Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Community College for DC

"The community college we envision would be accessible to all District residents through open admissions, affordable tuition rates, and a campus (or multiple locations) convenient to all students."

"...[U]pwards of 111,000 District residents between the ages of 18 to 64 have no post secondary experience."

Brooke DeRenzis, Martha Ross, and Alice Rivlin, Envisioning Opporunity: Three Options for a Community College in Washington, D.C., Brookings, May, 2008

This useful report tells the story of how DC had a community college but lost it (and a good deal of funding) through mergers that produced the University of District Columbia (UDC). Multiple missions is a problem for community colleges; UDC is even more complicated because it functions as DC's state land-grant, four-year college. Community colleges offer one of the best platforms for increasing skills and household incomes and reducing poverty.

The three long-term options for a DC community college include: building a asemi-autonomous community college within UDC; incubating a new community college, perhaps using a suburban institution as the platform; or creating a networked community college among the multiple DC higher ed institutions that perform community college functions. Short-term options to address the education and training needs of low-skilled DC residents are included in Hometown Prosperity: Increasing Opportunity for DC's Low-Income Working Families, discussed in Connecting People and Jobs Is More Than a Name.

As we go envisioning for a DC community college, several cautions should be kept in mind. Some community colleges are good but many are not. Some of the problems include: low levels of graduation; poor transitions between developmental ed and technical courses; lack of flexibility for working students (most of the students); inadequate financial aid; and uneven connections of the business world and growth sectors. Answering these challenges is as important as figuring out what a community college should look like. And, we can start solving these problems now.

For some ideas from the world of proprietary (two-year) schools see: James E. Rosenbaum,Community college:the unfinished revolution; Although public two-year colleges have dramatically improved college access for large numbers of disadvantaged students, serious deficiencies in how they operate are limiting their value, Issues in Science and Technology, June 22, 2007

No comments: