Butte of a school

Local community college offers some distinct advantages when it comes to higher education

Photo By Tom Angel

More than 14,000 students attend Butte College--almost as many as are enrolled at Chico State.

As a born-and-raised Bay Area boy, I’d never even heard of Butte College. The name “Butte” brings to mind rolling hills and vast areas of space in states like Montana or Idaho. So imagine my surprise when I moved to Chico and looked up the closest junior college.

I had originally planned to attend Chico State University, but because of some faulty class scheduling and my ever-present procrastination, I still had some work to do in order to be accepted into the system. I looked for Butte College on a city of Chico map. It was nowhere to be found. Must be pretty small not to be on the map, I thought. I asked a local at the gas station. Oroville, the man said. Oroville? So I bought a Butte County map and was on my way.

It’s been nearly a year now, and who would have thought that I would be singing the praises of Butte College? One of the main reasons I’m glad I’ve attended Butte is the huge difference in cost when compared to a California state university—more than $1,500 per year cheaper on average. As a Butte College student, I’m taking all of my general-education classes and will transfer as a junior. My admission to a four-year college will be based solely on my performance at Butte and not on my high-school grades.

“But how about the professors,” you ask? “I’m sure they won’t be as academically challenging as those at a four-year school.” Well, most of my professors actually teach at Butte and Chico State at the same time.

As I mentioned, Butte College is located in Oroville—at least according to the post office. It’s really located close to the triangular center formed by Chico, Oroville and the mountain town of Paradise on the edge of the Sierra Nevada foothills. That geographical reality has its advantages and its disadvantages.

A huge advantage is the scenery. Butte is the largest community college campus in the state, with a whopping 926.4 acres of land, and almost every square inch is a picture waiting to be taken or a painting waiting to be painted. Don’t be surprised if one day you’re walking to class and you look up to see a family of deer just yards away—every acre of the campus is wildlife refuge. There’s even a deer crossing at the Clark Road entrance.

One of the disadvantages of Butte’s middle-of-nowhere campus is just that: It’s in the middle of nowhere. After rattling along Highway 99 for about 20 minutes out of Chico, you see a sign and think you’re there. But you’ve only reached Pentz Road—you still have a few more twisting miles between you and the school.

Many of the facilities at Butte I’ve yet to experience or didn’t even know it had. The college has a huge variety of support systems and resources. Its Physical Education Department is state-of-the-art. Courses are offered in the traditional classes such as basketball, soccer and softball, but there are also some of the more modern classes, like ballet, snowboarding and “stretching for life.” How about a little tai chi?

Butte College also has an abundance of athletic fields that can quench even the most diehard athlete’s thirst—football, baseball, softball and soccer fields. There are also tennis courts, and for those who like to pump iron there’s a health-club-style fitness center with all the gym equipment and free weights you’d like.

As you can probably tell, I’m more into the physical side of the college experience. For those more prone to actual study, consider the spacious Frederick S. Montgomery Library. The three-story building holds 60,000 volumes, has a reference room and a number of computer-related resources, and is home to the Coyote Art Gallery. It is also home to The Learning Center, one of the few perks I have had the pleasure of using: I assure you that the wide variety of tutors the center provides will be a great help in your pursuit of academic perfection.

Just down the road is the Everett C. Brott Campus Center. This multi-purpose building offers such luxuries as academic and personal counseling, a lavish food court, the campus bookstore and the Career Guidance Center.

If you don’t want to make the trip out to Butte College, you have some other options. Throughout Butte and Glenn counties there are more than 50 “satellite” branches of the college. Many students who can’t afford the gas or don’t want to have to catch one of the free buses or don’t have the time to travel to the main campus take their classes at the Chico Center. The Chico Center is also home to Butte’s dramatic presentations, which take place usually once per semester. Most recently it presented a modernized version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

While taking classes at Butte, you’ll also notice the diversity. Students attend Butte from a variety of countries and numerous cultural backgrounds. Students of all ages also take advantage of what Butte has to offer. While more than half are traditional college ages (17-24), more than one-third are ages 25-49, and almost 10 percent are older than 50. Another fact worth noting is that Butte is at the top of the state list for the highest percentage of successful transfer students to four-year schools.

Turns out Butte College was the right decision for me. Hey, maybe it’ll work for you.