“Community college grads face steeper climb to top” (but…)

Read this article in the Barometer today (OSU’s daily newspaper):

Community college grads face steeper climb to top Community college students are 14.5 percent less likely to achieve four-year degree by Rebecca Johnson

Here’s the gist of it:

The study was based on students between the ages of 17-20 who entered a community college or university with the intent of obtaining a bachelor’s degree. The study then compared graduation rates and test scores between the two groups and came to the conclusion that community college students are 14.5 percent less likely to complete a four-year degree.

The rest of the article basically offers suggestions as to what factors might be leading to this 14.5% “disadvantage”: e.g., “transfer shock,” turning instead to a certificate or technical degree, or simply getting an AA and moving into the workforce fulltime.

But… first, 14.5% is not a lot.  And second, it’s disappointing that this article doesn’t at least quickly list the many advantages of a community college education and/or the many ways in which community colleges serve different student bodies (though not at all necessarily different in academic ability). Four-year colleges and community colleges are just two different cups of tea, with different purposes and strengths. Of course, they do both serve lower-division undergrads. But otherwise, they have significant differences — with significant advantages and disadvantages each.

And so, that a certain percentage of students declare they’re aiming for a four-year degree and then don’t get one — that’s not necessarily bad. We’d have to look more closely at the data. If a student changes her mind and decides to get a certificate and technical degree, that could well have been exactly what she should have done. Definitely, I’m sure there are students who, for lack of a better word, and due to economic conditions, “settle” for a certificate or for their AA/AS instead of a BA/BS. But still, this data doesn’t mean much without looking at the bigger picture a bit more.

And I felt frustrated by the headline: “Community college grads face steeper climb to top”. I guess it’s because I know of so many hundreds (and I mean hundreds I’ve worked with myself, in the Writing Center at Yakima Valley Community College) of students who would not even HAVE a chance to climb to the “top” without starting at a community college — no matter what they did after their AA, no matter what their particular “top” (goal) was.

But, yes… of course, if a significant amount of students are having trouble moving from their AA to their BA, that’s a problem. But we’re missing the point if we think the problem is that those students started out at a community college.  I know! What I’m wanting a statistic that would show what percentage of students would not get any college degree if there were no community colleges. THAT would help balance out this picture — because that would be a very high number.

Okay, I’ll step down off my soap box. Heheh, yes, I am a big fan of community colleges, so I can get a little riled up. :)


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