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Community colleges face many hurdles, ranging from budget constraints to increased enrollment, but a new study pinpoints some of the largest issues - which may surprise you.
The current economic slowdown, high unemployment rates and rising costs of four-year universities have sent many college students scurrying to the ivied halls of their neighborhood community colleges to begin the path of higher education. Community colleges across the country have seen record enrollment figures over recent years, as more students are turning to these institutions right out of high school and well into adulthood. However, community colleges are far from the utopia many make them out to be – in fact, these schools have their own sets of issues and hurdles they must overcome to help their students be as successful as possible. We'll take a look at a recent study that outlines eight of the biggest issues community colleges face today.
About the Study
Western Governors University, an online college that provides more than 50 degree programs across the country, recently conducted a study with The SOURCE on Community College Issues, Trends and Strategies, a new online resource for schools. The study went to a broad range of community college leaders nationwide to get their perceptions on the major hurdles in higher education at the community college level. The report found that there is a diverse outlook among community colleges as to which issues are the most prevalent in the industry. Some of the issues discussed during the study included college readiness, student services and workforce development, according to a press release on the WGU website.
Although there was much variation in the issues that were
Be surprised by the results from the first ever national community college survey, which found that students value their internet connection more than their instructors!
Community colleges have come to the forefront of post-secondary education since President Obama made them one of his top areas of focus over the first two years of his administration. To determine exactly what type of impact community colleges might have on adults and industries across the country, the first national community college survey was conducted last year. The data, collected by the Pearson Foundation, share some insight into who is going to community college today and some of the major challenges these institutions and their students face.
Who is Attending Community College?
One part of the survey took a look at the types of students community colleges are frequently seeing today, and the results were reported in the Washington Post. This information can help colleges determine the best courses, faculty and schedules to accommodate their student body demographics. The Pearson Foundation study found:
- One-third of the student population at community colleges were enrolling in college right after graduating from high school.
- One-third was returning to college from the workforce, presumably to get additional training for their current job or education necessary to switch careers.
- One-third was taking community college course for self-improvement or enjoyment purposes.
- Half the students surveyed were age 26 or older.
- About 60 percent were planning to transfer to a four-year university after completing their community college degree program (actual transfer rates are actually much lower).
It appears that the large majority of community college students are much older than the average student attending a four-year university. In addition, many
A nursing student at Johnson County Community College has been expelled for posting a picture of her and a placenta on her Facebook profile. Read about the controversy and the ensuing lawsuits.
Social media and social mores have once again collided in a Midwestern controversy involving a community college and four of its nursing students. A lawsuit was filed in Kansas last week by one of the nursing students, Doyle Byrnes, charging that Johnson County Community College dismissed her without due process after she posted photographs of herself with a human placenta on her Facebook page. The college said the students behaved unprofessionally, and the school's decision to dismiss them was appropriate under the circumstances. We will take a look at both sides of the controversy in this article.
How it Happened
According to a report on Inside Higher Ed, the nursing students from the college took a trip to nearby Olathe Medical Center in November. The purpose of the trip was to learn about the functions of a placenta, the organ that supplies life-sustaining nutrients to a growing fetus inside the womb. The medical center provided a donated human placenta as an example for the lesson.
During the lesson, Byrnes and three of her classmates asked the community college instructor, Amber Delphia, if they could take photographs of the placenta in question. According to a report at the Courthouse News Service, Byrnes also told Delphia she intended to post the photographs on Facebook. Byrnes said that Delphia allowed them to take the pictures, after ensuring no indentifying information about the patient would be included in the photos. When Byrnes told her about the Facebook intentions, Delphia's response was simply,
After being attacked by private colleges, community colleges are mounting a defense and publishing studies that clearly outline the differences between the public and private institutions.
A debate has been raging in the world of higher education recently, after for-profit colleges launched attacks on community colleges. In the wake of the first, and much anticipated, White House Summit on Community Colleges, criticism has been circulating about the "unsavory recruitment practices" of these institutions, according to a report on Inside Higher Ed. Community colleges have also been accused of providing less-than-stellar academic quality, course availability and individual attention to students. Now, community colleges are fighting back against accusations, with a new study designed to point out the differences between these institutions and their for-profit counterparts.
Just How Similar?
The American Association of Community Colleges recently released a brief titled, "Just How Similar? Community Colleges and the For-Profit Sector." The study focuses on the fundamental differences between community and for-profit colleges that makes it difficult to compare the two types of institutions according to the criteria that have been used recently. According to a press release on PR Newswire, while the post-secondary institutions may offer a number of common programs, that tends to be where the similarities end. These institutions serve a widely different population, which results in different outcomes and success rates overall.
Some of the differences noted in this study include:
Community colleges are under siege from for-profit colleges. Learn about the lawsuits and reports and whether the claims are fact or fiction.
For-profit colleges seem to face an uphill battle these days, both on campus and on Capitol Hill. Enrollment, which skyrocketed during the heat of the recession, is beginning to plummet. Some surveys are showing students from for-profit colleges unhappy with the education they received vs. the money they paid. Some for-profit colleges are even facing class-action suits for misleading advertising or an inability to deliver on their promises.
Perhaps it should be no surprise that these institutions are turning on their community college counterparts, releasing a recent survey conducted by Norton/Norris Inc. that found similar complaints with community colleges. The results of this survey were published on Business Wire and report that community colleges are also purportedly dealing in unsavory recruitment practices and providing low quality in terms of education. The results were released just prior to the summit on community colleges hosted by the White House earlier this month.
What the Numbers Show
The Norton/Norris survey found a lack of transparency in reporting important information like graduation rates, employment rates and pass rates on certification examinations. The survey also found:
- Community colleges are not living up to their expectations in terms of course availability, relevance of coursework and schedule flexibility.
- The colleges are not providing high quality education in their academic offerings.
- Many students leave community colleges due to family issues, lack of availability of courses and concerns about the quality of education.
Dr. Jean Norris, lead researcher on the study, told Business Wire, "At a time when community colleges are