MY DAUGHTER Katrina just graduated with an Associate’s degree in political science from San Mateo Community College here in California, and will be transferring to California State University in the fall to continue pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
This was a choice she made as she wanted to be personally invested in her education and in her career in life. She was a working student as she pursued her Associate of Arts Degree, and was grateful for the free boarding and lodging and car she got from us, her parents, after graduating high school.
Her rationale for her decision was that she wanted to take advantage of the relatively lower cost of education in community colleges and state colleges without having to be burdened with paying for the astronomical cost of attendance in private colleges and universities, the tuition fee of which can go up to as much as six figures at least for four years in college. This choice would spare her from paying for her student loans for at least 10 years.
For Katrina, it was a choice from many options available to her with parents willing and able to help her in pursuing higher education. Her experience in going to community college, though, had been a defining moment for her, being vice president of their student government and college ambassador.
Because of her direct interaction with students, she has shifted her career path from international relations to policies in education to help struggling and economically disadvantaged students to benefit from the equalizing power education brings to people.
For Katrina, going to a community college first was just one of her choices. For many, if not most Americans, it was the only choice. For some, going to one would forever be just a dream because minimum wages lag behind the escalating cost of living and education. These marginalized sectors of our society had no choice but to find one, two, if not three jobs to support themselves and their families — how could they find the time and resources to pay for college?
On May 25, 2018 — my husband and I were humbled by what we witnessed during the graduation ceremony. We saw so many families there — three generations in attendance — beaming with pride because, for many of them, their student was the first ever to have an associate’s degree. Most of the other family members were already lucky just to finish high school.
Then there were those who looked like they were the parents or the grandparents, when in fact they were the graduating students. The wrinkles in their faces would tell a lot about how the decades of struggles and being “OP” (Out of Place–attending classes with young people) did not daunt them from pursuing their dream to get a higher education.
There were also those young mothers who went up the stage with their babies with them and you could see the pride and the joy in their faces for achieving the seemingly insurmountable challenge of raising small kids, working and going to college. Their smiles and tears of joy radiated the hope that they feel — they could now offer their kids with opportunities better than what they had because they now have the competitive edge of an associate’s degree.
There were also people of different races coming from different countries of the world, donning their ”national outfit” or symbols with pride, excited to gratefully give back to their adoptive country that is the United States of America — the nation that immigrants built.
I hope President Donald Trump and his Education Secretary Betsy Devos could attend these graduation ceremonies so they could understand the importance of community colleges in building a stronger, more prosperous better America. In this way, they could fully support these public education institutions instead of cutting funding and subsidies for them. This would help them truly get to know the true core of the heart of America — which is beating, pounding deep inside these people — young and old — working so hard to fulfill the American dream.
As the government website states:
“COMMUNITY COLLEGES offer two-year programs leading to the Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) degree. These colleges also have technical and vocational programs with close links to secondary/high schools, community groups, and employers in the local community. You can find large community colleges with multiple campuses in an urban/suburban setting or small campuses in a rural setting.
Undergraduate students studying at community colleges can earn academic credit towards a bachelor’s degree. Earning academic credit at a community college, which is usually less expensive, can help lower the overall cost of a bachelor’s degree. Community colleges may also have a more flexible admissions process.
Community colleges and 4-year colleges and universities often develop special agreements for the transfer of credits and degrees between the institutions. In this “2+2 process,” you can earn a bachelor’s degree with two years of community college, followed by two years of university study.
Community colleges often lead the United States in educating students in cutting-edge fields such as biomedical technology, biotechnology, robotics, laser optics, internet and computer technologies, and geographic information systems. The small size of classes at community colleges can be highly beneficial for international students as they adjust to the pace of U.S. academic life and practice their English-language skills.
Community colleges offer a variety of support services and cross-cultural programs, including tutoring, advising, career planning, study skills, and counseling—many designed specifically for international students.”
CONGRATULATIONS, Class of 2018. The best is yet to come!
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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos