Community college or adult ed?

Some 60 percent of new community college students aren’t ready for college-level classes. Those placed in basic math or reading rarely make it out of the remedial sequence, much less to a degree. Do they belong in college?

About Joanne


  1. Cardinal Fang says:

    This seems to me to be a problem of labelling, rather than education. That is, these underprepared students are adults, and they are trying to go to public educational institutions, supported by public tax dollars. We can call those institutions community colleges, or we can call them adult education, but the students will be learning the same thing.

    Obviously the community colleges, strapped for money, want to turf these students out. But we taxpayers shouldn’t be so quick to go along. We’re going to have to pay anyway. Might as well put these students in with the rest of the adult students trying to learn academic subjects. At least if the community colleges do the remediation, they can ensure that students who pass the remedial courses are in fact ready for the next level of courses.

  2. You’ve said this before, and apparently didn’t understand my response. I’ll try again.

    The difference isn’t “labeling”. The difference is between “this is a person whose education the government will subsidize with guaranteed loans and support” and “this is a person who has not mastered high school material, and will have to do so on his or her own time.”

    Instead of being funded out of the “college education” bucket, money that the public okays to spend on people who have the potential to benefit themselves and the economy with their additional education, adult education is funded out of the K-12 bucket–and is way, way, way down the list of importance.

    Adult ed is low priority, we’ll pay for it after everything else, and no, adult student, we won’t pay for your living expenses or time spent in school, because odds are you’ll never be worth the investment.

    You might not agree with those definitions, but like them or not, those are the definitions that the community colleges are tacitly using when they say “these people should go to adult ed”. They aren’t saying “label them differently” as you inaccurately describe it, but “fund them differently, out of the K-12 bucket”.

    If you don’t understand the funding difference, then you really don’t understand what the colleges are saying, and you might want to read up.

  3. If the community colleges can’t help them, as the Lansing CC official says, we should not be paying for them to attend.

  4. Cardinal Fang says:

    So, we should support the teenager who goes off to college to major in drinking at fraternity parties, but we shouldn’t support the kid who has a worthless high school degree and who is trying to learn to write and to add fractions.

    How early are we supposed to give up on kids, Cal? From the other thread, you seem to believe that if they have bad middle school grades, it’s already time to give up. No college for them; they can be janitors and waitresses like their parents, or maybe auto mechanics. But should we give up even earlier? Maybe after sixth grade? Maybe fourth grade?

    I got a lot of second chances in life when I messed up. Maybe that’s why I think other people should get them too.

  5. Cardinal Fang, how is placing late teen and adult students who can’t pass VERY basic reading and math tests in Adult Ed or vocational classes, “giving up on them?” I think it’s more likely that the old system, where these students were placed in classes they couldn’t pass, or charged college rates for remedial classes that didn’t do them any good, was a better example of giving up on them; plus, it was driven by cynical revenue-seeking on the part of the community colleges (and, often, 4-year colleges).

  6. A student who needs that much remediation (and I’m not talking about a person 10-15 years out of high school, going to college to improve their skillset) has absolutely no business being in a two or four year college (statistics are correct here, the more remediation a student needs, the chances of them ever graduating is next to none).

    Send them to the school district they live in to the adult education program there to get the remedial stuff out of the way, then if they do well enough, take a shot a college.

  7. Cardinal Fang says:

    I’m deeply skeptical of the claims made in the article Joanne links, about the Texas community colleges. Supposedly a program called PACE (Preparing Adults for College Excellence) takes students who tested at the lowest levels on the placement test, and after 10 to 14 weeks of the PACE program they are able to test into a much higher level.

    Yeah! Sure! Why put those unfortunate students into community college, when this magic PACE adult ed program can cram four semesters of remediation into 14 weeks? If we know how to remediate so quickly, we should never remediate slowly and expensively in community college!

    Some students– for example, well-educated foreign nationals with weaker English skills, and adults who once could do math and write, but whose skills have become rusty over the years– can benefit from short, targeted sklls brush-ups, but generally, the student who never knew how to add fractions is not going to pick it up in five minutes. If we knew how to remediate quickly, we could use the same magic in high school: those DCP prep kids could have gone through the 14-week program, and ta da, they would have been so ready for college math and English in the second half of their freshman year, and the rest of their high school could have been history of the Middle Ages and tensor calculus. But the fact is, we DON’T know how to remediate quickly, in the general case.

    Remediation is tough. But putting remedial classes in adult ed instead of community college doesn’t make it any easier, or any cheaper. I also question the notion that community colleges are worse at remediation than adult ed, as if community college deans have somehow failed to notice that they had to hire people to teach all those sections of remedial math, reading and writing. No, by now, community colleges are experts at remediation, and lots of research on remediation is taking place at community colleges. Bill Gates just put $110 million into remediation in community college.

  8. The question begs that spending so much on remediation (which by de facto is an indictment of our K-12 system and parental involvement in the education of their kids before they reach first grade) when in many cases, having to take 12-20 credits of remedial coursework before a student can even qualify for the coursework to get admitted to a major will cause most students to just give up (and in many cases, remedial coursework cannot be counted for use in any scholarship or grant monies in many states, so the student will have to pay the cost of the course themselves).

    I don’t know how to correct 12 years of under-preparation by high school graduates, but putting them into college and remediation simply sets them up for failure in many cases. A student who needs this much remediation usually needs a lot more help than most colleges can give (i.e. – sylvan or another learning center might be a better place to start at), since they can identify any issues which could be detrimental to learning.