Benefits of community colleges are overlooked, high school counselors say

Because four-year universities are often advertised as the only viable option after high school, Bay Area guidance counselors find that students overlook the benefits of community college.

Vanessa Goulart, a guidance counselor at Fremont High School, said students believe that community college is less impressive than four-year universities, even though students are taking the same classes.

“It’s really unfortunate,” Goulart said. “I really try to show that it doesn’t matter what your option is. You’re getting to the same goal.”

Goulart added that finance plays a big role in students’ decisions.

“We always encourage them to go ahead and do a lot more (decision-making),” Goulart said. “But I think sometimes finances really becomes a discouraging factor.”

She said “The California Promise” opened up higher education opportunities by allowing community colleges to waive enrollment fees for first- and full-time students.

Hannah McGoran, a senior at Homestead High School, said she first learned about the potential of a community college education in high school.

“Since both my parents went to four-year (universities), I was more focused on four-year colleges,” McGoran said. “But in high school, I learned about how good of an option attending community college and then transferring to a four-year is for students.”

McGoran spent some time at De Anza College in concurrent enrollment and said she enjoyed her experience. She said she enjoyed the diversity of the students and talking to people of all ages.

Vicky Salazar, college and career advisor at Homestead High School, said many students already have their heart set on a specific college.

Salazar added that this can change the way students set up their high school experience because they may cater their classes and extracurriculars to that specific school. She has also seen some students who aren’t willing to explore other programs or options after picking one academic path.

“It can be good because you are aspiring for something, reaching for something,” Salazar said. “But I think it also closes the doors on different options or different opportunities.”