Affordable child care and information about high-paying technical careers would help more women earn a degree and qualify for middle-class jobs, concludes Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success, a new report by the American Association of University Women.
Some 57 percent of community college students are women, estimates the AAUW. One in four are mothers, often with work and family responsibilities.
Community colleges present an attractive option for mothers of young children, in part because they offer flexible schedules and low tuition. Unfortunately, limited access to child care disrupts the educational path of many mothers. Although more mothers enroll at community colleges than at four-year institutions, fewer than half of all community colleges offer on-campus child care, and available slots do not typically meet student demand. Student parents consistently cite child care responsibilities as a chief reason for dropping out . . .
Community colleges offer a wide range of job training, but most women choose traditionally female occupations, the report observes. While nursing pays well, women who choose early childhood education or cosmetology programs will earn much less than they could in technical fields. Only a fraction of women train to be “engineering technicians, automotive service technicians and mechanics, carpenters, and electricians.” Community colleges should try to close the gender gap in STEM career preparation, the AAUW advises.
Many community college students juggle classes and jobs while struggling to pay the rent and the babysitter, buy textbooks and put gas in the car. On some campuses, there’s help for low-income students, writes Sara Goldrick-Rab, an associate professor of education and sociology at the University of Wisconsin, in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
In 1998, “Joanne” dropped out of the Borough of Manhattan Community College because she couldn’t afford the subway fare. When she came back to BMCC in 2011, after losing her job, it was very different. Single Stop USA had set up benefits counseling on campus.
She walked in a Pell Grant recipient, and walked out equipped with food stamps, transportation vouchers, and child-care benefits.
. . . Right in the middle of campus, between her classes, she had a 15-minute appointment with an electronic evaluation process facilitated by a knowledgeable counselor who equipped her with the money and support it seems she needed to make a degree possible. This spring, she will complete her associate degree.
Single Stop has offices at 17 community colleges around the country. In the last year, the nonprofit helped 20,000 students collect $38-million in benefits. For every $1 the program costs, it brings $14 in benefits students wouldn’t have otherwise had.
Single Stop hasn’t proven — yet — that its services boost completion rates, writes Goldrick-Rab. But it’s shown the community college can be “a point of connection as well as education.”
Faced with a $15 million deficit and the threat of losing accreditation, City College of San Francisco‘s board has voted to “dismantle a decades-long system of faculty leadership,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Returning more than 60 department chairs to full-time teaching will save $2 million and streamline governance, trustees said.
“The accrediting commission made it clear as recently as yesterday that they are concerned we are not moving quickly enough,” interim Chancellor Pamila Fisher told the board.
City College has until March 15 to prove it should to stay in business. The accrediting commission has said one major problem is the college’s byzantine and costly governance structure – unparalleled among California community colleges.
More than 60 faculty members earn extra pay as department chairs. They are released from teaching to do administrative work, such as scheduling, that other colleges assign to deans. City College employs 11 deans. The chairs have their own labor union, work 10 months rather than 12, as deans do, and must have their classes covered by other faculty.
Trustees also voted unanimously to close a preschool to save $84,000 a year, and to end summer hours at three other college-run child care centers. “City College spends $700,000 a year on the centers that serve as laboratories for child-development majors and as places where parents can learn alternatives to corporal punishment,” the Chronicle reports.
The board hired a “special trustee” who will have veto power on accreditation-related decisions and agreed to start collecting fees at registration. Uncollected fees cost the college district $400,000 a year.
Benefits Access for College Completion (BACC) will help low-income students get child care subsidies, food assistance and other aid in hopes they’ll stay in school, move more quickly to a credential and qualify for jobs that will make them self-supporting.
Seven community and technical colleges are participating in the three-year, $4.84 million initiative, which is funded by the Ford Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations, and managed by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The Annie E. Casey Foundation is also contributing.
The average full-time community college student had more than $6,000 in unmet need in 2011-2012 for school and living expenses, College Board estimates. Among young community college students, 66 percent work more than 20 hours per week and 58 percent enroll part-time because of their work hours, lowering their odds of completion.
Cuyahoga Community College (OH), Gateway Community and Technical College (KY), LaGuardia Community College (NY), Lake Michigan College and Macomb Community College (MI), Northampton Community College (PA), and Skyline College (CA) are working with local human services agencies to provide services.
“These benefits, including health insurance, food, and child care, as well as financial aid, can help them to complete credentials and get into well-paying jobs,” said AACC President Walter G. Bumphus.
Community colleges in Silicon Valley are closing child-care centers to save money, reports the San Jose Mercury News. West Valley College‘s model center — known for its outdoor program — may close next year.
A single father with sole custody of 4-year-old Anthony and 2-year-old Victoria, Dinh Nguyen uses the on-campus care so he can study medical technology. Without affordable child care, Nguyen fears he’ll have to give on a health career — or give up his children for adoption. “I cannot hold on to my children if I cannot provide a future for them,” he said. “This is killing me.”
The 45-year-old program is part of the Child Studies Department, whose students observe the children as part of the curriculum. But the program is running a $200,000 deficit.
“In this time of national crisis, this type of program should be replicated, not dismantled. For short-term budget cuts, they’re going to shut down a 45-year-old program. There is no wisdom in this type of decision-making,” said Stephanie Antwan, whose 3-year-old son Benjamin attends the program.
. . . Elizabeth Rivera, 19, said she is “trying to pursue a dream for me and my daughter,” 3-year-old Natalie Ornelas.
“What they don’t understand is that this daycare is essential for people like me that have children and are trying to attend school. Without this daycare many of us, as well as me, won’t be able to continue our education.”
State reimbursements for low-income children have fallen short and more state budget cuts are likely.