It is a fact that we sometimes take for granted how important the community college system is in serving the need for affordable schooling for millions of students in the United States. According to the American Society of Community College systems almost half of all undergraduate students start their academic careers in community colleges.
Not everyone in the world has the privilege or the right to an affordable education. The residents of the village of Oxolotan , Tabasco in Mexico did not always have the impressive educational facilities of its Universidad Intercultural del Estado de Tabasco (Intercultural University of Tabasco). The university was founded in 2006 with the mission to “create professional intellectuals that will contribute to elevating the level of human development of the region through the creation and management of self-managed projects that promote the conservation and promotion of cultural and natural heritage, respecting cultural diversity and environment.” Since then it has grown to 608 students with this year’s graduating class. The school invests in it’s community by offering degrees in communications, language arts, agriculture, tourism, intercultural health, and nursing.
The school serves Oxolotan, the surrounding villages, and some bordering towns in the state of Chiapas. Among those people was Guillermo Lopez Vasquez who is in the process of graduating from the institution. In addition to planning on graduating with a degree in Communication studies, Guillermo is also married, has a child and constructed a home for his family in the span of the 5 years he has been attending UIET.
As Guillermo gave me a tour of the facilities, he explained to me the difficulties that plague the students of the university such as slow internet in the computer labs when it is full of students, a history of alcoholism that has afflicted the town for years, and the relatable lack of funds to pay for tuition. Similar to most of us attending Yuba College, the students of UIET live with their parents and some even receive some government assistance in the form of government scholarships.
While many of us might not see the importance of a degree here in the states since a minimum wage job is easily accessible, to the people of Oxolotan it is imperative in order to succeed. It is a known Mexico unabashedly discriminates in the workplace by refusing to hire people because of age (against people no older than 40), gender, and even whether or not someone is attractive. The students at the UIET recognize that they will need all of the resources that they can offer in order to acquire a good paying job.
According to Guillermo, the situation is not as grim as it seems. He is able to pursue many government scholarships via the internet just like his American counterparts and also he is only a few months away from acquiring Mexico’s equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree.