Tidbits, Resources, and Discussion for ELI Faculty

Monday, June 1, 2009

Myths and truths about community colleges

Beth Harper and I are teaching a graduate course on the community college beginning today. (I asked you for reading recommendations for this course a while back, so this may sound familiar.) We'll be teaching mostly K-12 teachers, and some education policy folks. What are the things you'd most like people like this to know about community colleges, our students, our faculty, etc. when they leave the course?


Don Gregory said...

Here are a few myths and realities that I thought of:

Myth #1: Community colleges are cheaper than four-year schools; therefore the quality of education is less.

Reality: This presumes that “buying” an education is like buying any other product. By this model, community colleges look like the Dollar Stores of education. But the model itself is flawed, and in fact the quality is the same if not better. George Mason, (along with other colleges and universities) has said that their graduates who took the first two years at a community college have higher GPA’s than those who took the whole four years at GMU.

Myth #2: It’s hard to get a four-year college to accept community college credits.

Reality: It all depends on what courses the students take at the community college. The new “guaranteed admission” programs that NOVA has with many four-year colleges and universities is a clear counterexample to this myth. For any student at any college, the key to getting credits accepted in a program is good solid planning and advising.

Myth #3: Since anyone can attend a community college, the quality of the student body is low.

Reality: In my logic course, one of the fallacies I teach is called “Division.” It is committed when one says that the characteristics of the whole must also be the characteristics of the parts. An example which commits this fallacy: A car is very heavy, and therefore every part of the car must be very heavy. It’s quite true that our entire student body, as a group, is of a lower academic caliber than the student body of many (not all) four-year colleges. But as we who work here all know, many of our individual students are of the same or higher academic caliber than four-year students. These can, and do, succeed very well at the highest levels of the best colleges. (In my first year at NOVA I had a student who transferred to Harvard and later sent me a book signed by a Harvard professor I had talked about in my course!)

Jennifer Lerner said...

What a cool story about the student who went to Harvard!

Laura said...

our students wear many hats: they work part- or full-time and try to take classes part- or full-time, they also may have families of their own with related responsibilities. They may be slightly to significantly older than they typical four-year college student. Their entry and/or progress through their first two years of college may have been delayed or sporadic.

But, in many ways, they are not that different from students in four-year schools: there are some with clear goals and others who are floundering, not knowing yet what they want to do with their lives. They are "finding themselves". One thing you never hear people saying about community colleges is that they are "party schools"!