This post was written by Karis Strannemar, a Richland College graduate. Karis took classes at Richland College in 1983-1984 and continuing education classes at Eastfield in 1998. She returned to graduate from Richland in 2014 and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas in 2015. Karis also has three children, ages 11, 22 and 30. The above photo of Richland’s campus was taken by Paul Knudsen.
I am the nontraditional “out of the ballpark” student. I went to Richland from 1983-1984 after a year at UNT (it was NTSU then). After three children, three horses and a failed marriage in the sticks, I returned to college as a single mom with children in tow.
I went to Collin College for a couple of years, but couldn’t get past the math classes. There is a rule that you can only take a class so many times. I was misadvised, withdrew, took the wrong class and flat-out couldn’t make it to their lab at night while the kids were home alone. I abandoned my degree plan.
I even tried taking an online class with DCCCD, but again, circumstances seemed to make things difficult. The bookstore took three weeks with my textbook and my mom passed away after a difficult illness. I floundered. My son had graduated from Allen High School at the “super pit” on UNT’s campus. I vowed I would be the one on the floor the next time. I wanted to get a bachelor’s degree.
I looked at Richland for hope. It was in the form of a statistics class called Statway on campus that was being taught differently. There was one woman who took all my information, looked at my transcripts and reassured me I could graduate a Thunderduck. It would take two semesters of going to class. Richland was just 15 minutes from my dad, who had had hip replacement surgery (and a heart attack the fifth week of the semester).
I started in the fall while my dad recuperated, and then in the spring added four online classes from UNT. I did graduate a Thunderduck and then almost a year later walked across the stage at UNT in May 2015. I will be forever grateful for Saeid Darabadey and Eleanor Browne because it was their patience that got me through math.
So I have several myths based on the fact I have had 175 total credits, most of which were spent at either at Collin or Richland. I did take some continuing education classes at Eastfield, which landed me a job as a food stamp caseworker with the Department of Human Services in 1998.
1. Bigger = Better (Or: “You Get What You Pay For”)
Surprisingly, after my 30-year absence, two of my professors were still teaching at Richland. I think community college professors are committed to their college, to their jobs and their community. At my four-year university there were grad students, and teaching assistants often would assist in classes. The main professor would be doing research or speaking elsewhere. They are off in academia, whereas the professor at DCCCD is hanging in there making sure that students get the material that is needed.
2. Community Colleges Are Full of Teenage Students Living at Home
No. Community colleges are full of a diverse population. There are newbie freshman who are dealing in smart money and saving on the tuition cost of going to a four-year university. There are people who are dipping their toes in education and trying to figure out what they want to be. Nontraditional students aren’t always single moms, but can be single dads, returning veterans and people retooling their lives with education due to changes beyond their control. No one is there for frat parties, because well, there isn’t a row of fraternity houses. They are there to go to school.
3. Classes Won’t Transfer
It’s true that there are some classes that won’t transfer. There are classes that don’t transfer between four-year schools. There are ways to check these things out and for the most part advisors can figure those things out. If you go to the school and blindly pick all the basket weaving classes, they probably won’t be portable – but if you stick to the common core classes, things will go well. If you talk to an academic advisor it will probably be golden.
4. Large University = Bigger, Better Experience
Quantity does not equate with quality. At a bigger campus, you can be one in a cast of thousands of students within a program competing for one opportunity. At a two-year school you have more of a chance to make your mark. A friend of mine as a freshman was able to do a guest blog for the Richland student newspaper and do some student radio. It would be harder to get that sort of experience competing with upperclassman at a four-year school. That means less chances at auditions, less chances at scholarships and less chances to make any headway at figuring out who you are going to be in life.
5. Community College Coursework Doesn’t Look as Good on a Resume
It is harder to get a job in a small college town in your area of specialty. A student is competing with a huge employable population for a small amount of jobs. If you stay within your own larger community, at least there is more of a diversity of jobs available. Moreover, there are more volunteer jobs which could pad a resume and make the difference between being hired and being the person who gets the “thank you, but no” letter. You can shine within your own community and possibly land a good job without going to the four-year university (and incurring the extra debt).
6. Community College Events Aren’t as Good/Fun
There have been some awesome campus events that I have attended with my kids for little or no money. There have been concerts, lectures and recitals that have made a difference in our life. It has provided a slice of culture. The litany of community events is continuous, yet it doesn’t come with that big price tag seen at the larger campus.
7. The Campus is Overcrowded… Look at the Parking Lot!
Don’t get me started about parking at Richland, Eastfield or Collin versus trying to park at some Dallas universities. Community colleges are more accessible, easier to traverse and generally better planned – because they are planned for growth in the community. The campuses are generally newer, too.
What are some other myths you’ve heard about community college? How did those myths differ from your experience? Let us know in the comments below.
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