Grossmont University

Junior colleges are often marketed as two-year programs, but thousands of students have moved past that marker.

Antonio Chamberlain, Senior Staff Writer

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Life never really goes according to plan. Many of us have aspirations to get from point A to point Z, and attempt to map out everything to a T in-between. Then reality sets in, and our plans take a detour. One might still reach point Z, but not in the way they originally envisioned.

Many students at Grossmont simply view the school as a point or a stepping stone to get to our next destination on our map, so to speak. We step on campus with the idea we’re going to be here for two years, complete our GE courses and transfer to a four-year university. Community colleges are often marketed as such, but for thousands of students, it simply doesn’t work out that way.

What was supposed to be a short two-year pit stop has turned into a long-term stay for Grossmont students for a multitude of reasons.

Third-year student Anthony Qattan, who has been placed on the President’s List in each of his four previous semesters, said he believes the structure of Grossmont plays a role in keeping students here.

“I don’t believe their goal is to get you in and out in two years; I believe their goal is to keep you here so they can make their money,” Qattan said. “Students staying longer benefits the school, not you.”

Ironically, the funding structure for the college has changed. The old scale for funding was based on enrollment, but it’s now based on the Student Centered Funding Formula. This new scale is based on student success, like transfer and graduation rate.

Qattan doesn’t completely sympathize with students and believes some students don’t take an earnest approach to junior college settings.

“Some students collect financial aid checks year after year, so they take the minimal amount of units to acquire a certain amount of money,” Qattan said.

He also noted that “life happens” for some students, implying that students’ lives outside of school deter them from being able to finish in two years, but Qattan doesn’t waver from his takes about the ideology that some students and administrators carry.

“It’s a two-way street,” he said.

Not all students share the same sentiment as Qattan. Fourth-year student Marquis Snowden, whose extended stay is due to a switch in majors, said he feels junior colleges do their part in helping students reach the university level.

“People can get in and get out if they know what they want to do,” Snowden said. “I believe it’s a good thing that students declare their major as soon as they step foot on campus.”

Another factor in Snowden’s extended stay is the time it took to complete his general education courses, a system Snowden said he feels is flawed.

“But I do feel we should skip all of and take classes that to our majors,” Snowden said. “There is no true difference between those courses and our high school curriculum.”

Umoja director and Grossmont College counselor Jason Allen said he understands the sentiment students have when it comes to the junior college structure around general education, but notes how crucial and important it is to students’ success.

“I’ve seen it from both sides, where students have been discouraged because all of the GE units they have to take, but there are some students who it,” Allen said. “The goal for colleges is to give students a well-rounded education.”

Allen also said some majors like history and sociology are lighter in terms of prep and units required to obtain an associate degree, while business and STEM majors call for an extended stay at Grossmont, as they can range anywhere from 70 to 80 units.

Allen offered advice to students who feel stuck at the junior college level: “Students have a lot of demands going on outside of school and it cuts down on their studying habits, but to alleviate those, students should try work-study. We work really well with students in that area.”

Student Wayne Scott, one of those aforementioned STEM majors, is currently entering his fourth-year and offered up an interesting perspective as to why Grossmont students don’t meet the two year “in and out” expectation that’s been placed around them.

“I feel like some students do stay here too long because they get comfortable in their surroundings,” Scott said. He said he also feels like that’s created a “negative stigma” around students who stay at Grossmont for more than two years.

Scott emphasized that everyone’s journey differs, and while some students bring new meaning to the term “junior” college, students should still work toward achieving their goals, no matter the internal or external factors being a college student bring.

“A degree is a degree at the end of the day though, and nobody can take that from you,” he said.
Lorena Ruggero, Grossmont’s director of College and Community Relations, shared some insight as to why many students stay for more than two years.

“A majority of our students here at Grossmont College are part-time students, and that’s a big piece of that,” Ruggero said. “In addition, students go through a very beneficial exploration period in which they take courses seeking to find the career path they want to pursue.”

Ruggero also highlighted that students aren’t mandated to take GE classes; those courses are required if you are seeking upper-division transfer. Instead, students can just take the courses that align with a major and they can receive a certificate of achievement but she added: “Is that what employers want?”

Ruggero doesn’t discount students’ frustrations and offered up some resources for students to check out if they are struggling to find their career path or need assistance in taking the next step in their education.

“Visit with a counselor and converse about finding a defined end goal. Attend some of our transfer workshops,” she said.

“Life happens for students; that doesn’t mean you’re on your own to figure it out, we have resources for students to help them out,” Ruggero continued.

“Our vision here at Grossmont is to prepare individuals who can be contributing members to society, local and global citizens. That’s what’s best for our community at large.”

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