Bad News for CCs

90% of students who start at a community college don’t finish college.

Is this because of community colleges? Or is it because the students starting at a community college aren’t actually able to finish?

 Most students who do well in high school don’t go on to a community college. The students who typically go to a community college are either

  1. those who struggled in high school, who goofed off, who skipped school, who didn’t do their work. If they have not had a major attitude change, they’re going to do the same thing in a CC and they aren’t going to graduate.
  2. those who struggled in high school because they did not have sufficient skills. Their skill levels are not going to automatically improve just because they are going to college. They need remediation and they need tutoring. These are available, but they will have to avail themselves of it.

A study in a Boston Globe article, as reported on The College Puzzle, said

2-students-big1Students attending two-year community colleges-the least-expensive option-fared the worst in the survey by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, with an abysmal 12 percent graduation rate.

Seven out of 10 public school graduates may get into college, but many lack the preparation to succeed. At Bunker Hill, for example, more than 80 percent of the Boston students from the class of 2000 required a remedial math course.

In this study, a student merely needed to earn a diploma or certificate from any institution of higher education, not just the original college. And by providing at least a six-year window, the study made allowances for students who often juggle college with work or family obligations. Rationalizations are now off the table.

A couple of thoughts: First, is it the college’s fault if the students need remediation when they arrive? Or maybe, to what extent is the college responsible for remediation?

If 80% of the students need remediation, then they are trying to go to college without adequate skills. Perhaps we should quit encouraging everyone to go to college.

My brother-in-law did not go to college. He has a good job in management because he learned how to manage people and he is a conscientious worker. (And he got a job with a company that rewards those things.)

If he had gone to college, he would have been one of those students needing remediation and not passing. My husband, from the same family, actually did better in college than he did in high school.

The more I read studies like these, the more I wonder why we as Americans feel it is important to send our kids to school. In the old days people apprenticed. That was like school, only different. As an apprentice you would learn your job and do it. (Or at least it was to be hoped you would.) Were there a lot of failures in those days that we just don’t hear about because they died young? got run over by a horse? or something equally removing-them-from-the-gene-pool?

The [most successful community] college also offers so-called “nested semesters” that allow students to take accelerated courses over 10- or even 5-week periods in addition to the traditional 15-week schedule. The faster pace creates a sense of urgency missing on many campuses. Minority students, who make up 42 percent of the student body, appear to fare especially well at Quincy College. Black and Hispanic graduation rates for a recent class, says Harris, outstripped that of Asian students.

This is an interesting idea and I am going to pass it on to my dean and president.

I wonder why the Asian students were outstripped. What about the shorter, more intense courses, courted Hispanic and black culture, while putting aside Asian culture? That’s an interesting question. I wonder if it would hold up through a second study or a similar program somewhere else.

No one believes that ill-prepared urban students will suddenly cruise through college. But any college that can’t help at least half to the finish line needs to reexamine what value it is adding to the educational experience.

Again, I may be negative, but why is it the college’s job to get the students through?

I guess I have a different view of the responsibility of students and colleges.

What is the role of the college?

I think the college should provide remediation. It should provide qualified teachers. It should provide technology so that the students can learn that aspect of American culture. It should encourage students. It should make sure students are not trying to swim out of their depth, by taking too many classes or classes for which they are not yet prepared.

It has NO responsibility for students graduating.

Now, if the short terms are good for students, they will also be good for colleges. The colleges will retain more students if the students are doing well. Student retention, though not the job of the college, is a goal of the college. They want to retain as many students as they can reasonably do.

But I know that many schools have watered down their programs. The classes are light. And they are doing this in an attempt to get the students to pass. What’s the use of passing if there was nothing rigorous?

bw-hand-writingDoes it do a student any good to get out of freshman composition and be unable to write an essay exam? No, it does not. They will have essay exams and they will need to do well on them to continue on in their education.

But we water our courses down at the CC in order to “help” more of our students through.

Students rise to a challenge and sink to the lowest common denominator thinking.

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