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Community Colleges

It’s a simple idea for community colleges that sounds almost archaic: Check the help wanted ads and shape programs around available jobs. In practice, the idea involves new, sophisticated “spidering” and artificial intelligence technologies that can aggregate and analyze online job ads, providing a comprehensive source of information. A Jobs for the Future report published this fall explores the options and how the analysis is being done by a handful of colleges and states.

The regional demand for quality nursing professionals was the impetus behind a new partnership between Blinn College (Texas) and the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing. Blinn’s associate’s degree in nursing program is undergoing a curriculum revision to clarify mutually accepted courses, which will allow a smoother transition to the TAMHSC baccalaureate program.

Many people probably only think about Napa when they’re thinking about wine. And while the Napa Valley of California does have world-class grapes, it’s also home to a huge population of Mexican immigrant laborers responsible for this wine behind the scenes—and their undocumented children looking for an education.

“Many of [these students] have been here the greater period of their life,” says Oscar de Haro, vice president for student services at Napa Valley College. “They reflect the values of Napa, the workforce of Napa.”

Warren Nichols, former president of Volunteer State Community College (Tenn.), began a new role as Tennessee Board of Regents’ Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges October 1. He is overseeing a unified system created for the 13 community colleges across Tennessee. The consolidated system will allow for more effective and

Community colleges have long been seen as a good place for students to brush up on their skills before tackling college-level course work. The state legislatures in Ohio and Tennessee have recently decided to have public four-year institutions get out of the developmental ed game as much as possible, and leave those classes to the experts.

One of the more dubious notions to attach itself to higher education is the brash “right to fail.” While the intent to demand maturity and accountability from college students is understandable, the reality, and certainly the wisdom of such an axiom, is another story.

First, the reality: Prior to World War II, the likelihood of attending college was reserved for the children of wealthy or near-wealthy families. These students were expected to succeed, whether they did or not. 

Leaders from 16 community colleges around the country gathered at the White House in September to participate in a roundtable discussion on the role community colleges play in America. The discussion was part of the Obama administration’s Champions of Change program, a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping to meet the many challenges of the 21st century. Education Gateways recently spoke to four of the Champions of Change honorees about the challenges and opportunities they face as presidents of their institutions.

At one time, each of Connecticut’s 12 community colleges ran its own financial aid office by its own rules. Ten years later, the Connecticut Community College System has doubled the number of students. Now all 12 colleges use FAFSA alone to determine eligibility. All use the same “satisfactory academic progress” requirement for students who receive aid and those who don’t. Simplifying eligibility rules and centralizing some functions freed financial aid staffers to focus on helping students instead of pushing paper, Marc Herzog, the former chancellor, told the College Board.

Financial aid information is easy to find at Pierce College.

Working one’s way through college is the norm for community college students: 85 percent work part- or full-time. With an average tuition bill of $2,713 a year, only 13 percent turn to student loans.

But long work hours have a high cost, concludes a 2011 report by the College Board’s Advocacy & Policy Center. Only 21 percent of first-time, full-time community college students complete a degree or certificate in three years. The six-year completion or transfer rate is 31 percent. Part-timers, who make up 59 percent of enrollment, do even worse.

As we get ready to start the third year of our Models of Efficiency program, I want to take a moment to point with pride to the program’s success. Models of Efficiency is a national recognition program for those campus departments that have found ways to streamline operations, save money, and improve constituent satisfaction. That was the challenge we set forth when Models of Efficiency was first announced, and those solutions are just as important, if not more so, today.