentiment by being less supportive of seniors attending schools other than four-year institutions. I see student-athletes scoff at the idea of attending a junior college to better prepare both academically and athletically to transition to a larger college/university despite not receiving athletic scholarship offers as they had anticipated their entire lives.

Just a few weeks ago at College Signing Day, I had a student not only tearfully share the shame she had of attending Delgado Community College, but went on to stand on the stage in front of her peers and underclassman and falsely state she was attending UNO for college when she hadn’t even been accepted during the ceremony.

I was speechless.

I was sad.

This shame is much deeper than we think or even realize.  America tells us time and time again that education is something that historically, has not always been privileged to us, so the opportunity to continue the pursuit of education even beyond high school is one we should rejoice around, even more so when we are blessed to identify financial aid sources to minimize student debt. However, this unfortunately is not the case for a lot of our students, who because of some unrealistic expectation we’ve set has them thinking that anything outside of a Division-1 College/University is a failure. With this mindset, time is wasted and even sadder, dreams are lost.  I hate this for our future leaders.

In a city like New Orleans, where poverty is often a prerequisite for criminality, it is critical we change how we approach our messaging of the pursuit of higher education for our students who are indeed interested, but embarrassed to take a different pathway if one is needed.

While we can’t ignore the impact of lower socio-economical status and its impact on college completion; this is one of the many barriers to college completion within the four years that most imagine.

A recent study conducted by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center concluded the following:

While there was a relatively small difference in the transfer-with-award rate, there was a substantial difference in the transfer-out bachelor’s completion rate, which may indicate that the effects of socioeconomic differences tend to grow as students progress along their academic career.

An attempt to progress beyond socio-economic limitations is worthwhile if we want to maximize our exposure to more opportunities to identify career paths to hopefully improve one’s quality of life.  Our children are not failures for doing what is best in the moment.  We, as educators, are not failures if they aren’t always prepared or confident in attending a larger learning institution.

As beautifully stated in an Odyssey Op-ed

“By attending a community college, I was able to save money and grow academically, emotionally, socially, and mentally. In that time, I found a passion.”

I want my students to know that they’ve been able to accomplish what generations before them could not even think of and how they would have been brutalized if they attempted.

So for opportunity, even if the journey is not as anticipated or like everyone else’s, YOU ARE NOT FAILURE.

Click here to read full article of a graduate of a community college titled, “I’m Proud To Be A Community College Alumni And You Should Be Too.”


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