Community colleges provide easy access — to failure and debt, argues a new book by remedial English instructors. Poorly prepared students have little hope of success, they write. Raising admissions requirements would strengthen academic classes for prepared students and redirect the unprepared to short-term job training that might help them improve their lives.
For-profit colleges charge $35,000 on average for an associate degree, on average, more than four times the cost at the average community college. Why does anyone choose a for-profit college? Students cite flexibility and convenience. Most use federal student aid to pay the bills.
“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.
Graduation rates vary by type of college, because different colleges recruit different types of students. Pew Research looks at how students are doing six years after enrolling in college.
The for-profit colleges enroll older, less-capable students who are much less likely to complete an academic degree, but much more likely to complete a two-year-or-less vocational credential. Community colleges, which also enroll many high-risk students, offer low-success academic programs and higher-success job training.
Washington state community colleges plan to offer an online, competency-based associate degree in business designed for working adults. Students should be able to complete a degree in 18 months or less for $2,666 per six-month semester.
With college costs rising, competency-based degree programs are expanding.
The trucking industry needs to hire 95,000 new truckers every year, but training programs turn out only 75,000 and half the job applicants are ineligible due to recent drunk driving convictions. A startup called WorkAmerica is trying to fill the gap: The company vets would-be truckers, lines up job offers and places them in community college training programs. If they complete the program, they’ve got the job.
People with “some college, no degree” aren’t just dropouts. Some have earned vocational certificates that are worth a great deal in the workforce — as much as an associate degree.
Latino and black students are as likely to start college as whites but less likely to earn a degree. Most start at community colleges with open admissions and low graduation rates. In East Los Angeles, there’s a move to help disadvantaged students start at state universities in hopes of raising their graduation rates.
Competency-based programs in information technology are in the works at 11 community colleges. In competency programs, students progress at their own pace as they demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skills. Learning– not time — is they key variable.
Community colleges can compete for students with for-profit colleges by studying their strengths, writes a dean who’s worked in both sectors.
Revisions to the Higher Education Act could hurt open-access colleges, community college leaders fear. The reauthorized law could tie federal funding to completion rates — which are hard to calculate for community colleges — and penalize high student loan default rates.