THERE IS A TREMENDOUS opportunity to enhance our global competitive edge that is often overlooked. It’s time for community college presidents and school superintendents to take their relationships to a new level—consisting of something greater than traditional dual enrollment programs. The potential for changing whole communities and job prospects is tremendous. Currently, nearly half of the students who attend higher ed institutions are enrolled in community colleges. The employment needs of the United States will go unfilled if we are not giving students greater preparation. It is to our country’s global advantage to have a workforce that is trained to move into higher levels of management and into the executive suite.
A high school education is not sufficient enough to comprehend the new way technology will influence nursing, finance, and computer technology. We all know that, as the baby boomers retire, a wide array of jobs will become available that require fresh leadership. Some of the conversations about how society is changing must occur while students are attending high school.
Too many high school students fear that they can’t succeed as college students. Only about one-third of them intend to pursue a college degree—so the vast majority of students are not receiving an education to compete in a 21st-century economy. Students are discouraged because of the grades they’re earning in high school. School districts need to teach students how to be self-learners. They need to know that they can improve their grades with additional efforts.
Community college admission staff and faculty need to spend more time connecting with high schools. These professionals can play a role in changing student expectations. Some high school students say they never have received a visit from an admissions officer from any college. When community colleges reach out to schools it sends a message that students are welcomed to apply. And it might benefit parents to learn that the cost of a community college education is often half the cost of that from a four-year institution.
Community college administrators need to continue efforts to inform students about the opportunity to receive college credits while still in high school. Collaborative relationships between community college presidents and school superintendents can create a successful college prep program. This is important, since many high school students lose hope during ninth grade. Dual enrollment programs are an opportunity for students to learn how much work is required to prepare for a college-level course and eliminate some of the peer pressure that discourages high school students from academic excellence.
And at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pa., one aspect of orientation is an interactive presentation on effective study skills that affords students an opportunity to understand how much personal study time they’ll need to invest. Even top performers in high school may have challenges adjusting to college. Many IHEs have begun offering similar advice during “College 101” courses.
The marriage between community college presidents and superintendents can provide an ongoing resolution to changes in the workforce and the resulting challenges. Industry should be an additional partner, sharing employment needs. The future will bring a greater need for internships that prepare students for full-time employment. The road that leads to a brighter future is paved with an educated workforce.
Stephen Jones has held administrative positions at Villanova and Drexel universities (Pa.). He is currently a speaker and the president of SAJ Publishing, for which he has written Seven Secrets of How to Study, Parent’s Ultimate Education Guide, and the Ultimate Scholarship Guide (www.sevenbooks.net). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.