This is the time of the year when high school students, parents, and families receive news from college admissions. For those who applied to the UCs, which noted 249,000 applications for approximately 46,000 freshmen spots, there are bound to be disappointments and frustrations with rejection.

At the same time, the California Community College system is experiencing a deep decline in enrollment with some campuses reporting up to a 30% decrease. Closer to home, Pasadena City College enrollment is down 7%.

With the two California education systems on opposite ends of the statistical spectrum, I would urge high school students and parents to consider local community colleges. They are economical, offer a variety of courses, and provide a path toward attending and graduating from a family’s desired university.

With two school-aged children, I recognize the anxiety in parents with college-bound children. Many families have their sights set on UCs or other universities based upon rankings irrespective of fit for the student or affordability for the family. The freshmen acceptance rates at the UCs and USC average 12% and 14%, respectively.

In talking with an admissions dean, he shared with me that at UCs and privates like USC, transfer acceptance rates almost doubled: the UCs average 27% and USC hovers around 30% The dean’s advice? Attend community college and then transfer.

More so, many colleges in the fall will remain online so the full college experience of sports, club activities, and socialization will be limited. This is a time when a graduating senior can finish some general education courses at a local community college, helping to save some funds, which could be used to pay for increases in tuition at UCs and USC.

Personally, I benefited from a community college education. My two years at a local community college allowed me to finish my general education courses while I worked part time and participated in the debate team, where I learned to compete and build confidence. I also met and befriended students from a diversity of backgrounds – veterans, single working parents, and different races. Afterwards, I transferred to UC Riverside, graduated with honors and then earned a masters at UCLA, which I completed while running a nonprofit. The message I would impart is that in California, there are education options available.

I look forward to welcoming your family to Pasadena City College when the time comes.