“Even though community colleges are far cheaper than four-year schools —published tuition and fees last year
, versus $39,400 at private and $10,940 at public four-year universities, with many states making community college free and President Joe Biden
, which covers education.
Marcus reports, “Advocates for community colleges defend them as the underdogs of America’s higher education system, left to serve the students who need the most support but without the money required. Critics contend that this has become an excuse for poor success rates that are only getting worse and for the kind of faceless bureaucracies that ultimately prompted Camara, who had finished high school with a 4.0 grade-point average, to drop out after two semesters; he now works in a restaurant and plays in two bands.” Camara told Marcus, “I seriously tried. I gave it my all. But you’re sort of screwed from the get-go.”
The future doesn’t looks good. “Although the enrollment drop-off sped up during the Covid-19 pandemic, it started long before then. The number of students at community colleges has fallen 37 percent since 2010, or by nearly 2.6 million, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center,” Marcus reports. “With scant advising, many community-college students spend time and money on courses that won’t transfer or that they don’t need. Though most intend to move on to get bachelor’s degrees, only a small fraction succeed; fewer than half earn any kind of a credential. Even if they do, a new survey finds that most employers don’t believe they’re ready for the workforce.”
“The reckoning is here,” Davis Jenkins, senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, told Marcus. “When we talk about transfer students, I just want to cry. And the sad thing is, they blame themselves.” Marcus adds, “Even if they had enough advisers, students like these often wouldn’t know the right questions to ask, said Joseph Fuller, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School.” Fuller told Marcus, “They do have ambition, but they’re worried about discussing it with anybody for fear they’re going to be told it’s unrealistic or a dumb idea. And that just makes you want to cry. . . .The lack of resources inside community colleges is a legitimate complaint. But a number of community colleges do extraordinarily well. So it’s not impossible.”
But the ‘maze’ is reported by many students. David Hodges, 25, is another example, Marcus writes, “He enrolled at Essex County College in New Jersey to move beyond the odd jobs he’d been working since high school, including seasonal gigs at Amazon and FedEx. But he was stymied by red tape. . . . Hodges said he called and visited the school to try to get information about enrolling but kept being told that he needed his mother’s tax information to get financial aid. . . . Finally, the college told him he needed to take remedial courses in writing and math, for which he paid $1,000 out of his own pocket. . . . Hodges, too, soon dropped out.”
Jenkins told Marcus, “Community colleges don’t treat adults well. They
don’t treat part-time students well, who are predominantly adults. . .
. What community colleges need to do, he said, is ”focus on students’
motivation, and help them plan and make sure their programs — the
content and the delivery — enable very busy students in a relatively
short amount of time and at a low cost to get out with a degree.”