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Prepare Students for the Real-World

“The average age of community college students in Texas is 27 and many have Bachelor’s degrees. Some have Master’s degrees,” quoted Richard Moore, Executive Director of the Texas Community College Teacher Association. There are barriers for older students, because these students attend classes with everyone else who may be much younger and have goals to attend a four year college.

JoAnn Jacobs writes in her article Reinventing higher ed in California in the Community College Spotlight “Currently, more than 70 percent of the state’s college students enroll in underfunded community colleges. Most attend part-time, leading to high attrition rates. Only 18 percent of community college students earn an associate degree. By contrast, 45 percent of California State University students and 90 percent of University of California students complete a bachelor’s degree. Instead of increasing access, Cal State campuses are cutting enrollment to cope with budget cuts, which have forced faculty layoffs and reduced course offerings.”

I don’t think this is a unique situation for California or Texas. JoAnn added, “…In Florida, for example, the experiment is about “training people for real jobs,” says Miami Dade Community College President Eduardo J. Padron, who cited nursing and teaching programs.”

Richard shared with me that there is a Student Success Movement in Texas with several initiatives that fund innovation. The issue which seems universal is that community colleges are separated by community college districts. In Texas, there are 50 districts. Each is a different terrain where they often have an impact on each other. This can affect how community colleges are funded. The terrains are…

  • Policy

  • Geography

    — State by State

    – Region by Region

  • Discipline

    — Academic vs Vocational

    — Within each discipline

I believe the community colleges will be impacted more with the increase in fees and limits on attendance at four year universities. It all comes down to money. Times have changed. I went to a community college before I went to a four year college. It was a great way to transition and get to know what I really wanted to do with my life. Some people are lucky that they know early what they want to do and that career is also one that pays enough for them. I wish I could make it that anyone could go to the school or university they want to to learn anything they want. They can take classes online. There are open source courses available, but until accreditation changes, courses are universally accepted from different colleges, and life and work experience counts, this is going to be a difficult road for many.

I also believe that if…

  • community colleges are able to change the accreditation process, more adults could take advantage of an amazing source of learning.

  • learners can challenge courses where they have life and work experience, this could be a way to move more people to real jobs and provide a revenue source to community colleges. This could also be a source of revenue for four year colleges and maybe even high schools.
  • we pull together as a nation, we need to look at the bigger picture: people need jobs. We need to rethink four year colleges and who can afford liberal arts studies and who has the skills for specific types of real-world jobs. We provide a learning guide with each student that enters college.
  • we start early in middle school to provide a personal learning plan for each student and a personal learning coach to monitor their progress, they won’t get lost in the system or drop out early.
  • we provide a mentor or advisor to each high school student to help them identify their strengths and weaknesses, learning styles, and guide them to choose an appropriate learning path.
  • we offer multiple learning opportunities including online courses along with a learning coach, learners will not feel lost in a system they feel doesn’t care about them.
  • we rethink the Community College system as a stepping stone to the real-world and fund them appropriately, we help our people get back to work.

Learners are all ages now. Everyone is reinventing themselves. We need to rethink our entire educational system.

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