There will be thousands more high school graduates by next week, but when asked where they will be taking their diplomas after graduation most of them answer:
There will be 800 seniors finally wearing their caps and gowns after four long years at Highland High School, 360 of which will be going to community colleges while only 120 will be attending universities.
It is widely said that a college education is the key to a bright future but attending a four-year university right after high school is not the only way students are earning degrees anymore.
Highland High School is located in Palmdale, California, and only 15 percent of their students are continuing their studies at a university, that is a much lower number than the 45 percent who are leaning towards community colleges instead.
“The numbers do not lie, most of our students are going to community college,” Highland High School’s head counselor Gwen Shim said. “College is highly encouraged at our school but many factors are put into play that keep students at local JC’s.”
This imbalance has been noted by the school’s staff. Teacher Tom Jones keeps record of the seniors’ plans after high school.
“I do a poll every year, I try to find out where each senior is going after graduation, and most of them are going right around the corner to [Antelope Valley College],” he said.
This is not only happening at Highland High School, but at many high schools throughout Los Angeles.
Based on the school’s accountability report, 40 percent of Sylmar High School’s 2014 seniors will attend community college and 20 percent will attend universities. At Lancaster High School only 13 percent will go to a four-year, while 47 percent will go to a two-year. At Santa Clarita’s Hart High School, 49 percent attend community colleges while 21 percent attend universities.
Circumstances that take part into these statistics include financial aid and the unpreparedness of students. Either they are not supported financially, are not qualified for universities, or they are not mentally prepared to break away from their families.
“I was accepted into Cal State Long Beach, but financial aid wasn’t giving me enough money. There was no way I could go there unless I won the lottery,” said Gisselle Gallegos, who will study towards becoming a lawyer at College of the Canyons next fall.
“My older sister failed her first college class because she was working two jobs trying to pay off tuition at UC Riverside, I’d rather stay home and actually pass my classes at a community college,” said Kevin Melendez who will be graduating high school next week.
Required “A-G” courses are classes required in seven general areas for entrance to the University of California and the California State University systems. This criteria is different from the ones needed to simply receive a diploma. Not all students fulfill these “A-G” requirements, and in turn, are prevented from even applying to four-year schools.
“Honestly, I didn’t even apply to universities. I didn’t think I would get in because I didn’t complete two years of a language, my counselor told me that was required,” said Yailin Lemus who is also now at College of the Canyons in the nursing program.
Although students are offered help to meet the qualifications, some just don’t complete it explains Shim.
“Some students have to retake certain classes and find themselves in difficult situations that causes them to run out of time to complete ‘A-G,’ but since day one, we try our best to inform and help every student achieve that goal,” she said.
Some students do complete “A-G”, but of course high maturity levels are not always reached at age 18.
“My daughter is just not ready to go and live on her own yet. I will sleep better at night if I know she still living under my roof while still going to college. She will move out when the time is right for her,” explained parent Martha Franco.
While several parents, students and teachers like Desiree Hamill strictly emphasize the importance of attending a four-year university, Highland High School’s principal Steve Ford says that a community college is a good choice and might even be the smarter choice in some situations.
“When you have your degree later on, no one will be asking ‘Where did you first start going to college?’ or ‘Where did you complete your general-ed?’ If you can complete your first two years of college while saving tons of money that’s probably the smartest decision,” he said.