De Anza students resist the stigmas of community colleges

By Jacqueline Contreras

Devastated over being unable to afford a four year university, a second year De Anza students unwillingly turned to community college to pursue her higher education weeks before her high school graduation.

Lizbeth Hernandez, 19, psychology major had intended to dive straight into a CSU after high school. When Hernandez discovered she would be unable to start college at a four year institution due to financial reasons, she decided to enroll at De Anza.  

“I cried when I found out that I wouldn’t be able to go to a university,” Hernandez said. “I thought that community colleges were for people who weren’t good enough to go to a four year.”

Like other students, Hernandez made negative connotations between higher education and community college prior to attending De Anza.

The stigmas revolving around community college focuses largely on the value of the education provided at the institution, which extends to stereotypes placed on both professors and students.

The abilities of a professor teaching at a community college is questioned, adding to the belief that the quality of the education taught in other schools like De Anza is below that of UCs and CSUs. Despite the negative association, figures from the American Association of Community College show that more than 85 percent of professors at a junior college hold a master’s, doctorate, or professional degree.

Students who enroll in community college are depicted as ones who didn’t do well in high school, the standards they are held at compared to those who attend universities are lower. Amanda Bollinger, 18, sociology major said that that when she shared with her friends her decision to attend De Anza this current school year, she was met with wary responses.

“My friends assumed I had failed a class and had no other option,” she said. “They kind of thought less of me.”

Despite the associations made between community colleges and their students, those who attend a junior college have similar academic goals as those who attend universities.

According to U.S. News & World Report, out of the 40 percent of students enrolled in a community college, 81 percent intend on transferring to a four year university and earn at least a bachelor’s degree.

While preparing for final projects and presentations, two first year students shared their change in perception regarding community colleges. Anya Martin, 18, animation major, said that she believed attending a De Anza would be similar to her high school experience.

Martin said she was led to believe that community colleges were “easy.” Helen Zhong, 18, undeclared, also had a similar idea of what attending community college would be like.

“I came into De Anza thinking it wouldn’t be challenging” Zhong said.  

Both freshman said their year at De Anza has changed their stance on community college and agreed that the quality of education isn’t determined by what kind of school a student attends.

While some students enter De Anza with a negative mindset regarding community colleges, others like Isaac Chung, 21, music major, started with a positive outlook on community college.

“Personally I never really thought that they [community colleges] were bad,” Chung said. “I know people who went community colleges and said some positive stuff about them.”

The perceptions of community colleges may be subject to change. Hernandez’s time at De Anza has helped mold her understanding of higher education as a whole and is “actually glad” she was given the opportunity to attend De Anza despite the financial circumstances she said.