On Community Colleges Recent Troubles and Transferring

As the economy is tanking and the job market is collapsing, community colleges are now getting swamped. In two different ways!

Swamped with newer students trying to make better on the job market, and two, swamped from actually acquiring resources to accomodate the new deluge of students.

The LA Times had an article about how the community college system is stretching their capacity in response to a garbage-load of problems: California's state budget cuts in K-16 education, dealing with an uptick in enrollment, and increasingly having trouble at getting students ready for transferring to 4-year universities.

Community colleges are being asked to do a lot. And they always have been asked to do a lot. But when things get to the point of 'overwhelming' and people are asked to do a lot, they go on a mission to cut the 'over' part to ease the passage to 'whelming.' That means, cut the 'inefficiencies!' Which means cut classes! Cut arts programs! Cut the humanities! And cut the crappy students from your classroom!

This guy, a college dean talks more about it.

By definition, though, the needy are inefficient. A student who shows up prepared for college-level work, passes everything the first time without tutoring, and has his personal life together is remarkably cheap to educate, especially in the liberal arts. A student who has academic skills deficits, who needs counseling, and who attends part-time for several years is much higher-maintenance, and therefore more expensive.

When times are relatively flush, we can do some justice to both efficiency and mission. Now, we're being forced to choose efficiency.

Essentially, the people losing out from all this effiency-making and cutting extravaganza are the students who are probably the ones who would benefit most from a college education.

The Public Policy Institute of California touched a bit on what demographic actually stands to benefit the most from a college education in a previous study.

The demographics are usually people of color, usually people from low-income families, usually people with few weak or strong social connections to a collegiate institution or people who've graduated from a collegiate institution.

One of the reasons we did PTSP Bayanihan in the first place was to reach those students.

While picking up a desirable education is getting rough in of itself, transferring is a whole other beast. The same students struggling to get the education struggle to transfer.

"Students who come to two-year colleges generally don't think they can make it," Trice said. "I dispel certain myths about transferring: 'UCLA is made for white people.' 'I'll never make it there.' 'I can't possibly pay for it.' It's a social ceiling."

Community college officials say that 40% of students who are serious about transferring manage to do it. But the Public Policy Institute of California, in a 2006 study, found that only about 25% of the students who are focused on transferring actually make it.

Is it me or does it seem like its getting harder and harder each and every year to transfer? Don't these (culturally-hegemonically-created, which don't seem to prove anything) standards seem like they are getting getting shot to the roof? And were learning and proving exactly, what?

The LA Times article made a quick note about how the community college environment facilitates transferring, something that we all tried to note in Bayanihan's first Academic Year Proposal:

It's no coincidence that Santa Monica College, which has the highest UC transfer rates of any community college, also has one of the biggest counseling staffs, with 60 full-time and 40 part-time advisors, said Dan Nannini, coordinator of the college's transfer center.

Compare that with the 5 or 6 counselors at El Camino or the 2 at Glendale and LACC. It seems like there's just a culture hardwired towards transferring. On the outside, Santa Monica is perceived as the preeminent place of transfer. I'd hypothesize that there's just more opportunity for people at those colleges to be connected to resources and networks that would facilitate transferring. But perhaps people who actually went to Santa Monica and/or El Camino, Glendale would know better than me.

1 comment:

Dom said...

whoa, this is a loaded entry!! there's so much to discuss here. having worked at the community college, i can definitely relate to a lot of this.

i'ma have to write a whole 'nother entry to respond!