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Community college versus community stigma

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Grand Rapids Community College students interact, study, and head to class on a sunny day (photo courtesy The Tribune).

Community college is a stepping stone. University – also a stepping stone. Ivy league, the Big Ten, and America’s notable military academies – consider them stepping stones. Furthering your education past high school is ultimately a bridge between an individual and what many would consider their job, and even fewer an enjoyable career. 

For many, an education that exceeds high school is unattainable. Yet, at the same time there is a sort of caste system when it comes to colleges and how their students and reputation are perceived – the biggest being community college versus the traditional university. The question to raise now is why any sort of furthering education can be negatively perceived if many do not get the privilege to attend at all?

“Oh, you go to community college?”

Some view this college choice as a negative. 

When it boils down to factuality, the majority of junior college students attend such schools because of factors such as affordability and easy acceptance. The blatant upsides of attending a two-year school surround financial circumstances, which can create a specific stigma for junior college students.

Because of the less than impressive stigma built around community colleges, far too many student and alumni success stories go unnoticed.

One of the greatest successes Grand Rapids Community College has had in recent years involves our athletics – specifically with our women’s volleyball team. Being the 2012 national champions, along with earning the title of 10-time regional champions, the team stepped it up in the 2019 season placing fifth in the nation – now making it 13 consecutive years of placing within the top 15 in the nation.

On Nov. 10, 2014, musical artist and former GRCC student Borns released the single “Electric Love,” which eventually hit number 12 on the Billboard Top 100 charts. The Collegiate did a story on his success in 2015, and can be found here

A successful community college alumni, who also happens to be a former GRCC Raider, performed on campus earlier this month for the Alumni Artist Recital. Having performed at prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, Antonina Chehovska discovered her passion and talent for opera at GRCC. An article about her story as well as her recent performance at the Alumni Artist Recital can be found here.

In transparency, there are a plethora of success stories from not only GRCC alumni, but community college alumni from across the country. With some junior colleges providing chart-topping programs of study, including GRCC’s culinary program which is ranked in the top 20% of culinary schools in the nation, success is proven. 

Advancing your education through college is only a stepping stone to achieving a career – and any school will lead you there.