“Let’s just give up and go to El Camino.”
“Oh, you mean UC Torrance? Ayeeeee.”
Community college is the punchline of many self-deprecating jokes, especially since West High is 4.5 miles away from a significant one in SoCal: El Camino College. For many people, it is more than a viable option after graduating high school, seeing that it is so close to home.
“Students see El Camino, or community colleges in general, as the bottom: once you’re there, you’re stuck,” says Erica Torres, member of the West High class of 2015, currently attending El Camino College as a Nursing major.
“Many students fail to remember that CSU’s and UC’s are huge investments–although you get to finally walk around your dream campus with your matching hoodie and lanyard, college expenses piles up. In my opinion, these schools are great options for people who worked their way up in high school —joining clubs, getting consistent grades, having a driven personality — but for practicality, community college won’t hurt you,” explained Torres.
Mr. Belcher, a social studies teacher at West, explains that many students “see it as an inferior good,” and would rather “spend triple the amount the price for the name brand.” Stigma aside, there other disadvantages to consider when attending El Camino, or any community college. Because there is generally less funding, class offerings are less diverse, and there are fewer resources for students.
Campus and student life is not as vibrant because there is no on-campus housing, and students are more likely to go home or to work than stay on campus and participate with clubs or socialize with classmates, which SeattlePi describes as the “Commuter Effect.” For students who are unsure about the direction they would like to go for undergraduate studies, Mr. Belcher says the option is “a much better route to go.”
Senior David Herrero believes that “ El Camino is underrated,” and says that others “don’t understand how people like [him] are grateful that it is a reliable option.” Herrero jokingly called it “West High part 2,” commenting on all of the familiar faces he’d inevitably see.
From 2010 to 2012, 700 West High students each year continued to El Camino, in 2012-2013 that number dropped to mid 600s, and last year, 2013-2014, the number rose once again, approaching 700.
According to College Board, the yearly tuition for a public school is $9,139, compared to of that of a two years at El Camino, which amounts to a little under $3,000 (assuming $46/units * 15 units * 2 semesters a year * 2 years).
Senior Moira Camacho says that personal finances are a driving factor in the decision to attend community college.
“A big problem today is student tuition, and by going to El Co, I save a significant amount of money and still have the option to transfer to a university,” Camacho said.
Mr. Belcher attended El Camino as a history major in the education program and transferred to CSU Long Beach, and believes that the environment of a community college provides more support.
Arthur Takioto, an aspiring landscape architecture major, noticed in his three years of studying architecture at El Camino that “classes are often smaller, giving students more one on one time with professors.”
Course planning guides for schools such as University of Southern California, Pepperdine University, Loyola Marymount University, are provided to help students choose classes and ensure that transfer admission requirements are met. In addition to counseling and advising, El Camino offers fairs, tours, college representative visits, and information workshops to facilitate the transfer process.
Out of 112 California community colleges, El Camino ranks 8th for transfer for California State University campuses, and 9th for University of California campuses. El Camino has a transfer admission guarantee with UC campuses Davis, Irvine, Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz, as detailed on their webpage.
Although moving away to college for the quintessential post high school experience is something many students look forward to, they can still anticipate to the independence and proactivity they’ll have to exercise in navigating the college transfer process. Rest assured; there are still options and opportunities available that will allow them to be successful in life.