Community college enrollment has been increasing at more than three times the rate of four-year colleges. This year, in the middle of the recession, many schools are seeing enrollment surges of 10 percent to 15 percent.
People who work at community colleges deserve all the love we can give them, since they get so little prestige day to day. But the fact is many community colleges do a poor job of getting students through. About half drop out before getting a degree.
Most schools have poor accountability systems and inadequately track student outcomes. They have little information about what works. They have trouble engaging students on campus. Many remedial classes (60 percent of students need them) are a joke, often because expectations are too low.
When I started reading this OpEd, I was sure that it was going to be positive for community colleges. However, I don’t think it is.
We have lots of information on outcomes. We have lots of information on what works. Yes, we have difficulty engaging students on campus BECAUSE, as he mentioned earlier, we have so many different kinds of students. But also because MOST of our students are going to school and have families and are working. They don’t have the time to “get involved” on campus.
Now, I am part of a small initiative to change that just a bit. We’re doing a writing class for health science students. That will get them together and hopefully encourage them to know each other and stay in school. But when they have full-time lives outside of school, they aren’t going to be involved on campus.
The NYTimes OpEd seems like it is going to be positive to community colleges, but it isn’t. And part of the reason why is clearly that the author has not a clue who the majority of community college students are.