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Wednesday, January 13, 2016
The Community College Problem
I live in a moderately-sized town that has one of the top universities in the country and a community college that claims to be number one in the nation. That means that the community college attracts some quality faculty. We're also in a desirable geographic location, which doesn't hurt. There is a guaranteed transfer program which promises community college students a spot at the local university so long as they meet some fairly minimal admissions requirements.

It sounds like the best of all worlds. Some students elect to attend the community college for two years and live by the university-saving money while living in the same neighborhood. The required transfer GPA is as low as 2.4, depending on desired degree program at the university. Over a third of transfer students at the four-year university come from the local community college. Sounds great, right?

Why then is the college transfer pathway so porous? A recent Huffpost blog by Dr. Brian Mitchell, explores the problems with what he calls a "badly broken pathway" between 2-year and 4-year institutions in the U.S. He notes that factors such as the low GPA requirement for transfer students actually leave some community college students ill-prepared for the rigors of 4-year universities.

The problem is that a proportionally small number of community college students actually graduate from 4-year universities. Given the relatively low professional value of a 2-year degree, this begs the question of the overall efficacy of community college education.

It is designed to be an alternate pathway. For high school grads who couldn't get into the university of their choice. For students who can't afford four years of university tuition. For older students who need to work or raise families part-time. Community college was supposed to be the great equalizer.

Unfortunately, it's just underscored the overarching problem with third-level education-it's largely become the private province of the affluent. It turns out that the back-door to 4-year college isn't so easily opened.

There are a great many things in the higher education that need to be fixed. This one is crucial if we are to promise equal footing to tomorrow's professionals.

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