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The Trade off Between the Cost and Experience of College.

A brief insight on someone's decision in choosing to go to a community college for 2 years and then transferring to an university.

Photo of Irene Kien
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What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

I interviewed my high school friend who was top 10 in her academic class, because she made an unpredictable decision to go to a community college for two-years over a four-year academic institution. The main reason why she chose this pathway was based on her financial instability to commit to an university. She believed that having a pile of loans was not worth going to a four-year college. However, I learned that she would have rather have chosen to attend an university if she had the opportunity to. A key finding was that when she attended community college for the first 2 years, she said it was like going to another high school. She felt like she was not moving anywhere in her life at that point. Another statement that stood out to me was when her other friends who attended a university would tell her about all the friends they made, she would become jealous. Community colleges do not offer extracurricular activities for students to engage in with other peers. Her story help me appreciate the college experience we get from going to a university from the start of our college career.

Many students decide to take this kind of route to save money by taking their basics at a community college. However, in doing this, students are not able to receive the full college experience. That trade off is really significant, because college is not just about the education you receive, but it is about the experiences and encounters you get that help define you as a person and what you want in the future. Hearing about her experience, I want to question if there is any way we can discover different solutions in paying for tuition at a college institution without limiting a student's college experience? I think this is another important aspect we should take into account when generating ideas for re-imagining the cost of higher education and ways to pay off college.

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Photo of Maryna Goushcha

That's a very interesting topic, Irene. I have heard a lot about very similar experience from my friends who attended college not only in the US but in other countries as well. If I can compare the US educational system with the education in my home country, and my personal experience, I would say that the first 2 years at university are the most important. That's when I explored what I wanted to do, which classes I like more, which activities and that's when I got close with my university friends. At year 3, I wanted more than just classes and extracurricular activities. I wanted practical experience, I wanted to test on real-life problems what I learned at school. That is why most of my friends and I started to work during the year three and four. So, maybe, we can think of the ways to find alternatives for years three and four of universities, rather than first two years?

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