Epic fail: No degree or transfer for 70%

On Community College Spotlight:  Only 30 percent of California’s degree-seeking community college students earn a credential or degree — or transfer to four-year universities — within six years, concludes a study, Divided We Fail. Only 40 percent of students earn at least 30 college credits, “the minimum needed to provide an economic boost in jobs that require some college experience.”

Ninety percent of community college students say they have “the commitment it takes to succeed” and 84 percent think they’re academically prepared, said Kay McClenney, director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at a nationwide Summit on Completion. Yet, after three weeks of class, 40 percent of new community college students have skipped class, and 30 percent have turned in an assignment late or not at all.

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  1. I’d be curious to see the correlation between the likelihood of finishing and things like high school GPA & class rank, SAT/ACT score, etc. I understand the desire to have an “open door” policy at CC’s, but given the budget crisis and the overcrowding, maybe it makes more sense to require some sort of minimum academic qualification for admission (or at the very least, financial aid eligibility). Students who are “late bloomers” and didn’t do well in high school could meet the admissions criteria by passing a placement test.

  2. Basically, %70 of the people in Clifornia who don’t go straight to a 4 year don’t belong in school at all. Actually that number is probably larger since less then %100 of the population trys to receive any kind of post secondary education.

  3. Many students who graduate from high school aren’t ready for what would be defined college level coursework.

    Given that the first year at a community college usually consists of core classwork, I would imagine that the layout would look something like this (assuming the student is truly ready for college level work):

    Math – Precalculus or calculus (6-8 credit hours)
    Science – Biology/Chemistry/Anatomy/Geology/Physics (8 credit hours)
    English 101/102 (6 credit hours)
    Political Science/Gov’t (4 credit hours)
    Fine Arts/Philosophy/Sociology/Psychology (3-4 credit hours)

    This is the type of coursework a college ready student should be taking (and it’s approximately what I took as a freshman back in 1981).

    The other problem is that many students arrive at a 2 or 4 year college needing remediation, and studies have shown that the more remediation they need, the chances of them ever earning a certificate/2/4 year degree is quite slim.

    Most students need remediation in english and math (which isn’t a shock at all).

    Most degree programs at a 2 year college require finite math or precalculus (at a minimum), science (which usually has a lab requirement), and a minimum of english through at least business or technical writing.

  4. Community colleges are doing their jobs–they are being an option for people who have a desire to get more education, but who don’t have enough background/aren’t prepared enough to be accepted at a university. I don’t find it all surprising that most of those people find out that it’s harder than they thought (wishful thinking is part of the human condition) and that it isn’t worth it (to them) to put in the time and energy it would require to complete a degree (if you’re behind, it takes a _lot_ of work to pick up the basics, and that’s before you really get started). I think it’s good that our society has these options, but it’s not a failure if students decide not to follow through–it’s just their choice about what’s most important for their life. The fact that we have this option says good things about us, and it’s part of the package it’s not going to work out for everyone. If everyone were graduating, that would say to me that we were being too restrictive about who we let have the opportunity to try.

  5. I started at a CC and went on to graduate with honors at a University. It was a great alternative for me, since I had to finance my own college and had “slacked off” somewhat in HS. My fellow students ean the gamut from high-achieving foreign students, older students who decided to get serious, others like me, as well as a small group who were getting Social Security due to age/death/disability of a parent and had to remain in school until their were 19 to collect the benefits. Even if those who start out end up leaving, they have had at least the exposure to higher ed, and will either adjust their aspirations or perhaps return to school when they are ready to take it seriously.

  6. LSquared is 100% correct. It’s a very good thing that our nation’s community colleges offer this option, but it’s not the community college’s fault that less than 1/3 of entering students don’t follow through. To do otherwise would be to start the process that has eroded the K-12 school system to the point of destruction – “Let’s lower the standards until EVERYONE can pass.”

  7. After 20 years as an educator, I really believe that we push too many kids into post-secondary options, let it be university or cc, that they have no desire to pursue. They maybe just haven’t found what their passion is yet and need some time out of formal training to figure it out. Without intrinsic motivation to learn, many will not succeed.

    I also feel that our trades need to be given the respect they deserve. Academia isn’t for everyone, and for some it is a total waste of time and money if they really their true passion for learning rests in developing a trade. (Bonus:they get a career out of it as well!) I tell my students, it doesn’t matter to me what you choose to do after high school, just make sure your choice involves passion, excellence and lifelong learning,

    I have great respect for students that wait to go to postsecondary when they have a better perspective on their future and are ready to learn. Myself, I started university at 17, graduated at 21 and couldn’t imagine doing anything else other than teaching so of course I was successful! (Plus I was paying my own way, so failure was very expensive when you are wasting your own money instead of your parents!)

    Just my 2 cents…

  8. Ninety percent of community college students say they have “the commitment it takes to succeed” and 84 percent think they’re academically prepared, said Kay McClenney, director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at a nationwide Summit on Completion. Yet, after three weeks of class, 40 percent of new community college students have skipped class, and 30 percent have turned in an assignment late or not at all.

    A pre-admission test to see if the applicants display the Dunning-Kruger effect would be worthwhile.  If it was used as evidence of unfitness for post-secondary work, it would save a lot of time and money.