Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Students

Who are the two-year college students taking these courses?           

An increasing number of high school students are on campus taking dual credit courses.  Public high school students usually attend in the evening, but many homeschoolers attend the college for dual credit and they often come in the daytime.  Lone Star College has just added an on-campus, full-time, dual-credit program for at risk students, usually non-white males, who are interested in college but are maintaining less than a C average in high school their sophomore year.  This has been an attempt on the college’s part to help limit the dropout rate and has been very successful to date (Pearson). 

These younger students can offer some frustrations for freshman composition teachers who are expecting eighteen and nineteen year olds in their classes when the fourteen year old on the fourth row can’t come up with a topic for “most traumatic event” in their lives.  This came up on my campus after 9/11.  The teacher told the student that he could write about that.  He ended up in her office explaining that he had been restricted from television that day, as he was only eleven at the time.  For some reason he didn’t want to announce that in front of the whole class.

Then there are the traditional students, ages seventeen to twenty-one.  They comprise 43 percent of the community college classes, the largest percent for a single age group.  The next largest cohort is the twenty-two to thirty-nine year olds, who make up 42 percent of the student population (“Community College Stats”).  So, 85 percent of the students being taught in two-year colleges are under the age of forty.

The gender divide is clear in community colleges.  Women comprise 60 percent of the student population (“Community College Stats”).  The young ladies tell me this makes it a little bit harder to get a date.  I have not heard any male students complain though.  The two community colleges I have taught in are both perfectly aligned with the norm on this.

Most community college students come from low socioeconomic backgrounds (Tai).   A common explanation for that status is single parenthood, which 17 percent of the two-year college population experience.  But parenting can be an issue even in two-parent households.   Some traditional age students are married to other traditional age students, which makes two teenagers married to each other, another contributing factor to low socioeconomic status.

Community college students include 39 percent who are in the first generation within their family to attend college (“Community College Stats”).  This varies from school to school.  One of my colleges has 95 percent first generation students, while the other has 20 percent.  The geographic area that the colleges pull from makes the difference.  At one of my colleges the students primarily come from a low socioeconomic neighborhood, with some rural.  There the rural students are the most likely to already have parents with college education.  At the other of my colleges, most of the students come from an upper middle class neighborhood, with some rural.  At this school the rural students are the most likely to be first-generation college.

To summarize, the students at the community college level include dual credit, traditional, and returning students.  Women dominate and the majority of students are under the age of forty.  Many are of low socioeconomic status and more than one-third are the first generation in their families to attend college.



 “Community College Stats.” American Association of Community Colleges.  January 2008. 10 August 2008 < http://www2.aacc.nche.edu/research/index.htm>.

Pearson, Dr. Kathleen.  “The President’s Welcome Presentation.” Adjunct Faculty Meeting for Lone Star College: Kingwood.  21 August 2008.

Articles in this series include:
Teaching College English in a Texas Community College: The Teachers
Adjuncting, especially in a community college
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Focus
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Courses
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: Summary

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