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Ainsley Schuler April 23, 2018

During my time here at DMACC I’ve had some spectacular experiences, and have met some truly amazing people, but there’s always been something that I failed to address. For the longest time I was embarrassed about being a community college student, and it took me far too long to realize I needn’t be.

Let’s face it, community colleges tend to have a sort of negative stigma associated with them. While I doubt it’s been discussed much on campus, I know from speaking with several peers that I’m not the only one who’s faced criticism or skepticism when telling someone that I attend a community college. There seems to be a common belief that community colleges are somehow less-than. It’s thought because they tend to enroll more non-traditional students, and have lower graduation rates, this somehow must correlate to them being sub-par. Instead of acknowledging that junior colleges serve an important role within the higher education system, many people tend to act like community colleges are just full of students and faculty not good enough to get into a university.

As an example of just how pervasive this idea is, at the end of last semester I had a fellow Honors Program member express similar sentiments to me out of the blue. He explained that most of DMACC’s faculty are here because they have no other options. He further went on to talk about his plans to transfer to more prestigious programs (specifically Ivy League), because that’s how you truly find success. I was stunned… This was an Honors member, arguably one of the students who should’ve been most invested in supporting the college, and instead he was lambasting DMACC. Hearing this opinion expressed out loud, helped me recognize just how ludicrous it was to think this way.

The truth is, more than one-third of undergraduate students in the 2015-16 academic year were enrolled at a two-year college according to the Community College Research Center at Columbia University. This means that we’re not just students who’ve run out of options. We’re here because we want to avoid student debt, or have a family to raise, or work fulltime on the side, or are starting a second career, or any number of other reasons, and see the value offered at DMACC. As far as our faculty are concerned, many have actually spent time teaching at the local universities, and have terminal degrees in their fields. They would have numerous career options available were they to leave DMACC, but are here by choice. In response to the theory that only prestigious programs are able to facilitate greatness, many unquestionably successful individuals have attended a junior college as some point in their life, including Apollo astronaut Fred Haise, actor Tom Hanks, and animation pioneer Walt Disney.

In the end, there’s no logical reason to be embarrassed about being a community college student, so don’t buy into that mindset like I once did. Instead, I ask you to join me in trying to dispel these errant stereotypes by accomplishing your own goals, and truly taking advantage of your time here at DMACC. Ignore the dissenters. Go get that scholarship, internship, graduate degree, or job offer, and exceed expectations. Remember that we at DMACC believe in your capabilities, and it’s through the shared successes and achievements of DMACC students and alumni that we will slowly change the negative perceptions of community colleges and their students.

 

Matt Harm

Hons. Program Exec. Officer, Ambassador 2017-18

Ankeny & Boone Campuses

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