by D. NIKI BERNETT
There is an ongoing debate about the negative connotations surrounding people who attend community college, especially in a public university environment, and it needs paradigm shift.
As someone who personally graduated from Thomas Nelson Community College, I take high offense to some of the accusations that other people make regarding those that chose different academic paths.
Typical remarks addressed to those who attend community colleges include them being not as smart as people that attend four-year intuitions.
While this may be the case for some people, this is definitely not true of all community college students, and should not be applied as a stereotype to all that attend these institutions.
Whether it is true or not, it does not give anyone the right to look down on someone who makes the decision to better themselves in their own way.
I personally started out at Kansas State University, but due to family and financial situations I moved to Virginia, where due to out-of-state tuition costs, found it necessary to continue my education at the local community college.
My choice not to attend a public or private four-year college in Virginia and pay an astronomical amount of money in out-of-state tuition does not mean that I am any less educated or any less hardworking than any one of my peers here at the University of Mary Washington.
Many of my fellow community college attendees would argue that those who look down on or feel sorry for us believe that we received a lesser education than them when in fact the only thing we had less of was cost.
According to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia 2013-2014 Tuition and Fees Report, UMW students who qualify as in-state students paid a base amount of $6,758 in tuition and mandatory educational and general fees, as well as $2,902 in non-mandatory educational and general fees.
If UMW students decided to live on campus they paid another $9,122 for room and board (if they chose the largest meal plan offered).
In the same year, any student attending a Virginia community college only paid $3,886 in tuition and $14 in non-mandatory Education and General fees.
While financial aid and scholarships can be credited toward paying off tuition no matter what type of institution one attends, there is still a difference when it comes to community college.
Some would again argue that community colleges offer less opportunities to students, but most community colleges in Virginia offer a multitude of clubs and sports, and several campuses even have their own dining facilities, but we only have to pay $14 to be included in these opportunities.
UMW students probably do not even know where their $2,902 non-mandatory educational and general fees went.
With this evidence, what is the benefit of going to a four-year institution besides the name?
I, on the other hand, will have two diplomas, and will have paid less than half of what those who have been here since day one will have paid by the time I graduate in May.
No one way is the right way, but everyone should consider a community college attendee as an equal classmate rather than look down on them for having a different education.