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De Anza students succeed without class privilege

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Anisa Chaudhry

 

About a month ago, a current San Jose City Councilman told a friend of mine that De Anza students are financially well off, even stating that our college is the “Harvard of community colleges.”

While this epithet is flattering, the perception that De Anza students’ extraordinary academic success rates somehow relates to a supposed affluence is flat out wrong. Not just wrong, but degrading.

Yes, in some rankings such as Valuecollege.com, De Anza earns an impressive first place for California Community Colleges, boasting a stunning 72 percent transfer rate. But, in arguably one of the most expensive areas to live in the U.S., this excellence exists largely abstract of any semblance of economic privilege.

As a community college, De Anza serves a majority of low income students who otherwise would not be able to afford a college education. Around 51% of students commute from San Jose, where the median income is $77,000, compared to surrounding city Cupertino’s $134,000. It is important to take into account the high costs of living in the Bay Area where even having a lower six figure salary can be considered low income status, according to the Mercury News.

Graphic by Neil McClintick

 

Disaggregate this further, and you’ll find that 30 percent — nearly a third — of De Anza students have a combined household income below $50,000, and again, San Jose ranks as one of the most expensive major cities in the country.

Due to low income status, many students are required to work long hours while being a full time student at the same time, even while getting the majority of their tuition waived by the board of governors waiver. The time spent working makes it harder to find time to study, yet despite these difficulties, De Anza students have come out at the top, out placing a number of community colleges like Foothill, where around 20 percent fewer students receive some form of financial aid.

Now, eventually, a number of well-spoken students lectured the councilmember, at which point he rightfully apologized. Yet, the point remains; often, when we associate De Anza with its surrounding area, or parade our school’s ranking, we erase the class struggle that thousands of students undergo on a daily basis. Anyone should be impressed by our transfer rates or our first-year retention statistics, but far more awe-inspiring is the fact that these outcomes occur while a majority of our students rely heavily on financial aid assistance.

Be proud of attending De Anza, with the understanding that you, if not — your peers are expected to pick themselves up by extremely long bootstraps.

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