In May, the Ventura County Community College District (VCCCD) celebrated 5,370 degree and certificate recipients with joyous drive-thru commencements at community college campuses in Moorpark, Oxnard, Ventura and the Ventura College East Campus in Santa Paula.
These students came to VCCCD colleges with different goals — finding a career, expanding skills in an existing career or transferring to a four-year college or university. No matter their reason, the graduates can look forward to brighter futures and increased opportunities for professional success and financial security because they chose to attend community college.
Students who graduate with an associate degree will see their annual pre-degree earnings more than double after two years in the workforce and nearly triple their pre-degree earnings after five years (2017, California Community Colleges’ Salary Surfer tool).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020), the median earnings of a full-time employee with an associate degree is $46,124, versus $38,792 for an employee with a high school diploma.
Not only do students earn more with a degree, the cost to achieve the degree is more affordable at a community college than a four-year institution.
At a VCCCD college, the cost is approximately $1,294 a year, compared with approximately $5,752 annually at higher education institutions in the California State University system and an estimated $12,570 in the University of California system. These rates exclude additional fees related to room and board, transportation, books and other supplies that can total more than $36,000 a year for California residents.
Students who want to further their education by pursuing a bachelor’s degree will find that community college is an economical gateway.
In California, nearly 80,000 community college students annually transfer to UC and CSU campuses. Almost 30% of University of California and more than half of California State University graduates started at a California community college, according to the California Community Colleges.
Although the county’s community colleges deliver a high-quality, cost-effective education, students may still experience financial hardships. Our colleges’ financial aid staff assist students in accessing funding to help pay for their education. Each year, VCCCD colleges hold Cash for College events, where financial aid staff help students apply for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and the California Dream Act. The workshops are free and open to the community.
Eligible students can also access the Promise program, which waives tuition fees, so first-time, full-time students can attend their first two years of community college at no cost.
For many college students, the cost of textbooks can be a financial barrier to completing required coursework and that negatively impacts their grades. An increasing number of classes at our colleges are part of the Zero Textbook Costs (ZTC) program. In this program, students have free access to online learning materials so they don’t have to purchase textbooks.
Ventura College is a statewide leader in administering this program, with more than 40% of its courses being ZTC.
The District’s colleges also support students by hiring and retaining experienced faculty members. Faculty are provided opportunities for continuous training to ensure they remain current with technology and their subject matter expertise. Unlike many who teach at four-year universities, our instructors’ primary focus is teaching, not research or publishing, so students are their top priority.
Another reason to attend Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura colleges is that they offer classes to accommodate a range of student schedules. Online courses are options for students busy with work and family responsibilities. While in-person classes have been limited in the last year, more classes with in-person instruction have been added for fall.
Community colleges’ career education programs offer various certificates and degrees for those preferring to learn specific skills to enter the workforce following graduation. VCCCD colleges are nationally renowned for their curricula and have recently launched programs to meet the region’s workforce needs.
For example, Moorpark College’s Nursing Science program’s pass rate for licensure has exceeded 90% for the past seven years. Over the past five years, more than 450 Oxnard College graduates have been hired as firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics.
Ohana Pet Hospital partnered with Ventura College to create a veterinary tech program at its East Campus location in Santa Paula. (For the fall semester, 30 students have been accepted and there is a waitlist.) Ventura College launched a program in advanced manufacturing, teaching current technology and information in lecture and laboratory formats.
All this is to say, a community college education is something to celebrate year-round.
Greg Gillespie, Ph.D., is the chancellor of the Ventura County Community College District. For more information about the District, visit VCCCD.edu.