The Problem of the Community College

Community colleges are often looked at as the redheaded stepchild of higher education, and for good reason. Their retention rate is fairly low, among those who do stay academic achievement is lukewarm, and the graduation rate is nothing to write home about, according to this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In the article, author Kay McClenney argues that the primary failing of community colleges lies with the institutions themselves and that if the powers that are would just rise to the occasion and expect more of the students, the students would follow.

However, Ms. McClenney fails to address that this problem with community colleges represents a problem with the students as well as the faculty. As a community college graduate, I can attest to how much of a difference the students make in how well the college succeeds. The students I met who were dedicated and committed—not even necessarily brilliant—tended to stick out hard classes, graduate on schedule, transfer to four-year schools and graduate in a timely manner. Unfortunately, they were in the minority. Many of my classes halved in size from the first day to the final exam. Several students that I knew simply dropped out of school and went God-knows-where. Others remained at this two-year college for three, maybe even four, years. From the statistics Ms. McClenney cited, this seems a nationwide phenomenon. Is it any wonder the professors at community colleges don’t expect much of their students?

Professors can offer. From my experience as a community college student, professors do offer. But if the students aren’t receiving, offering does little good. The problem of community colleges is a symptom of problems throughout all of education—a lack of learning and focus rather on diversity, indoctrination, and self-esteem. 10 years of this is impossible to undo overnight. If we want students at community colleges to succeed, we’ll have to fix the school system from the bottom up.

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