How the TC3 experience differs from IC and Cornell
By Maureen Tant
Both Ithaca College and Cornell University help drive the local economy and dramatically increase Ithaca’s seasonal population, but there is another secondary education institution in Tompkins County, one that might not be immediately apparent to a non-local: Tompkins Cortland Community College.
Undergraduate tuition for a full-time student at Cornell University is $49,341, Ithaca College’s is $45,944, and only $7,820 for TC3, but there are reasons besides reduced tuition why students might choose TC3 over IC or Cornell.
One benefit is TC3’s convenience. TC3’s main campus is in Dryden, N.Y., but it also has an extension center on the Commons in downtown Ithaca. More than 3,000 undergraduates currently attend TC3, and many utilize the extension center for career or psychological counseling services. Extensions do not offer regular classes, but they are helpful to adult students who might not be able to sacrifice two years of work for a full-time education. TC3 also has another extension in Cortland.
Plenty of students choose to attend TC3 without matriculating, meaning they take on a few extra classes and transfer the credit to a different institution.
“A lot of Ithaca students will come here and grab a prereq,” said Sharon Sanford from TC3’s Ithaca Extension Office. “It’s great—you just have to fill out the paperwork to make sure it transfers.”
Ithaca College senior Amy Wiggins attended TC3 before transferring as a sophomore. While at TC3, she resided in one of its 800 on-campus living areas, a feature not common to most community colleges. Learning to live in close quarters and deal with unfamiliar people might be more valuable than academics in college, particularly in a typical community college where students are more likely to commute.
“I liked having somewhere that was my own that I could return to after classes,” Wiggins said. “You live in a suite, so each person gets their own room.”
Community colleges are often seen as places of part-time or remote education, but Darese Doskal-Scassido, director of Residential Life at TC3, said the school’s on-campus housing adds to the student experience.
“It gives an opportunity for students to live with students they might not have before,” she said. “Our global program especially has been growing. We have many international students and students from across the country. It’s a much more diverse experience.”
Living off campus while attending community college is different from living off campus at a traditional school.
“When students live off campus, they’re much more likely to live alone or with someone they know,” Doskal-Scassido said. She added that it’s much easier to create new friendships when interacting with strangers is necessary.
The residence halls do more than simply provide a place for students to live.
“They’ve helped in growing our athletics program,” Doskal-Scassido said. “We’re recruiting in places like Colorado and California—all places they wouldn’t have been able to as heavily before this.”
In addition to a number of recreational sports, TC3 has student organizations meant for business students, writers, thespians, communications students, nurses and others. The school also has a chapter of the junior college honor society Phi Theta Kappa.
Even with these activities, Wiggins said TC3 lags behind IC in terms of internship opportunities.
“The doors opened so much easier when I got to IC,” Wiggins said. “I was pretty much on my own at TC3.”
Making her own opportunities wasn’t a bad thing—community college students gain independence and learn responsibility as a result of having to compete with students at four-year universities and colleges. Wiggins realized she wanted to work in television while she was at TC3, which separates its radio and television departments. The separation of departments forced her to dedicate herself to a specific career path.
Wiggins was especially appreciative of the programs available at IC after getting trained at TC3; she noticed a clear difference in the two schools’ resources.
“TC3 had a few decent cameras,” she said. “No programs like ICTV, though. It just doesn’t have the funds.”
Wiggins said one difficulty she encountered while transferring was that some credits did not carry over from TC3.
“I lost an entire semester’s worth of work,” Wiggins said. “There were so many radio classes that were important training, but IC didn’t have equivalents to them, so they’re just sitting there.”
Tompkins Cortland provides multiple extension centers, a dorm experience and a sense of independence for its students, but like at any other educational institution, the burden of success resides with the individual. It’s important to continue education and self-motivate to gain internship opportunities. Today, Wiggins says she’d like to be a producer, and she’s confident she has the ability to do so, due in large part to an education that began at TC3.
Maureen Tant is a freshman cinema and photography major who thinks all colleges should have more community in them. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.