I recently read Frederick Community College interim president Thomas Powell’s column “The smart way to earn a degree” in the Frederick News-Post. I couldn’t agree more. I attended Frederick Community College from May 2010 to May 2012.
Let’s be honest. At 17 years old, I did not want to stay home and go to school. I wanted to go away like most of my friends from high school. I wanted the fun roommates, the late-night snacks, the parties, and the social life. Especially at 17, the prospect of taking a loan really wasn’t all that daunting either.
My perception of finances was blurry at best, and in many ways, I viewed some college debt as a small tradeoff for the enjoyment of the “full college experience.” However, I always knew I would go to FCC. The financial reality was that my parents told me they would help pay for college if I went to community college.
I knew it was a smart decision but it was hard to tell people. They always seemed sympathetic or said condescending statements like, “Oh, OK. Well, there’s nothing wrong with that,” or “Sure! That’s one way to save some money.” The connotation always being that community college should be everyone’s secondary option and that if you went it was because money was tight. They assumed that I either didn’t have the money to go away or that my high school grades were so low there was no way I was getting into a four-year university right away.
Neither was true; my grades were exceptional and I knew that I’d be in a healthier financial place by going this route.
Looking back, my experience at FCC was great. My best friend also went there, I met my husband there, and my classes were rigorous. Class sizes were relatively small and I was able to fit all my classes into three days a week so I could work the other days of the week, allowing me to save even more money for when I transferred to a four-year university.
In addition to great memories and a quality education, my time at FCC helped me reflect on my future without burning piles of cash on meaningless undergraduate classes. The idea that you must have your whole career planned out at 17 or 18 is foolish and places a lot of pressure on young shoulders. I was able to take a variety of courses, decide what I wanted over the course of my two years there and ultimately transfer and graduate from a four-year university.
Community college shouldn’t be the secondary option and it shouldn’t be an embarrassing admission for young people trying to make huge decisions. It allowed me to meet diverse groups of people, grow academically, and ultimately chart a career path that has left me fulfilled and without college debt.
Rachel Gammell is a teacher and lives in downtown Frederick. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.