Community college offers a quality education that’s affordable, close to home

Published in the March 29 – April 11, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Michele Bresso

Michele Bresso

Having moved to Gilroy from Bakersfield two months ago to begin a new job as vice president of academic affairs at Gavilan Community College, I’ve come to see how highly residents value their local institution of higher learning. With June approaching and graduating high school seniors in the Morgan Hill Unified School District now considering the next stage of their life and career journey, I encourage them to discover what Gavilan can offer in academic and social benefits.

Whenever I’m about town meeting people, I see eyes light up when I mention I work at Gavilan. People tell me stories of a class they took, a professor who changed their lives, or how they are doing as a Gavilan student. Each has experienced the way Gavilan College impacts their lives. They’ve discovered a way to reach their higher education goals without driving long distances or going into debt. That is Gavilan College: a quality education that is close to home and affordable.

Gavilan College, one of California’s 113 public community colleges, offers students from Gilroy, San Martin, Morgan Hill and San Benito County a way to complete the first half of a bachelor’s degree at a fraction of the cost of attending a university. Gavilan and its sister colleges are the envy of students across the nation, where college costs skyrocket into the tens of thousands and beyond. Not so at Gavilan. At just $46 per unit, earning a college degree in chemistry, administration of justice, early childhood education, communication or other subjects is achievable locally and saves thousands of dollars over the cost of starting at the university.

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I know firsthand the value a community college like Gavilan affords residents. Both of my children began their college educations at a community college before transferring to universities. I remain grateful for the quality instruction they received, provided by faculty who chose their career because they care about students and teaching. Gavilan faculty strive to put students first by providing rigorous instruction coupled with relevant, hands-on experiences that help students apply what they learn to real-world settings.
And here’s more good news: statistics show community college students who transfer to four-year institutions do better as juniors than students who started as freshmen at the university.

Our students are smart to choose Gavilan as their first stop to a bachelor’s degree — and they’re not alone. According to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, 31 percent of University of California and 52 percent of California State University graduates started at a California community college. Community college transfer students account for 48 percent of UC’s bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. Gavilan, like other community colleges in California, also serve as touchpoints for social justice and equity. By far, community colleges educate more of our state’s Hispanic, African American, Asian, and Native American students, as well as military veterans. It’s no wonder Gavilan College’s environment is so rich with opportunity.

For students seeking improved employment through education, Gavilan’s Career and Technical Education programs offer training in computer science, aviation maintenance, business office technology, computer and information systems, water industry technology and more. Students can earn both degrees and certificates, improving their employability and wage earning capabilities. Best of all, being a member of the Gavilan community means becoming part of something great. As Gavilan College approaches its 100th year in 2019, attending Gavilan means participating in a long-standing tradition in our community. I welcome you to check out our website at www.gavilan.edu. Better yet, visit one of our campuses in Gilroy, Morgan Hill, Hollister or Coyote Valley.

Michele Bresso is the vice president of academic affairs at Gavilan Community College. She wrote this column for Morgan Hill Life.