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How Community Colleges Can Help Students

How Community Colleges Can Help Students

Today’s economic climate is a tough one for higher education as state support withers in the face of other pressing demands — and community colleges often face the biggest cuts. While community colleges offer an affordable two-year education to students who are unsure about which career they want to pursue or who just want to get some general education courses out of the way before transferring to a four-year university, these schools often lack important services and support for students.

Education Week notes that “while 79 percent of entering students [at community colleges] say they want to complete an associate degree, just 45 percent meet that goal in six years.” That statistic would be abysmal coming from a four-year university, but it is the norm with community colleges. What can community colleges do to support their students and boost degree completion rates?

Get them up to speed

Many students entering community colleges are not prepared for college-level work in math, reading and writing. Placement tests to assess incoming students’ skills can ensure that someone reading at an eighth-grade level receives tutoring or is placed in a remedial reading class before taking college-level literature courses. No one likes to be overwhelmed, and placing students in classes where they will be challenged — but not left behind — is one way to keep them in the classroom. Make these remedial programs mandatory so that no one can opt out.

Provide child care

Most students in community colleges have other responsibilities, including jobs and caring for children. Free or very inexpensive on-site childcare is one way to make sure that parents can get an education while knowing that their children are being cared for in a secure environment. On-site child care also provides an opportunity for elementary education students to interact with young children as part of their curriculum.

Encourage communication

Four-year colleges and universities provide tons of support services for students who need to talk about personal or academic problems — deans, advisers, counselors, pastors. Community colleges should do the same, and encourage communication with these professionals. They can often point out simple solutions to problems that may seem insurmountable to students, and direct them to the appropriate services.

As the cost of higher education continues to rise, more and more students will look to community colleges for the first two years of their degree. Right now the community college in my city is better known for the no-credit art and sports classes it provides for the general community than the educational services for its degree-seeking students. That definitely needs to change. Community colleges need to begin taking their students — and themselves — more seriously.

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Photo credit: Sterling College

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6:29PM PST on Feb 5, 2012

Community colleges are great and should be used and supported whenever possible. I wnet back to a community college to get a teaching degree on my first step to grad school and I strongly recommend the community college experience for people who are looking for retraining or extending their education after having been in the workforce for some time.

8:38PM PST on Feb 3, 2012

Poverty is a major callenge to CC students, I should knwo I am in my last semester of CC. I began classes at the 100's (collegiate) level, and I placed into those classes with teh Accuplacer test. I have noticed that at my CC a lot of first year student drop out when they get their first financial aid check. I would help I believe, if the financial aide were dispersed in weekly amounts rather than in one lump sum. It would deter those who few who are there to jack the system, and a steady income would help first year students budget themselves. Its easy when that 5000.00 or so hits your hand to fix the car, pay the bills and forget that its an inescapable loan. Weekly payments would help that, keep ya coming back so to speak. Cutting back on PELL was the wrong thing to do.

(And since Care2 is retarded and won't let me fix my profile)

sincerely,

aliceandthecat

8:14PM PST on Feb 3, 2012

I started at a community college before transferring to a 4 year school and it was the best thing that I could have done--especially since I couldn't have gotten into the school that I wanted out of high school without putting in the work either. Not all community colleges are the same, however, the school that I went to has contracts for transferring to schools throughout the state of Minnesota, Wisconsin and a few in the Dakotas that outline what is required to transferred--with all of the guidance and support that a student needs in order to do so--something that was an absolute lifesaver for me. Other schools need to think more about why their students attend their institutions and make accommodations accordingly.

11:05AM PST on Feb 3, 2012

Community college rocks! I attended one of the larger community colleges in the Pacific Northwest for 3 years and I am so grateful for the education and support that I received there. The college's medical clinic diagnosed my breathing problems as asthma. Since I had no insurance, or resources to fund treatment, the clinic sponsored me as a free recipient of medication through GlaxoKlineSmith. If it hadn't been for them, I may have died. My breathing issues were so horrible that without any sort of medication or expert help, I doubt I'd still be here.

3:27AM PST on Feb 3, 2012

You get out of a community college what you put into it. How many community colleges look to improve their services? How many educators in the area of a community college push for improvements in education? As a community college attendee I did not see a large lack of math, reading or writing kills and students were placed in a basic class if there were skills lacking.

Many students whether in a community college or 4 year school work part time. Making adjustments between school and work may be the first real challenge the student gets. Also, many students do know what their major will be and some already have a 4 year college picked out. The community college, in many instances, is a cost saver. One can attend a community college, get good grades and apply for a scholarship at a 4 year school. They can also just transfer to a 4 year college if their grades are acceptable and save a good sum of money by doing so. What is the graduation rate at 4 year colleges?

A final question is who produced the numbers mentioned in the article. A lot of the information appears to be unsubstantiated. I am for improving educational practices if that is required and the costs justified. Yes, there is a cost involved in education.

10:27PM PST on Feb 2, 2012

absolutely it should be sped up!! the more intelligently educated people we have the better! getting people the attention they need(tutoring and proper placement for students that are behind). students get discouraged when they are overwhelmed and not given the proper attention. a lot of students will feel more confident entering a four year program if they understand what they are doing. things move very fast at the university level and starting behind is a recipe for disaster. every institution from pre-schools and day cares to the highest level of education available should constantly strive to always improve as the world needs to wise up a bit!!

1:57PM PST on Feb 2, 2012

Yes, a high school diploma is no longer good enough, but a 4 year college degree is not for everyone, but everyone needs more than just high school, as important as high school is. It is only a beginning.

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