‘Inferiority myth’ plagues community colleges

“A community college education is as good — or even superior to what universities offer during the first two years,” argues a community college president. Class sizes are smaller and faculty are focused on teaching rather than research.

Some community colleges are dropping “community” from their names to lure status-conscious students.

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  1. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Well this is a difficult issue if ever there was one.

    First off, it depends on what we mean by “just as good”. That could mean a number of things:

    1) That students with AA degrees know just as much and write just as well as students with two years from a four year institution.

    2) That students with AA degrees have improved as much from the time they started as students with two years under their belt at a 4-year university. (This possibility can in turn be evaluated both in absolute terms, say “improvement of 14 units of academic ability” or in proportional terms, say, “improvement of 45%”.)

    3) That it’s possible for a student to obtain either of the two above outcomes in a community college situation, even if it doesn’t happen in every instance.

    There are probably other possibilities.

    Generally student ability at community colleges is going to be somewhat lower than at a four year institution. This isn’t an indictment — just a fact. Community colleges are typically “open enrollment” or very close to it. As a result, professors applying for jobs have to be ready and willing to deal with a student population that requires a greater focus on basic academic skills.

    I think what our community college president *means* to say is that a community college education CAN BE as good, or superior, to what universities offer during the first two years. But “can be better” or even “isn’t always worse” isn’t the same thing as “as good or even superior.”

    It’s not even close to the same thing.

    A few of the best students I ever had at UCLA were transfers from community colleges. They were sharp, sensible students who were looking to save a buck.

    I’m not saying community colleges aren’t “just as good” — by some metrics they probably can be, and the Professors at community colleges often have doctorates from institutions just as prestigious as the professors at the local 4-year state school, with CV’s just as long.

    I suspect that the weakness of a CC when compared to a university is almost entirely the result of entering student academic training and engagement. On that theory, then, it’s not the CC that’s not as good, it’s the students. (And that’s just a statistical, empirical issue. It might be wrong.)

    You can decide for yourself if the students and the institution are in fact separable.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      It is a truth universally ignored that the difference between a good school and a bad school–whether elementary, middle, high, or college–almost always comes down to how good the students are.

  2. PhillipMarlowe says:

    In southern Maryland, the three counties’ community colleges became part of the University of Maryland state system, and are referred as “College of Southern Maryland.”
    The credits can be fully transferred to the University of Maryland.

  3. I have two degrees from community college, and the end result is that you get out of education what you put into it.

    That being said, I’m more in favor of having students who are planning to go to a four year college do their first two years and get a AA or AAS degree, and a transfer agreement. I know it would be a darn sight cheaper, and that all the core classes are the same (english, math, science, accounting, economics, etc).