Katelyn Buxton/The Mainstream
The campus of Umpqua Community College prepares for spring.

Pros and cons: Community college versus university

For those who are looking to continue their education, the decision whether to attend a community college versus a university can be difficult. Both have significant benefits and disadvantages, ranging from the small, tight-knit classes of community colleges, to the wide variety of degree opportunities found at universities.

One of the biggest factors students consider when deciding what school to attend is the cost of tuition. “I would personally recommend that everyone go and do two or three years at a community college first,” said Grant Laiblin, a UCC graduate who is currently majoring in the interdisciplinary studies of business and psychology at Corban University. “I was able to get two years of school done with zero debt.”

Photo provided by Hannah Laiblin
Grant Laiblin, a UCC graduate.

Laiblin also said that, as a wrestler, his choice of schools was heavily influenced by the athletic opportunities he was offered. Canadian native Connor Schneider, a geology major at UCC, was also brought to the area for similar reasons. “I decided to come here after getting a scholarship offer from the baseball coaches,” Schneider said.

Besides that, Schneider also looked for the smaller student body often associated with community colleges. “I grew up in a small town and didn’t want to go to a school that had lots of people in it because I was more used to small communities and small schools.”

The size of a community college is one of its advantages, because it also translates to smaller classes. “I would say that having smaller classes gives you an opportunity to feel more comfortable with your instructor and classmates,” said Annaliesa Bates, a UCC nursing major. “With being more comfortable in class, you are more likely to ask questions, participate in class activities, and overall be more engaged with the lesson. Your instructor knows you by name which makes you feel like a valued student and they truly care about your success in their class and give more opportunities for help outside of class if needed. It feels like you are working with a team, rather than on your own.”

Bates also stated that she enjoys the fact that UCC is close to home, a feeling shared by Debra Sullivan, who is returning to school later in life to get an Associate of Science in Human Services degree at UCC. “I am just an ordinary grandma struggling to find a place in a changing economy,” Sullivan said. “I was a stay at home mom and entrepreneur for two decades here in Douglas County. I have taken numerous courses throughout the years at UCC related to recordkeeping and daycare as well as health and safety. It felt like a natural choice when I had to move back into the area.”

There are negatives that come with attending a community college, however. “You can’t complete your full four-year degree at a community college; you will need to transfer,” said Jessica Richardson, the recruitment coordinator, at UCC in an email interview. Since this is a necessary requirement for many careers, it is one that students must take into consideration. Richardson also pointed out that class options will be fewer than what is offered at a university, and transfer students may find that not all of their classes will transfer to their four-year university of choice.

Although universities are more expensive than community colleges, attending them from the start of a student’s education also comes with a number of benefits. “Large public universities generally offer a wide variety of academic programs,” Richardson said. They also simplify the path to a four-year degree by allowing students to take all four years at one school.

Another benefit of universities is the size of the student body. “Universities have a large, diverse student population with plenty of events and activities,” Richardson said.

But this benefit can also become a disadvantage when students begin to feel lost in the crowd, since some classes can have hundreds of students. However, not all universities are large. “The university I attend is actually smaller that the community college I attended,” Laiblin said. As found on their website, UCC had 2,760 full-time students in 2017. In the same year, Corban University had 1,001 full-time students according to Data USA.

Another factor to take into consideration when attending a university is not only the cost of tuition, but the cost of housing as well. “This can end up being the largest expense,” said Richardson. Since many community college students already live in the area surrounding the college, this is a difference that might not be considered at first. Dorms at public schools cost an average of $8,887 per school year, and private schools an average of $10,089, according to My College Guide.

Many factors are associated with attending college, but ultimately it comes down to what is most important to the individual. Finances might influence one student more than another, as might the convenience of completing a four-year degree at one school versus transferring. Including room and board, one year at UCC costs approximately $20,358, and one year at OSU costs $27,915. After weighing all the factors, best choice for every individual is the school where they will perform the best academically.

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