Monday, August 18, 2008

Community College Respect!

“Tired of their image as the Rodney Dangerfield’s of higher education, they [community colleges] have become increasingly vocal in their demand for respect. Nothing less than that nation’s economic future is at stake…”

Mary Beth Marklein, U.S. community colleges at a ‘turning point.” USA Today, 7-22-08

I agree for the most part, but three problems require solutions; raising graduation rates or the completion of industry-stamped certifications; improved transition of students from developmental education to technical training and credit courses; and closer connection with businesses and careers in demand. This article provides some good stats on the first two problems.

Increasing funding for community colleges and adult education is certainly a part of the problem, especially given literacy rates, but internal changes within community college functioning are important as well. These problems are especially challenging in some big-city community colleges and their neighborhood campuses. I was particularly worried by the lack of community college counseling and advising.

That said, community colleges need to be thought of as the center for a reformed and integrated workforce/education system.

I have discussed the community college discussion in Washington DC in past blogs. UDC just announced a new president, Allen Sessoms, who is:

“…[C}alling to turn part of the existing school into a community college, create an honors four-year program, and adding graduate programs, including a medical school.”

Valerie Strauss, “New UDC Chief Seeks Overhaul.” Washington Post, 8-15-08

Is that a bit of overreach? DC needs a community college.

Commmunity colleges are at the crossroads of so many salient demographic, economic, socioeconomic, and instituional challenges. They really do deserve our respect -- and help.

1 comment:

Colin Austin said...

Because of their size, resources, and adaptability, community colleges are central to improving local economies and reducing poverty. But they are still a two-tier system: one set of services and support for curriculum students and another for adult learners needing basic skills. One group meets in shiny new classrooms, the other in converted storage buildings seperated from main campus. Community college staff call this the "two sides of the house". The irony is that in many colleges the adult ed side is a money maker that subsidizes the folks upstairs.