Why Community College Was the Right First Step for Me
By Stephen Barker
February 8, 2022
Elizabeth Aldana is a OneGoal – Houston 2017 alumna and a graduate from OneGoal – Houston secondary partner district, Spring Branch ISD.
Like many college students, Elizabeth “Eli” Aldana’s postsecondary plans changed early in her freshman year. “I thought, ok, I really love art, so I’m going to study art,” she explained. “I liked it, but it wasn’t necessarily what I was looking for, and I always liked the idea of teaching, so I changed my major to education.” However, the most significant change came earlier when Eli decided to pursue two-year college instead of the ten or so four-year programs on her shortlist of match schools.
Public two-year colleges have seen a dramatic 13% decrease in enrollment since 2019(1). Yet, more and more jobs in the U.S. require some postsecondary training, and an Associate’s degree can earn workers an average of 12.5% higher wages than those with a high school diploma(2).
Instead of following a path based on an institution’s name recognition or selectivity, the OneGoal enrollment philosophy encourages Fellows to take a holistic approach to postsecondary planning. The philosophy, known as Quality Enrollment, guides Fellows to choose a college or training program based on an institution’s personal fit, academic match, completion supports, and financial fit. “This can mean for some students that a two-year pathway is exactly the right opportunity,” says OneGoal – Houston Regional Vice President Angela Wedlick.
Lone Star Community College in Houston matched Eli’s ‘financial fit’ based on the OneGoal Quality Enrollment considerations. “I think it was better for me financially because they were able to give me more financial aid and scholarships.” Her class schedule at Lone Star also allowed Eli the flexibility to work, save money, and support her family.
“Eli beginning her postsecondary journey at a community college fit her personality perfectly,” explained OneGoal Houston Director of Data + Learning Brandin LeBlanc. Before transitioning to the OneGoal Houston team, Brandin was the OneGoal Program Director at Eli’s high school. “She eased into college life and was able to find friends in the smaller environment, create a schedule that allowed her to succeed in the classroom and work to finance the journey ahead.”
Eli also discovered a love for Psychology while working toward her Associate’s degree. She’s currently working as an Eligibility Associate at The Montrose Center, a counseling and social services organization serving the LGBTQ community in Houston.
“I know I want to become a licensed therapist, but I also want to teach psychology at a university or college,” said Eli. “Community college changed my perspective about my career, and I feel really ready to take on the next challenge and get my bachelor’s.” Eli is now double majoring in Education and Psychology at the University of Houston.
Whether starting at a two-year or four-year institution, earning a college degree has proven life-long benefits. Learn more →
(1) National Student Clearing House Research Center, Fall 2021 Enrollment (As of October 21), https://nscresearchcenter.org/publications/
(2) National Center for Education Statistics https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/cba