October 20, 2010

All we have to do is fix ...

The LA Times reports:
Seventy percent of students seeking degrees at California's community colleges did not manage to attain them or transfer to four-year universities within six years, according to a new study that suggests that many two-year colleges are failing to prepare the state's future workforce.

Conducted by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy at Cal State Sacramento, the report, released Tuesday, found that most students who failed to obtain a degree or transfer in six years eventually dropped out; only 15% were still enrolled.

In addition, only about 40% of the 250,000 students the researchers tracked between 2003 and 2009 had earned at least 30 college credits, the minimum needed to provide an economic boost in jobs that require some college experience.

There were also significant disparities in the outcomes of black and Latino students. Only 26% of black students and 22% of Latino students had completed a degree or certificate or transferred after six years, compared to 37% of whites and 35% of Asian Pacific Islanders.

In these kind of educational achievement statistics, the main way to avoid being completely bored is to check whether whites or Asians win in the upper division and whether blacks or Latinos win in the lower division.
The findings point to a troubled college system that needs drastic revamping, said study coauthor Nancy Shulock, executive director of the higher education institute.

"It's not an understatement to say that the future of California is at stake," Shulock said. "Unlike other developing countries with which California and other states have to compete, each generation is getting less educated and attaining fewer higher degrees. The gaps are large and critical and when you look at the future face of California, they are the ones for whom we're not delivering much success."

My dad got an AA degree in aeronautical engineering from Pasadena JC in 1938, but I imagine it now it takes at least four years to get a degree in engineering. Presumably, the subject is just more complicated now.

My wife took a few courses at the local community college a half decade ago and was more than impressed with what she'd gotten for $78 per semester. She thought the instructors were about as good as she'd experienced at the U. of Illinois or at Northwestern U. The classroom learning environment was fine: the classes would start out large, but students would soon stop coming and by the last 2/3rds of the course, class sizes were quite reasonable. Unlike in high school, where discipline is a big problem, the students were well-behaved and non-distracting because the ones who didn't want to be there quickly stopped being there. The courses were reasonably rigorous and did a good job in helping her brush up on the field she was interested in.

I don't know what else I can say: California's community college problem doesn't appear to have much to do with the community colleges, per se. 

41 comments:

Garland said...

You know how liberals have recently discovered that the problem with schools is the teachers and thus the teacher unions? I guess the problem here must be the teacher union chokehold on community colleges.

Come to think of it, that's what mainstream conservatives think too, the ones who love Waiting For Superman and proscribe all talk of race and/or IQ. So they must also recognize that the problem here is the teacher unions.

Nothing to worry about then! As with this hopeful moment in secondary education, where post-partisan heroes like Bloomberg, Klein, and Rhee are going to finally go Sister Souljah on the Randi Weingartens, I'm sure it is only a matter of time before bipartisan realism cracks down on the teacher union perfidy that has ruined the Golden State's public colleges. Look for the Morning Joe special sometime later this year!

Dahinda said...

Around 10 years ago I went back to school to take classes toward a computer science degree. I went to my local Chicago area junior college and the classes there were great. The instructors were generally people in the industry, teaching on the side, and were patient and had enthusiasm. learned much more there than at the university where I finished my degree. If employers didn't require a candidate to have a four year degree to get a job in database management or programming, I would have only needed the courses I had at the junior college to do my job.

Anonymous said...

Articles of this type always remind me of a letter Kingsley Amis sent to The Observer in 1965:

"Perhaps only you could have published a whole article on university failure that laid no weight on the almost invariable cause of failure: *insufficient ability*, or, alternatively, *excessive stupidity*.

I was glad to learn from you, however, that as many as 14 per cent of people do fail. Evidently not all standards have been fully lowered everywhere yet. But your fashionable brand of sentimental mercy will hasten the process."

Of course, it is now the rule rather than the exception to ignore the "almost invariable cause of failure."

sykes.1 said...

Your dad's two-year degree in 1938 probably had as much actual aeronautical engineering as a modern BSAA. The modern degree is chock full of humanities and social sciences (girls' finishing school stuff) and irrelevant science and non-AA engineering courses.

But, of course, he wasn't "properly" socialized. He was merely competent.

Dahlia said...

I'm one of those who went to community college and graduated without a degree; just shy of it, too.

I didn't want to go, but I dared not utter that to my family. Luckily, I earned so much in scholarship money that I paid for my classes, books, car payment and gas with it and wasn't financially stung. The results were so predictable: strong-armed into getting on the career track and got off as soon as I was engaged.

Ideally, if I had started college at 18, I would have only taken classes that would have been beneficial or provided a hobby (fashion design, arts, woodworking, etc)

Also, I beat the drum about community colleges. I loved being surrounded by 30s-50 somethings. They're mature and can teach you about life. In criminal investigation classes I was surrounded by cops. In others, I might talk politics with smart older country men (They were religious conservatives and not leering and creepy). I have the fondest memories of those years.

Sgt. Joe Friday said...

My experience also, Steve. I took a real estate course this last spring at Orange Coast College, and we started out with about 45 students; by the end of the semester only about half that number were showing up with regulatity. The instructor was a working real estate professional (Coldwell Banker) and overall I too was impressed with the nang-for-the-buck.

Interestingly enough, the oldest students (and I was among them) were the most engaged and seldom missed class.

Thrasymachus said...

>>My dad got an AA degree in aeronautical engineering from Pasadena JC in 1938, but I imagine it now it takes at least four years to get a degree in engineering.<<

Much of a BA is soft courses that have nothing to do with the major or non-major courses. Padding the requirements creates jobs for social science and liberal arts degree holders, who are of course loyal apparatchiks.

I went to several SoCal community colleges before transferring to UC, and the lower division education was much better. It's far better to take calculus from an MS who has some interest and ability in teaching than a PhD who has none.

Default User said...

. . .community college
Perhaps the problem is not the college, but the community.

carol said...

If you're in CC it's because you didn't prepare enough to get in to UC or State, or didn't make the grades, or don't know what else to do, unless you're pickup up particular job skills.

I went to PCC right after high school and dropped out after first semester. And I didn't do that badly, either, but I was too immature. Most the students were worse than I and so indifferent that my first "college experience" was very boring.

But it was a fabulous deal, transferable college classes at no cost (except books) in those days. Lots of classes at all hours. The profs were all PhDs who no doubt would have liked to get on at Cal State or Cal Tech. But the ones I had tried to take us seriously, except for one old physics lab instructor who'd had it up to here with all the slackers. LOL.

Texas has a great system of CC's too. I finally dropped in at Eastfield and made up my math deficiency and moved forward.

You really miss the opportunities that these colleges offer when you end up in a low-grade flyover state that doesn't have them.

Dutch Boy said...

Junior college courses in California back in the 60s and 70s were equivalent to the State University undergrad courses and fully transferable (and cheap!). It was a great place to start a college education if you didn't have much money.

Anonymous said...

Some people only want the experience of a couple years of college; something to go beyond mere high school but don't feel the need for a four year degree. Nothing wrong with that. It fills a need so why describe it as a "problem"?

Big Bill said...

In my part of the country many welfare moms start community college classes either because of pressure from case workers or eligibility requirements. Many of them follow the dropout pattern your commenter above identified.

Many (according to the admissions counsellor sister of a friend) really have no interest in school work, nor do they have the ability to deal with predictable problems like a sick child or their hooptie breaking down.

Some call the teacher pleading for understanding: to reschedule homework assignments or tests, but most just stop coming to school ... until the start of the next semester.

As long as we are going to gut the industrial might of the United States, we ought to drop the everyone-deserves-college ideology and return to a more practical era like Edwardian England when round-heeled women could abandon their children at orphanages and find work as cheap domestics for room, board and gas money. Now that America has abandoned industrialism and industrial jobs, many peasant Americans will need to lower their expectations drastically. Perhaps our trade schools could teach the essentials of domestic service: cleaning, nannying, deportment, respectable behavior, etc. In the rural areas we could re-establish the once-common trade of "farmhand", I.e. working on a farm for room, board and tobacco money.

Is there any way to join the Amish or Mennonite communities and find a position with them, I wonder?

The bottom line is that we have given away all of the jobs the left half of the bell curve could do and live a lower middle-class life.

We need to accustom them to the ruder existence they will soon be living rather than keep blowing smoke up their collective posteriors that every kid is a college kid.

Reestablishing brothels would be a healthy measure as well. It would employ some of the excess Underclass females and would sap any incipient revolutionary enthusiasm among the Underclass males.

Mitch said...

I can't tell if this is the same study or not:

http://www.edsource.org/assets/files/ccstudy/FULL-CC-DevelopmentalCoursetaking.pdf

As you say, it's not the community college's fault. It's that the kids can't read, write, or calculate.

Anonymous said...

It's like the saying attributed to Truman "It's amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit". In this case if you ignore course credit you can learn almost anything and you don't need either a college or a college teacher.

The humanities and the social sciences are the worst. I was an English major at first and later a psychology major. I always wanted to teach Roman history but I could never get a job because I have no history degree. Similarly I would have needed a doctorate to have taught Shakespeare or a course on IQ testing (as readers here understand - fun topics).

That's why I taught math, statistics, and computer science. Golden Gate University called me up a few years back and read to me over the phone a list of technical classes for which they needed a teacher fast. The previous year their Oracle teacher had failed to show up and they asked me to take over. I said sure. I'd never actually used Oracle or even quite knew how it worked. They didn't seem to care and the class turned out to be a complete success. So a year later when they offered me their shopping list of courses I chose Photoshop - which I knew only slightly but wanted to learn.

At another local college I lobbied hard to get them to start a Java class for me to teach. I'd never used Java but I though teaching it would be a good way to learn.

The contrast in required credentials couldn't be more stark - I've read dozens maybe hundreds of books on Roman history but no one would let me in front of a class. Yet I was continually sought out to teach at least a dozen different technical or math subjects often with no credentials or experience whatsoever.

I taught a lot of Novell and Microsoft technical classes that prepared the student for a standardized test. I never took any of the classes I taught. I took and passed all the tests but I had always just read the book. This was true of almost every professional I knew. The people with real skills never went to any of the schools or classes yet they passed all the tests. On the other hand the people who took the classes hardly ever could manage to pass an official test.

In my experience classroom instruction is for dummies. Closing schools and laying off teachers may be socially disruptive but I doubt if it has much effect on real knowledge acquisition. Close all of the history, literature, art and music classes in high schools and colleges and I can't see how that would effect the economy at all.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

I don't have the spreadsheet at my disposal but the 6-year transfer rates do exist per-pupil, not just as a sampling. The per-pupil transfer-rate is awful. We have roughly 12,000 students per semester at our CCC. In six years only 1,100 transfer to university. (So-called "career programs" are only a fraction of course offerings - we are billed as a transfer-institution.) To top it off we are ranked in the top 20% for transfer-rates compared to the other 109 CCCs!?

What ought to concern the tax-payer is the outright fraud. The State pays roughly $4500 per 12 units. The student pays around $350. Census is the second week of the semester. Attrition rates are more than 50%. Faculty get paid for students who drop.

Students who in the past would have been encouraged to pursue a career in the trades end up failing liberal arts curricula. It takes several years and tens of thousands (per pupil) in state subsidies before all involved just give up.

Vocational education was dismantled in the 70's because it was thought to discriminate against students of color.

We had a power point in August that showed California's hispanic population growth and hispanic (er Latino) drop out rates (called "success rates"). Rather than coming to the conclusion that something be done about hispanic immigration we were told to that the college was redoubling its efforts in terms of Latino access and outreach.

Lugash said...

I am Lugash.

Community colleges are increasingly forcing the I-Don't-Want-To-Be-Here to Be-There. Government is starting to require the CCs to track and report attendance.

I am Lugash.

Geoff Matthews said...

All 2-year institutions have this problem. These are the students who, typically, weren't smart enough to get into a 4-year institution, or weren't motivated enough, or don't know what they want to do (if you fall into this 3rd category, CCs are a great deal compared to 4-year institutions).
Basically, the students are usually dumber, less motivated, and have less drive.

And I say that as someone who graduated with an AS from a CC (not CA though).

Michael Farris said...

Not knowing what I wanted to do after HS I dabbled in a few CC courses and did neither badly nor especially well. I was treading water and stopped going.

A few years later I returned with more motivation (employment in a convenience store will do that to you, at least it did to me). I finished the two year AA degree in one year (with a large amount of extra electives and some lower level requirements for the major I was then pursuing).

Yeah there was a lot of deadwood in class the first part of each semester but it always got whittled down to manageable amounts. And the instruction was no worse, often far better, than the four year school I transferred to. (And there, graduate TAs often did a better job than tenured professors).

Community Colleges are a wonderful resource and one of the greatest things about them is that you can start, burn out, go back and start over until it catches (or not). There were some hopeless cases too, much sadder than the apathetic, but I'm glad they could keep some kind of dream alive born again each new semester. Second (and third and fourth) chances are one of the greatest things about the US vis a vis Europe where if you squander your one chance you're out of luck.

Were I to suddenly acquire a lot of wealth I'd make a fat donation to the CC I went to a lot sooner than the university I got my BA from.

N Ackerman said...

***failing to prepare the state's future workforce.***

There was a good article about this about a year ago hosted on the NPR site:

"...the influx has instead been composed mainly of the poorly educated, the unskilled, and the illiterate. Such immigrants will likely soon dominate the state's overall population and politics.

In 2005, the California K12 school system was 48.5 percent Hispanic, compared with 30.9 percent white. By now it is above 50 percent Hispanic. Two-thirds of kindergarten students were Hispanic, most of them unable to speak English.

For a closer glimpse of what's in store for California, look at the Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest in California and the second largest in the country. Of its roughly 700,000 students, almost three-quarters are Hispanic, 8.9 percent are white, and 11.2 percent are black. More than half of the Latino students (about 300,000) are "English learners" and, depending on whether you believe the district or independent scholars, anywhere between a third and a half drop out of high school, following significant attrition in middle school. A recent study by UC Santa Barbara's California Dropout Research Project estimates that high-school dropouts in 2007 alone will cost the state $24.2 billion in future economic losses.

Even those who graduate aren't necessarily headed to success. According to one study, 69 percent of Latino high-school graduates "do not meet college requirements or satisfy prerequisites for most jobs that pay a living wage." It is difficult to see how the majority-Hispanic labor force of the future can provide the skills that the sophisticated Los Angeles economy demands. Already studies show that as many as 700,000 Los Angeles Latinos and some 65 percent of the city's illegal immigrants work in L.A.'s huge underground economy.
The unhappy picture in Los Angeles is replicated to one degree or another across much of California and is taking a huge toll on the state's economic competitiveness and long-term prospects.

California's educational system, once easily the best in the country, is today mired in mediocrity near the bottom among the 50 states as judged by National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests in math, science, reading, and writing....

California currently ranks 40th among the 50 states in college-attendance rates, and it already faces a significant shortage of college graduates. Studies have shown that the economy will need 40 percent of its workers to be college-educated by 2020, compared with today's 32 percent. Given the aging white population (average age, 42), many of these new graduates will have to come from the burgeoning Latino immigrant population (average age, 26). By one estimate, this would require tripling of the number of college-educated immigrants, an impossibility if current trends hold. The state's inability to improve the educational attainment of its residents will result in a "substantial decline in per capita income" and "place California last among the 50 states" by 2020, according to a study by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.

In short, we are witnessing a highly advanced and prosperous state, long endowed with superior human capital, turning into the exact opposite in just one generation..."

Stop illegals, Save CA


http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112167023

CC-bLF said...

"If you're in CC it's because you didn't prepare enough to get in to UC or State, or didn't make the grades, or don't know what else to do, unless you're pickup up particular job skills."

Or smart enough to recognize that the lower division classes are CHEAPER per unit at the CC, and you get more of the teacher's attention, too. Just be sure your CC credits transfer. Save thousands, graduate with lots less debt.

Anonymous said...

4 year college and grad school is for the most part a waste and a scam hyped by fake job and income stats from the colleges and disseminated by the media, which is funded in part by ads bought by higher education.

-cryofan

N Ackerman said...

Richwine also writes:

"Taken as a whole, the research on Hispanic assimilation presents two possible conclusions. Either Hispanic assimilation will be exceedingly slow — taking at least four or five generations, and probably several more — or it will not happen. In either case, Hispanic immigration will have a serious long-term consequence: The grandchildren of today’s Hispanic immigrants will lag far behind the grandchildren of today’s white natives...


That assimilation has stalled even among third-generation Hispanics growing up today is especially sobering. In the early 20th century, the quality of schools varied greatly, high-school graduation was unusual, travel was relatively difficult, and universities and employers were free to discriminate based on ethnicity. Today all but the worst inner-city schools are well funded, high-school graduation is expected, traveling around the country to look for work is much easier, and affirmative-action programs give preferences to Hispanics. Despite these advantages over earlier immigrants, today’s Hispanics have not closed the socioeconomic gap with white natives.

Though continuing research on the barriers to Hispanic assimilation will be valuable, the reality is that no intervention in the foreseeable future will change the very slow and perhaps nonexistent assimilation process into a fast and effective one.

The consequences of a large ethno-cultural group’s lagging behind the majority in education and income are significant. In strictly economic terms, perpetually poor immigrants and their descendants will be a major strain on social spending and infrastructure. Health care, public education, welfare payments, the criminal justice system, and programs for affordable housing will all require more tax dollars. When pro-immigration conservatives declare that these government programs should be scaled back or eliminated entirely, I am sympathetic. But a large public sector is a reality that cannot be wished away — we will not be abolishing Medicaid or public schools anytime soon. Immigration policy needs to take that reality into account."

The Congealing Pot

someguy said...

I went to a CC, a small private liberal arts school for a BA, a regional state university for a MS, and a large state university for a PhD. I then taught full time at a CC for 7 years before changing jobs to teaching at a regional state university.

Knowing what Steve knows about social dynamics I thought it odd that he would find it strange that the CC instructors would be just as good as U of I or Northwestern folks. U of I and Northwestern undergrads are paying for prestige and networking, but overall instruction is far better at CCs. Here are some thoughts as to why this is.

1. CC folks are learned, but are not so focused on their narrow research interest that they lose the broad view.

2. CC folks teach at least 10 classes per year. University profs 4-6 classes per year. Teaching really does improve with practice and the difference is such that it really adds up quickly.

3. University profs and CC instructors are different. CC instructors are more down to earth regular folks and this translates into being able to relate to the students. University profs are outliers by their nature and can be on the nerdy side.

4. University tenure decisions deemphasize teaching.

5. In many university classes TAs play a significant role. These are the future CC instructors. Why pay extra to get them the first time out of the box? Pay less for them when they are seasoned.

6. The breadth of student ability, reason for being there, motivation also makes for improved instruction. I once had in a class of 90 a gal coming back to school to make up deviancies to begin medical school and a mentally retarded kid with significant brain damage sent to class by his mother to get him out of the house. It was a great class. The gal by the way had her choice of medical schools the next semester and went where the best offer was for her husband. Her husband was working on an ice helmet to administer to stroke victims to slow down nerve damage. An aside I know, but I thought the idea was fascinating.

Fred said...

"Much of a BA is soft courses that have nothing to do with the major or non-major courses. Padding the requirements creates jobs for social science and liberal arts degree holders, who are of course loyal apparatchiks."

Irrelevant, since engineers don't get BAs. You'd be lucky to have one elective per semester as an undergrad in a four-year engineering program.

someguy said...

I feel compelled to post again. A bit of data to back up my contention that CC instruction is superior to university instruction. At the CC where I taught the students that transferred to U of I did better in the last 2 years of there undergraduate education in comparison to the native U of I students. U of I hated this data.

However, there are troubling times ahead for CCs.

1. They increasingly rely on too heavily on unscreened part-time instructors.

2. Educational romanticism has reached the point where it is hurting CCs. Many communities now offer all graduating high school students a free ride at the local CC. CCs will be overwhelmed with ill prepared students who lack the intellectual ability to grasp abstract concepts. Sounds like high school.

Anonymous said...

Unlike other developing countries with which California and other states have to compete

Wtf!?

Comment is beyond superflous.

Anonymous said...

Depend on what group are you talking about. E. Asian students transfer at a much higher rate than any other groups.
Me: HS china - PCC - BSc UCLA - MS Calpoly SLO
My brother: HS china - PCC - BA UCLA - MS Harvard.
My cousin: HS hongkong - PCC - Bsc UC San Diego - Pharm School(Pomona).
And i don't think my personal experience is unique among Asian immigrant. A lot of recent immigrant need the time to get to know the system, language and custom. Going to JC is a great and inexpensive way to learn and make friends. All three of us started from the lowest level: ESL class, writing lab.

Big Bill said...

I am impressed by your Chinese family's work ethic and smarts.

Any way we can get you to impregnate a few of the dim bulb Mamacitas in LA to get their IQ and diligence numbers up a bit?

Your kids would sure be a good example to the pendejos and pachucos in the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

CCs fail because they refuse to drop their current curriculum which is rooted in the structure of white supremacy.

The school systems must change to keep up with an ever darkening America.

Truth said...

What Steve's wife says is my experience as well.

After graduating from college in New Mexico, I moved to L.A. and took a few courses in language and film at Los Angeles Valley College. My 100 level courses were not only more demanding than my upper division courses at the four-year school, they were SO MUCH more demanding, it made me question whether I actually graduated from college. They were actually on par with most of my MBA courses and the teachers were far superior.

Education has much to do with educators, and smarter, better accomplished educators want to live in Los Angeles, for quality of life (New York, Chicago, etc.) than in Manhattan, KS, or Brookings, SD, for tenure.

Whiskey said...

JC's and Cal States have better instruction than Tier 1 Colleges, because part-time instructors are rated by teaching.

Big time Tier 1 Universities, rate professors by: A. Grant money brought in, B. Publications that make the University more prestigious, C. Publicity (favorable) for the University.

Teaching is never a priority. Hence, because incentives matter, its an afterthought at best by the TAs who actually do the teaching at Tier 1 schools.

Of course, you note the downscale, "you're an idiot and lower class" association with Community Colleges.

Sarah Palin was ridiculed by Tina Fey and others for attending one, and that really stuck. Because women are very, very sensitive to status and prestige. Women will spend thousands on designer handbags, shoes, jeans, men don't care very much.

And of course, NBC's "Community" mocks most of the people there as losers. Lower class socially.

Difference Maker said...

"they were SO MUCH more demanding, it made me question whether I actually graduated from college. They were actually on par with most of my MBA courses and the teachers were far superior.

Education has much to do with educators, "

There is such a gap between creator and student, no? And even between creator and teacher

The Anti-Gnostic said...

I detect the first, faint whiffs of SWPL panic that our newly imported tax base can't or won't pay enough FICA to support them in their dotage.

Anonymous said...

Default User: Perhaps the problem is not the college, but the community.

I think that was Steve's point: "All we have to do is fix... the demographics of the student body".

Severn said...

If you're in CC it's because you didn't prepare enough to get in to UC or State, or didn't make the grades, or don't know what else to do, unless you're pickup up particular job skills




Or are smart enough to pick up a lot of your credits cheaply in CC before finishing your degree at a name university.

Truth said...

"There is such a gap between creator and student, no? And even between creator and teacher"

?

Anonymous said...

Here is community college reform: turn them into camps where students can't leave. Herd the students/trustees into classrooms where they get strapped into chairs and wired up with electrodes. The class is run in a Socractic fashion. Students are peppered with questions and get mercilessly shocked for wrong answers. At the end of class each student is injected with a fatal poison which acts in 24 hours. The next day, the student exchanges a completed homework assignment for a vial of antidote.

For kids, I like the Montessori method with a twist: if the kid can't solve some puzzle within a given time the manipulative explodes, killing or maiming him. Obviously, kids have to work surrounded by sand bags so adjacent successful students don't get hit by shrapnel. In a couple of generations, the achievement gap will be closed, I guarantee.

Bob said...

People I've talked to who've taken CC classes lately generally share a high opinion of the quality of instruction and low opinion of the students. Given the alternatives of a high-priced private college or 500-student lectures at public universities, they do not face a hard comparison.



BTW, one scam is students max out federal loans that more than pay for the low CC tuition, then just never show up until they are expelled after a quarter or two of this.

They also may get credit to buy textbooks, then sell the unused textbooks to other students.

leslie said...

I went to a community college during the 70s. I had to work my way through at little more than minimum wage jobs. But even to me, $13.00 a credit (39.00 a class) was an amazing bargain.
Another thing--the instructors I remember were in no way inferior to those at a University, and were probably better. There isn't room for every good college teacher to work in a university. The best and most alive-to-their-subject teachers I had in history, literature, and sociology (I'd find them too pc nowadays) were in community colleges. I took geology and still remember the lessons. Also took astronomy.
I still refer in my mind to lectures and dicussions conducted by the CC teachers, while I don't remember many particulars about the University professors, though some were pretty good. Just not better any tangible way. In spite of not having good counselors, the teachers did seem to care about the students.
Later on I started working a well-known private university in D.C. and got tuition benefits after transferring my credits from the CC.
Like public libraries, Community Colleges are among the great American inventions. With them around, you never have to give up on yourself unless you choose to.

gcb said...

A few thoughts, both on the content and on the comments above, based on my own experiences working as a non-unionized teacher at a private career college in Canada:

1. We too had high drop-out rates, as much as 60% over the course life. These were shorter, but intensive, diploma programs, so the students weren't getting bored, but may have been intimidated by the workload.

2. With a few exceptions, older students were generally more motivated and we looked forward to having them in our classrooms. Their dropout rate was also lower. In this case, "older" might only be mid-20s instead of fresh out of high school, but the disparity was still remarkable between those who had been in the workforce for any length of time and those fresh out of the school system.

3. Someone suggested that "college is for people who can't get into university", or words to that effect. I would propose that the opposite should be true - people who want to work should go to college and learn a useful skill, graduating in half the time and with half the debt-load. There is far too much emphasis on having a degree today for positions which really only require a pulse and the ability to count on your fingers.

Now, this was all 15 years ago, and things might have changed. But I doubt it.

David said...

>The modern degree is chock full of humanities and social sciences (girls' finishing school stuff)<

Thank you for that; it's a good perspective.

>Interestingly enough, the oldest students (and I was among them) were the most engaged and seldom missed class.<

Education is wasted on the young. They are too ignorant to appreciate it! (Only partly joking here.)