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Community college can be a better fit than a 4-year university for many, recent op-ed argues


Campus Reform, Brandi Cuhna

In an April 29 op-ed for Insider, writer Kara Panzer told the story of her attendance at both a major four-year university and a community college, arguing that the latter gave her, in many ways, a superior educational experience.

When the American University in Cairo (AUC) closed indefinitely due to protests and unrest in Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring, Panzer had to scramble to find another college to attend. She settled for Dutchess Community College in her upstate New York hometown, which offered flexibility and academic rigor beyond her expectations.

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Panzer found the environment of community college intellectually stimulating, writing that in her classes she “found eager and engaged students [and] got involved in many challenging conversations about policy and culture — exactly what elite colleges promise.”

She went on to emphasize the diverse character of backgrounds and experiences at Dutchess, with people from various walks of life all wanting “to work hard.”

“I quickly learned that my classmates at Dutchess Community College were there for various reasons: to save money before transferring, to balance work and family obligations more easily as commuter students, or to earn an associate’s degree,” she wrote. “But everyone was there by their own choice, and they all wanted to work hard.”

After just a semester at Dutchess Community College, however, the author enrolled at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., where she found the academic rigor to be satisfactory, but the social scene to be lacking.

“While I enjoyed my coursework at Georgetown, the school was lacking for me socially. In many ways, it felt more like the boarding school I attended in high school. Everyone seemed to be the same — especially from the same social class,” Panzer wrote.

She also felt that many of her peers were there solely to pursue pre-professional careers and that “[s]uccess was measured not by pursuing meaningful studies and projects, but by landing competitive internships and jobs.”

It wasn’t until graduation that Panzer realized she “would have benefited from more time at the community college.”

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Georgia Lucas, a 2023 graduate of Sandhills Community College in North Carolina and researcher for Campus Reform, described her own positive community college experience as follows: “I was able to live at home, save money, and have more one on one time with my professors … When I tabled for [Students for Life] I was able to have more one on one conversations and made lasting relations[hips] because of the smaller population.”

Although initially disappointed to have her Arabic studies disrupted and her dreams of exploring the world cut short, Panzer quickly discovered the benefits of the community college experience. While prestigious universities carry more weight in job applications, the cheaper and lesser-known schools can also be a great fit for many students.

Kara Panzer, Georgetown University, and Dutchess Community College were all contacted by Campus Reform for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

Follow Brandi Cunha on Twitter.

Republished with permission from Campus Reform

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