Community College: A real college with real people


When I meet with high school students to discuss their college plans, I let them take the driver’s seat. After all, it is their journey we’re talking about. They know how to start the car or in this Kita Grahamcase, the conversation, fasten their seatbelt and gear up for a safe ride. Very often, high school students know where they want to go, but don’t always know the best route for getting there.

As their driving instructor, I advise students where to turn and what road blocks to avoid. Quickly, I remember they’re driving and not to take the wheel, during the conversation, as they articulate what they want to be now that they’re all grown up.

In the age of smartphone navigation apps and Google Earth, the countless “get it now resources” tend to cloud their journey – or road to success. Their road may be to become a doctor, forensic scientist or an armed forces member. Students frequently neglect to factor in the academic, financial and time commitments to completing a program.

I advise students to consider attending TCC. Common responses I hear when asked, “What do you know about Tidewater Community College?” are “I can go there for two years,” “anybody can attend” and “it’s not a real college.” When I reply, “What’s a real college?” The response is often silence. This is where the drive, or conversation, makes a sudden stop as I take the wheel and offer some solid directions, community college facts.

Consider these community college facts:

  • Start Here: Save money and pay low tuition rates by staying home to attend college.
  • Turn Right: Community colleges are regionally accredited, and have ‘stamps of approval.’
  • Keep Straight: Support services help students stay on track academically.
  • Avoid Detours: Prevent getting into student debt.
  • Arrive at Destination via shortest route possible: choose a degree or certificate program suitable for your career goals and finish strong.

These directions echo the national facts on how community colleges are real institutions with real people.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, $3,430 is the average yearly tuition costs (2015-2016), there are 1,108 community colleges in the U.S., 7.3 million people attended community colleges in 2014.

As the student takes back the wheel, they are better equipped to make an informed decision about their future destination – hopefully a community college.

Kita Graham is a high school career coach at Tidewater Community College where she also teaches student development courses. Kita has worked at several higher education institutions in career services, academic counseling/advising, workforce development and Opening Doors, a national community college program designed to identify successful degree completion outcomes for low-income, adult learner students. Kita holds a M.A. in Organizational Leadership, Higher Education Student Affairs from Regent University and a B.A. in Communications from Middle Tennessee State University.

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One Comment

  1. Ayanna Thompson
    April 29, 2016 at 4:25 pm Reply

    Knowing that a “real” college is accredited and can prepare you and lead to 4-year institutions is important for our students. I remember the stigma that “community colleges are just another high school”. It’s not only students, but the community at large that needs to know the value of a community college education TODAY.

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