The Potential of Community College as the Economic Savior The global recession has found industries crippled and workers less secure of their current jobs. However, the education field has found a promising consequence out of the global recession; an increasing number of individuals are coming back to school for retraining. When the reality of the recession took force, community college became a sound alternative for people who were laid off. From there, community college gradually progressed (McClure, 2010). Community colleges now face the challenge of responding to the demands for low-cost work force training that yield quicker and higher return of investment.
While these institutions are currently getting the recognition that they deserve, they continue to weather past and surfacing issues and dilemmas. One of the major strengths of community colleges is their flexibility and ability to respond to the needs of the work force. However, new regulations and mandates have been observed to slow down the process of critically addressing the needs (McClure, 2010). As higher education policy making bodies recognize the success rate of community college, congress is gearing up for reauthorization of federal laws.
Law makers are targeting issues like merit pay, class size and testing (Klein, 2010). With these developments, increased support for community college will definitely benefit the institutions. However, the primary question is: Are these laws and mandates come with a higher cost or benefit to community colleges? Research taking this direction may shed useful insight in policy making and creation of state-mandated laws with regard to community college. One area where policy is making significant impact is on gainful employment, and the regulation of for-profit institutions.
According to the statistics from the Department of Education (NPSAS, 2007), only 10% of students from community college incur debt to finance their education while those from for-profit institutions, the frequency rises up to 88% (“American Association”, 2010). The same source also revealed that “62 percent of all community college associate degree recipients borrow nothing in obtaining these degrees, while 42 percent of students getting degrees from profit-driven schools have $20,000 or more in student loans” (“American Association”, 2010, p. 3). A comparative study between the two types of institutions --- community college and for-profit institutions will yield empirical data on their output and impact, and it will provide further justification for regulation.
At a time when financial aids available are facing sharp budget reductions, it is imperative to focus on low-cost effective measures that will guarantee employment in the near future. Levin, Cox, Cerven and Haberler (2010) identified the best practices of California community college programs that have demonstrated improvements or potential to improve the achievement of marginalized groups. These students generally lag behind in academic performance compared to their relatively well-off White counterparts.
The study revealed that the programs have four common characteristics: cohesion, cooperation, connection, and consistency. Cohesion refers to the rational and consistent actions or behaviors of program personnel. Cooperation is defined by the ability for program personnel to work together for a common goal and forge harmonious relationships with each other and the students. Connection is manifested in the interdependent relationships that program personnel maintain with internal and external entities, such as other departments and industry representatives. Consistency refers to the existence of a consistent and distinct pattern of program behaviors that correspond to the program goals.
Furthermore, the authors note that the faculty plays a critical role in the program’s success. The full realization of the impact of community college to society however, can only be achieved through a collaborative effort of the different divisions of the educational system. It is imperative that educators or practitioners realize the relatedness and interdependence of these systems. The school year 2006-2007 alone documented a total of 6.2 million students attending community college.
Researchers were quick to observe that most of these students spent a semester or even more re-taking high school level and even elementary level course work. Remedial classes are slowing down the number of students graduating, despite increasing number of enrollees every year (“Higher Education, ” 2010, p. 7). Furthermore, remedial or repeating high school courses uses up the students’ funds for schooling. Thus, it reduces their chances of successfully completing a college certificate or a degree. Data from 2004-2007 reveals that less than 3 out of 10 community college students actually earned a degree (“Higher Education, ” 2010, p.
7). In fact, the percentage of students receiving a college degree has not significantly changed in the past 25 years. This pervasive problem calls for a system-wide approach in finding solutions. One of the solutions suggested is the collaborative effort of high schools and community colleges. This supports the need for continuing research on the effectiveness of community college programs. The success of community college has not been fully documented, although community college practitioners have expressed the need to develop a comprehensive formula that will be directly translated to positive student outcomes.
Based on the reports and research studies previously discussed, one major theme that stands out is identifying the factors that make community college successful. In addition, existing literature also discussed the role of the students’ past experiences in successfully finishing the community college. Third, the role of the faculty has been highlighted as significant in the success of the programs. Lastly, collaborative efforts through a system wide approach in education have been suggested as an important direction to take to guarantee successful outcomes in the students.
From these themes, the following research questions are proposed: 1. What factors are facilitating and limiting the successful outcomes of community colleges? 2. What are the reasons behind a student’s choice to enroll in a community college? 3. What are the advantages and challenges in attending a community college? 4. What are the best practices of established successful community college programs? 5. How are collaborative efforts achieved in different states to address the system-wide problems faced during college level education? The proposed area of study will revolve around community colleges.
Possible sources of information are research articles from Education Week, University Business, Community College Review, and Education Business Weekly. As a guide for executing the research proposal and writing the dissertation, Cone and Foster’s (2006) Dissertations and Theses from Start to Finish and Creswell’s (2009) Research Design, 3rd edition will be consulted. It is hoped that the study will yield significant results, and offer meaningful contributions in studying the effectiveness and impact of community colleges. References American Association of Community Colleges; AAC assessment on Department of Education regulation on ‘gainful employment’.
(2010). Education Business Weekly, 23. Cone, J., & Foster, S. (2006). Dissertations and theses from start to finish. Baltimore, MD: United Book Press, Inc. Creswell, J. (2009). Research design, 3rd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Higher Education; Better alignment needed between high schools, community colleges. (2010). NewsRx Science, 7-10. Klein, A. (2010). Senate hearing highlights likely issues in ESEA renewal. Education Week, 29(25), p. 18. Levin, J.S. , Cox, E.M. , Cerven, C. & Haberler, Z. (2010). The recipe for promising practices in community colleges. Community College Review, 38(1), 31-58. McClure, A. (2010). Community college as economic saviors. University Business, 13, 34-40.