Created By: ThatDonGuy on September 6, 2012 Last Edited By: ThatDonGuy on February 27, 2014

Default to Local University

Why travel to attend a university when I can live with my parents for four more years?

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When a TV child graduates high school, they end up attending a local university and, usually, living at home with their parents, even though they could easily get into the university of their choice. Usually, there is an excuse given as to why this is the case. Of course, the real reason is to keep the character on the show.

Examples:
  • ALF - when the daughter is about to graduate, the father takes her aside and tells her that they spent all of her college fund on feeding and hiding ALF, so she has to go to junior college and live at home.
  • Beverly Hills 90210 - everyone attends nearby California University, so nobody has to be written out of the show as attending somewhere else.
  • Kate & Allie - Allie's daughter attends Columbia, which is within taxi distance from where the show normally takes place.
  • The Cosby Show - Theo attends NYU and has to live at home when it turns out that, rather than mailing his housing application, he left it in his jacket pocket.

Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • September 6, 2012
    Rognik
    First off, as I am not a citizen of the United States, I will need to know what the definitely of a Junior College is as opposed to a plain ol' college. Second, how exactly is this different from Ivy League For Everybody (or whatever that trope is called)? That trope isn't so much about a teen able to go to a good school no matter how poor they are, but that every kid can always get into a college, no matter how badly they screw up (assuming the finish high school). Or at least, that's what I thought; I've been wrong about this sort of thing before.
  • September 7, 2012
    SteamGoth
    Junior college is a cheap, local, usually state-funded college. They tend to have lower standards for admission, fewer departments, and offer less rigorous coursework and fewer degrees. It's generally NOT someplace typically attended by straight-A, full-honors-courseload, class valedictorians, although it can happen due to finances.

    This trope is essentially the opposite of Ivy League For Everyone, where everyone goes to a stereotypically excellent college no matter how poor they are. Here, everyone goes to a stereotypically sub-par college no matter how intelligent they are.
  • September 7, 2012
    ladygem
    Junior Colleges are also known as Community Colleges, so you might want to take that into account as a redirect. They often only offer associates degrees (two-years) as opposed to bachelor degrees (four-years, and considered the standard undergraduate degree) And yes, the stereotype is that they are attended by people too poor or too stupid to get into a "real" college. In Real Life, it is becoming a way to save money for the first year or two and then transfer to a four year college. Classes do tend to be easier, so it's also a way to get a poor grade up to the standards of a more prestigious college before transferring.
  • September 7, 2012
    SharleeD
    Classes being easier at a community college is also a stereotype; competently-run junior colleges keep their courses' rigorousness on par with four-year institutions and universities. They do tend to offer more remedial classes and non-degree options such as cooking lessons, mostly for people who've been out of school for years or who just want to pick up a skill without having to graduate. Thus, they often acquire the image of being less academically-challenging than four-year schools, even if their degree or transfer courses are just as advanced.

    The reason this trope exists is that there are a lot of community colleges in the U.S., many of them deliberately established in places where the population isn't dense enough to sustain a four-year college. Plenty of young people who'd otherwise have to leave their home city to attend a university can remain in their home town and attend a local junior college, thus allowing them to remain regulars on a family sitcom even after they reach college-going age.
  • September 7, 2012
    norsicnumber2nd
    Now, define college. I'm going to college next year, but I think it means uni in America.
  • September 7, 2012
    AFP
    In American English, Universities and Colleges are more or less synonymous for conversational purposes. Typically a University will be an academic institution comprised of several colleges, all colocated on the same campus. For example, say you graduated high school and decide you want to attend Trope University College of Punns. Your room mate might be attending Trope U School of Wikiwalking. Both the College of Puns and the School of Wikiwalking are colleges, and they are both part of Trope University. Depending on the University in question, it may be relatively easy to transfer from one school to the other, if the university operates a single admissions program for all of its schools.

    In less populous areas, Universities may be very rare, but you can still find colleges by themselves, for example Kilowick College of Agriculture. Some of these colleges will be part of a larger University system, or they might be an independent entity. To make it more confusing, most American states seem to have two state-run public university systems (real life example: Texas A&M University and the University of Texas), each with colleges and campuses scattered all over the state, often in the same cities. This is aside from private universities, such as Baylor U or Southern Methodist University, which are also prestigious and accredited in their own right.

    Individual cities or counties might run their own Community College or Junior College systems, such as the Dallas County Community College system, which operates community colleges in various cities around the Dallas metropolitan area. Many community colleges, in addition to providing associates degrees and helping students get a "boost up" so they can attend a four-year university, are also trade schools, training students in useful but unglamorous professions as plumbers, welders, electricians, computer maintenance techs, etc. (though, on a side-bar, I did attend a community college which also provided private pilot training as one of its course curriculums).

    And THEN you get so-called "Diploma Mills", smaller for-profit colleges of a dubious legitimacy which can grant you a diploma worth slightly less than the frame it is displayed in. *coughuniversityofphoenixcough*
  • September 7, 2012
    AFP
    Oh, for an example:

    • Buffy The Vampire Slayer: In the third season (during their senior year), Willow reveals that she has been accepted to Harvard University. She later reveals that she has elected to instead attend University of California Sunnydale, so that she can stay with her friends (a more pragmatic choice than it might immediately seem out of context, given that she routinely helps her friends save the world.)
      • Buffy herself also attends UC Sunnydale, for similar reasons, plus the fact that her lackluster academics mean that she is unlikely to gain admission elsewhere. Most of the other characters instead move on to other shows or else get various jobs around town.
  • September 7, 2012
    pointlessproductions
    I wanted to mention that I am from the U.S., and had never heard of a junior college--I thought you meant junior high. Community College For Everybody might be a less confusing trope name?
  • September 7, 2012
    randomsurfer
    @AFP: But that doesn't count. UC Sunnydale is a full four-year Univeristy-level institution which just so happens to be located in their hometown. Plus, they go live in the dorms at least at first.

    • Unhappily Ever After: Oldest son Ryan and daughter Tiffany attend the local community college after graduating high school. Ryan is dumb as a post with a sack of doorknobs tied to it - he had to repeat his senior year of high school (in reality for the same reason that they went to community college - so he'd have a reason to stay on the show) but Tiffany is a brilliant student who could've gone to Harvard, Stanford, or any other high-level school. There was a hand-wave about not being able to afford that.
  • September 8, 2012
    AFP
    True, but you get the distinct impression that UC Sunnydale isn't one of the schools you went to if you had something better lined up. Something about a high mortality rate amongst the student body (but then, that's Sunnydale).

    Maybe not limit this trope to Community Colleges, but also include small-town local colleges, to differentiate form everybody going to Harvard or UCLA or Oxford.
  • September 10, 2012
    SharleeD
    AFAIK, the technical distinction between "college" and "university" is that the latter are accredited to award Ph.D.s.

    Rather than "for everybody", which really only implies it's easy to get into a junior college -- which is the whole point of their existence in Real Life: to serve people who'd otherwise miss out on higher education -- it might be better to call this something like Default To Junior College, as it's most often depicted as a second- or last-choice option for the characters.
  • September 12, 2012
    spacemarine50
    Because the examples aren't ready:

    Truth In Television- Local universities tend to be cheaper than distant ones, and Community College is even cheaper. Also used by students who don't want to have a few thousand dollars of debt when they graduate.
  • September 13, 2012
    Rognik
    Put the examples in a new paragraph (press return twice), then list each example in bullet form (lead with a star) so that we can actually read them without getting a massive wall of text.

    Also truth in television in that many students who live in the same city as these schools, or at least close enough for regular commute, will often live at home to save on rent, some grocery bills and other expenses moving out would involve.

    • Good Luck Charlie: PJ, who has been established as pretty dumb, is in fact going to college in the 3rd season. Unlike the usual examples, he moves out and lives with Emmett instead of staying at home, but is still close enough that he's not Put On A Bus.
  • September 14, 2012
    NimmerStill
    The title and description should probably read "college" or "university or college" in light of the difference between the two.
  • September 14, 2012
    randomsurfer
    On Happy Days after graduating from Jefferson High School Richie, Potsie & Ralph all attend the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, as does Joanie after she graduates. Richie & Joanie both live at home while attending school. Chuck went to UW/M too, but he lived in the dorms; at least until he got Brother Chucked.
  • September 15, 2012
    AgProv
    Hayley Smith in American Dad attends a community college - or did for as long as Stan was prepared to pay his daughter's tuition fees.
  • September 15, 2012
    AgProv
    Interesting. At the time I attended university, only about forty institutions in Britain had the right to charter themselves as unis. There was a second-tier set of institutions called polytechnics, who while they could confer degrees did not exclusively deal in degree level courses - they could also teach lower qualifications such as HND's, OND's, et c, that were still higher than school level O and A levels. (Ordinary and Advanced). Below the polytechnics were the tertiary-level institutions, the "tech colleges" and institutions of higher education. These conferred few or no degrees but instead focused almost exclusively on the lower level qualifications, remedial teaching in school-level subjects, and vocational training for business and industry. I guess the American community college would equate to the British polytechnic/tech college set up, as was.

    Of course, it's all changed: the polytechnics were able to re-invent themselves as universities, although in terms of things like funding and prestige they still lag a long way behind the old established universities. While tech colleges and Institutes of HE still exist, some of the larger ones were also empowered to re-invent themselves as universities. The rather shabby and run-down tech college I used to attend in Wrexham, North Wales, now calls itself "Owen Glyndwr University", although from the outside it's still the same shabby old "North-East Wales Institute of Higher Education", a very typical community college....
  • September 16, 2012
    MorganWick
    For the record, this American only ever hears of "junior college" in association with sports. Apparently community colleges have sports teams, as odd as that is to believe.

    Related is that trope where the entire cast of a show set in high school - coincidence of coincidences! - all graduate at the same time, and all just happen to go to the same university, which often is even named the same as the high school. Oh, and of course College Is High School Part Two (or whatever that YKTTW was launched as if it was launched at all).
  • September 16, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^"Apparently community colleges have sports teams, as odd as that is to believe." Why would it be odd to believe? People who go to community colleges play sports. Kirby Puckett and Lance Johnson played on the same JC baseball team before they hit the big leagues & faced each other in the World Series.
  • September 27, 2012
    triassicranger
    An episode of Adventures In Odyssey has Aubrey Shephard consider doing this so that she doesn't leave her family behind. She decides against it and goes to the college she was planning to go to in the first place.
  • September 27, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    I'm confused. Does this trope cover all different kinds of universities?

    I'm from the UK so this is Truth In Television here, but that's because of the cost of living: if you stay at home you don't have to pay living costs, rent, etc. Depending on where you live you don't necessarily have to compromise on the quality of university (I know someone who stayed at home but went to a Russell Group uni, which is relatively prestigious).

    So maybe this is a US specific trope and just doesn't apply to any thing I'm even saying in this comment, like if the point of it is that the character is staying at home AND accepting a crappier university than they could have gotten into?
  • September 28, 2012
    Chabal2
    Can't remember the name, but there was a movie that had a subversion: the guy can't wait to go to a prestigious college, but his mother blows his college tuition on extremely expensive surgery for her small annoying poodle.
  • January 31, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In the film Johnny Be Good Johnny is a star high school football quarterback who is wooed by a bunch of big name colleges, but ends up going to his local state school to be with his girlfriend.
  • January 31, 2013
    StarSword
    @Chabal2: Try You Know That Show.

    TV:
    • In Castle, Castle's daughter Alexis is heard making plans for places like Princeton and Oxford, and despite his grumbling Castle can easily afford it. She ends up at Columbia, five minutes from her dad's penthouse.

    EDIT: Fixed.
  • January 31, 2013
    MetaFour
  • February 23, 2013
    StarSword
  • February 27, 2014
    AgProv
    Bumped!

  • February 27, 2014
    randomsurfer
    In the Grand Finale of Head Of The Class, where Ivy League For Everyone makes sense because they're all in AP classes, Eric decides to attend City College of New York both because it has an excellent writing department (which is what he wants to do) and because it'd be less of a financial burden on his mother.
  • February 27, 2014
    paycheckgurl
    Isn't this basically California University
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=h1dvnvo80xtlqvo3rjmambyu