Another semester, another opportunity to be flanked with questions about why I chose to go to community college before coming to SVSU.
Don’t I know that it would have been cheaper to go here first? Aren’t community colleges less academically rigorous? And didn’t half my credits not transfer, anyway?
These are just a few questions that professors ask me every semester when they find out I am a transfer student. So, to save some time, let me answer them all now.
No, it actually wouldn’t have been cheaper for me to go straight to SVSU. I was an early college student, meaning that I began attending Macomb Community College (MCC) during my junior year of high school. I did so through the Early College of Macomb, which is a registered high school. My tuition and textbooks were paid for by the state.
And because I earned my associates degree through a high school, I was still eligible to apply for freshman scholarships, which are much higher than those available to transfer students. (Mind you, the University of Michigan and other universities that aren’t SVSU give transfers an opportunity for full tuition.)
Even transfers who were not early college students often find that attending community college first is the best financial option given their circumstances.
Family obligations, for instance, often make it difficult for students to be away from home for long. Sick loved ones, a death in the family or illness can keep recent high school graduates away from college, and, if kept away for too many years, they may become ineligible for many freshman scholarships.
Not everyone can afford to attend college straight out of high school. Recent high school graduates aren’t guaranteed to be eligible for aid, be it a PELL grant or a merit-based scholarship. Good students don’t always have good high school GPAs or standardized test scores.
That alone makes them ineligible for a lot of scholarships and aid. In fact, my friend at SVSU has had to take out around $10,000 each semester, and that’s with a half-tuition scholarship. Tuition, room and board, textbooks and other bills add up quickly. Staying at home and going to community college, she admits, would have been a better option.
Moving on. No, community colleges aren’t less academically rigorous.
The hardest college classes I have taken were at MCC. My microeconomics and macroeconomics classes both had only two grades: a midterm and a final. These exams were mainly true or false questions with a sprinkling of math problems. Had my microeconomics professor not given the class a curve, I would not have passed.
Moreover, most semesters, at least half of my professors also taught the same MCC classes I was taking at Wayne State. When my friends who went to Wayne found out that I was taking the same class with the same professor using the same textbook and taking the same exams as they were, they, unsurprisingly, got mad.
Now, permit me to be franker: I had to study more for A.P. classes I’ve taken in high school than some classes at SVSU. Sure, there have been a few SVSU classes that were rough, but, on average, SVSU classes have been rather easy. Because of this, I am more proud of many of the lower grades I earned in A.P. and community college classes than the easy A’s that I’ve been getting here.
And let me keep this last answer brief: All my credits transferred and counted toward my degree. I transferred under MACRAO, the old transfer agreement, and checked SVSU’s transfer guides online when registering at MCC. It’s that simple.
At about this point in the conversation with professors, they start getting mad and begin to blame transfer students for them not being able to teach the classes they want to.
But, to be fair, I never get to take the elective courses in my major I want to. I was supposed to be able to choose between several 300-level history classes, but I simply had to take whatever Saginaw Valley offered. That meant no Russian or Polish history for me, but rather a ton of western European and U.S. history courses that greatly repeated from the information my community college history classes taught me.
SVSU is a relatively small university with a downward enrollment trend. With smaller majors like history, that means classes aren’t always going to run. I’m mad about it, too, but blaming students for it is pretty counter-productive and doesn’t change a thing.
So, no, professors. I do not regret earning my associates degree first. In fact, in many ways, I still feel far more connected to MCC than I do to SVSU. I have already listed pretty much everything SVSU has done for me in this article. It would take this entire newspaper to list what MCC has done, such as its far more extensive and useful version of the introduction to teaching course (TE 100), the internships, RSOs, writing growth, making me realize that I wanted to be a history, not English, major, actually being a diverse school …
Well, you get it.