Most high school students dream of attending schools like Stanford, Harvard, UCLA and UC Berkeley. Despite the prestige that comes with these schools, they often are not the best choice for students. People are opting to attend a junior college over traditional four-year universities — even prestigious ones.
One of the biggest appeals of a community college is its low cost. San Joaquin Delta College (SJDC) offers classes for $46 a unit, whereas the tuition at Sacramento State averages about $230 a unit and the tuition at UCs average about $421 a unit.
“Between 65 and 70 percent of our students qualify for Board of Governors’ [BOG] grants,” SJDC President Dr. Kathleen Hart said in an email.
The BOG Fee Waiver, now called the California College Promise Grant, offers free tuition to students who qualify for financial aid.
Even middle-income and high-income families are opting to send their children to a junior college.
“My parents can afford to send me to any college I want to go to — a CSU, UC or private,” senior Britney Vu said. “I’m going to Delta because it’ll save more money for housing and tuition when I do transfer.” Vu plans to transfer to a UC or private college in California to pursue a degree in medicine.
Seniors also prefer JCs because they provide a more practical option.
“I don’t want to waste money on classes for a major when I don’t know what I want to do,” senior Natalie Vang said. “It’s just smarter to go [to community college].”
The extra years at home can be advantageous for new college students, especially for those still trying to figure out what career path to follow. Instead of wasting money earning a degree they won’t use or changing majors several times, JC students can take general education courses without that pressure.
“For many students, having a couple more years of maturity really makes a difference,” Hart said. “They can live at home and work as well while they are getting ready for transfer to [a] UC or CSU.”
“I’m planning to be a doctor,” Vu said. “Staying at home will allow me more opportunities for research and volunteer since my dad has his own private [medical] practice.”
Despite the myth that staying at home limits opportunities to excel in life, community colleges have a plethora of programs, clubs and activities for students to be involved in. Most community colleges even offer the opportunity to receive an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degrees.
At Delta College, students can obtain an Associate of Science in fields as varied as nursing, business, computer science and mechanics. They can also obtain an Associate of Arts in the humanities field in subjects such as in art, English, journalism, history, Spanish and many others.
Getting started on the path to success is simple and free. Students attending Delta College can apply for admission online and apply for financial aid. After two business days, students will have access to their accounts. From there, they need to schedule an Assessment Placement test to determine reading, writing and math skills. Then they have to complete online orientation and schedule an appointment with a counselor before registering for their classes online.
Registration dates are based on priority, and students who have completed orientation, have taken classes at Delta before or are Delta athletes receive higher priority for registration.
For new students, it can seem overwhelming with limited knowledge and guidance on the first steps after high school.
“I don’t know what to do,” Vang said. “I didn’t even know you had to register for Delta or how to pick classes.”
Bear Creek offers workshops and placement testing to help seniors who plan to attend junior college. Students can even schedule an appointment with their counselor or visit the College and Career Center if they have personal questions or need one-on-one help.
High school students even have the opportunity to jumpstart their higher education with dual enrollment courses. These courses are taught by Delta College professors in the San Joaquin area and are all general education courses that are CSU- and UC-transferable.
But students should not wait until the last minute. Applications for fall semester opened on April 23 and class registration opens June 14. The semester begins August 27.