Community college: fighting the stigma

Before actually attending Crowder, or any community college, a student may have had some misgivings about the quality or level of education that they would be receiving.

“I did have a few worries about going to Crowder because it’s a community college. I was afraid I would receive the level of education I expected,” said Becca Hargrove, graphics design major.

“Initially, I thought that I’d hate going to Crowder because it just wasn’t where I wanted to be location wise. I wanted to go to school in a bigger city,” says Sean Bynum, general studies major.

A history behind the stigma

The perception of a community college education has changed with time, believes Keith Zoromski, Social Science Division Chair and history instructor.

“In the past, this [perception] was tied to socio-economic standing where individuals from prosperous families went to large universities …. Those without significant financial backing remained closer to home and studied at a community college. This has changed dramatically over time to where a community college such as Crowder College offers a similar experience to that of a four-year institution,” explains Zoromski.

Community college in the spotlight

Walt Disney, Clint Eastwood, Halle Berry, Eddie Murphy and Arnold Schwarzenegger are all names that have been among the graduates of community college.

Hanks discloses that after graduating in 1974 with “lousy SAT scores” and inadequate funding to pay university tuition, he decided to attend Chabot “because it accepted everyone and was free.” His time at Chabot proved to be a unique learning experience.

“Classmates included veterans back from Vietnam, women of every marital and maternal status returning to school, middle-aged men wanting to improve their employment prospects and paychecks,” he writes.

Hanks hopes that Congress will pass Obama’s proposal for free community college so that more lives can be touched by this kind of educational experience.

“…. more veterans, from Iraq and Afghanistan this time, as well as another generation of mothers, single parents and workers who have been out of the job market, need lower obstacles between now and the next chapter of their lives,” he writes.

“…. Community colleges are vital to raising the educational level of our nation,” says Jim Riggs, Director of Admissions.  “More than any other type of post-secondary institution, community colleges are positioned to offer training programs leading to good jobs, and affordable general education that leads to bachelor’s degrees and more.”

Crowder has gained the specific attention of one government official.

“Crowder College is a school that has become a leader across the board from academics and athletics to alternative energy development to technical education,” said U.S. Senator Roy Blunt in a letter addressing the celebration of Crowder’s 50th anniversary shared on the senate government website.

Contributing factors

“One of the things I think contributes to the stigma of community college is that we’ve kind of created a culture over the last twenty or thirty years where engaging in careers and technical education is a lesser option and only an option you pick if you can’t make it in a baccalaureate degree,” said Dr. Jennifer Methvin, Crowder President.

This kind of attitude and how its expressed to young people needs to change because of the necessity of technical degrees, believes Methvin.

“We’ve created a situation in our country where we act like some jobs have lesser value. There is no lesser way to make a legitimate living,” concludes Dr. Methvin.

Another contributing factor is the open-door policy which enables any student to enroll regardless of their academic record or qualifications. However, this aspect doesn’t seem to affect a student’s excitement upon acceptance.

“At Crowder we do have what is considered “Open Admissions,” but honestly, in my almost 4 years of advising and recruiting, I have never once had a student shrug off their acceptance,” says Kristi Chapman, Admissions Advisor.

Higher education is a goal and an accomplishment upon acceptance, no matter where that may take place, believes Chapman.

Meeting standards

Crowder is accredited with the Higher Learning Commission, which works through a program called the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP).These program and others prove that its curriculum is on the same par as any established university.

“This demanding process ensures that Crowder College is held to the highest standards.  Many of our programs have also attained accreditation and certifications through various state and national foundations and agencies,” says Riggs.

Crowder works to present a diverse learning experience unique to its campus.

“This includes, but is not limited to, campus life activities, athletic teams, international students and study abroad opportunities. A student’s college experience, no matter where they go, is what they make of it,” says Zoromski.

Changing viewpoints

For one Crowder student, attending community college has given her a new sense of enlightenment and freedom.

“I feel that attending community college has given me the chance to transition easily without the stress of moving too far away from home but still becoming independent. I was able to receive a quality Associate-level education at an affordable price in small classes which was exactly what I needed,” says Hargrove.

Students can learn just as much at Crowder as they can anywhere else at less cost, according to Hargrove and Bynum.