The Butte route
With a new Chico center, community college is more popular than ever
Its mascot is a roadrunner, and that’s not the only thing that’s a little “different” at Butte College.
Butte is shaking the inferiority complex some junior, er, community colleges have about being thought of as somehow “lesser” schools than their four-year counterparts. That’s just not the case.
More than 14,000 students attend Butte College, and their reasons for doing so number just as many.
For one thing, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a university, and the credits transfer just as if you’d taken those lower-division general-education classes at Chico State. A California resident can take 12 units for $395—much less than the $1,685 in fees you’d pay for a semester at CSU, Chico. Financial aid is also available, and 20 percent of Butte students get it.
Sepon Istepanyan, 18, of Reseda, ended up at Butte in fall 2004 after having second thoughts about his planned enrollment at Fresno State.
He found that Butte could give him the transfer classes he needed with lower fees that are “a big plus.”
“The classes are great. The center is great,” he said. “It’s a good place to go to school. … I’m glad I went the whole community college [route] because I wasn’t sure about my major. I didn’t want to waste classes.”
There are classes that lead directly to a career and “major” courses of study that will shoot you out ready to tackle a university. Whether you want to be a police officer, firefighter, nurse or truck driver, Butte has the certification program for you. The most-recent addition is motor sports, training automotive career-seekers through a partnership with Honda and Thunderhill Raceway Park, near Willows.
Butte is also known for its successful sports teams, particular the football team.
Butte is the place to go to take care of remedial course requirements, such as math or English, that keep students from moving ahead at four-year schools.
For four decades, going to Butte College meant a 20-minute or so commute to the campus located—intentionally—at the geographical center of an imaginary triangle formed by Paradise, Oroville and Chico. (Fun fact: the college campus is a wildlife habitat.)
But a bond passed by voters paid for the construction of and virtually everything in the new Chico Center, located on Forest Avenue, next to the Wittmeier car dealership. (The site right next to the freeway was chosen for accessibility, visibility and affordability.)
The two-story building is attractive, but more important it’s laid out smartly: There are 18 lecture rooms, four (count ’em, four) computer labs, a bookstore, a child development lab, an art room—even a little coffee kiosk.
And it still has that new-school smell.
“All the rooms are equipped with modern instructional technology,” said Rudy Flores, assistant dean for the Chico and Glenn centers. These “smart classrooms” feature Internet-ready overhead projectors, microphones and other cool add-ons.
Anna Sorenson, computer lab assistant, said the flat-screen computers are brand-new and equipped with high-speed Internet connections. There are labs where classes take place, including a 19-week office assistant program, and labs where students can work on course projects or whatever they want (except for porn and chat rooms).
“It’s really convenient for students,” Sorenson said of the labs that are open as late as 10 at night.
In the Academic Services Support Center, there’s a small library reference section, a tutoring center, study rooms and rooms to view classes offered online, via cable and through feeds from the main campus.
The ASSC, said supervisor Dan Buzan, is “the one quiet environment for students.”
Perhaps best of all are the center’s hours, which include nights and Saturdays. By taking what’s called “Saturday college,” students can get all their transferable general-education units completed in sequence.
Oh, and it’s good to note that there’s plenty of free parking.
“Our enrollment has increased significantly at this new facility,” Flores said. “On any given day we’ll have 2,000 to 3,000 students coming through these doors.”
(But even with the new center open, some courses are still offered at high school campuses and fitness centers around town.)
“We give them all the tools they need to succeed,” Flores said.