More community colleges add housing

More community colleges are providing housing “in an attempt to replicate a four-year college experience and boost graduation rates,” reports USA Today. More than a quarter of community colleges offer on-campus housing, most of which has been built in the last decade.

Des Moines Area Community College expects to add housing on or near its main campus here that could accommodate several thousand students by the end of the decade. About 300 lived on campus last year, and that number will jump to about 1,000 this fall when two apartment complexes open across the street from the campus.

“I just really like walking to class,” said Stacey Bruch, 19, of Audubon, Iowa. She otherwise might be driving 90 minutes each way get her associate degree in agribusiness.

Students pay an estimated $12,000 in room and board to live in campus housing.

Whittney Reinier’s building touts a fitness center and movie room with theater-style seating. Rooms feature granite counter tops and 42-inch flat-screen TVs. While the amenities are nice, Reinier raves about the “college experience” of living away from home for the first time with people her own age.

Is it worth the cost? “If you are borrowing to live that lifestyle, you really need to keep in mind you have to pay that back,” said Heather Doe, a spokeswoman for the Iowa College Student Aid Commission.

Some states, such as Illinois, have restricted community colleges from building dorms on campus. However, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education changed the rules to allow campus housing, saying some studies suggest living on campus can boost retention and graduation rates.

Not everyone wants a cheap, no-frills degree

Higher education’s financial squeeze will worsen, predicts a Moody’s report. All the traditional revenue sources — tuition, state and federal funding, endowments and philanthropy — are under pressure.

The end is not nigh for U.S. colleges and universities, argues Robert J. Sternberg, provost and professor of psychology and education at Oklahoma State, in the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

Some people want the cheapest education possible that will get them the job they want. Others want much more: nice dormitories, diverse student activities, world-famous professors, top-flight institutional reputation—and are willing to pay for it. An advantage of the higher-education market is that financial aid is often available to help students reach beyond what they normally could afford.

Second, students are not merely consumers of higher education; they also actively construct their college careers. They develop a plan for their coursework, their project work, their extracurricular activities, and their social network.

. . .  two students going to the same college may produce entirely different educations.

Top German universities charge much less than comparable U.S. universities but offer no “university-sponsored athletic teams or facilities, fraternities, sororities, student clubs, dormitories, meal plans, or other accouterments,”  Sternberg writes. If German students want activities, they organize and pay for them.

American universities can reduce costs by greatly lowering their overhead, as do the German universities, or by having professors do some or even all of their teaching online. What students may lose, however, is much, or even most, of the informal curriculum of college—the networking and the face-to-face personal interactions that many people feel are so important to the college experience.

Some will choose a cheap, no-frills college degree, but others will pay more for an academic-and-social degree, Sternberg suggests.

Community college students forego nearly all the frills, using far less student aid than those who opt for “the college experience.” Should taxpayers be asked for fund students’ social life?

MOOCalypse soon?

Online learning will replace residential campuses predicts Nathan Harden in The End of the University as We Know It  in The American Interest.  Only the elite universities will have bricks, mortar and ivy.

The future looks like this: Access to college-level education will be free for everyone; the residential college campus will become largely obsolete; tens of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; the bachelor’s degree will become increasingly irrelevant; and ten years from now Harvard will enroll ten million students.

Community colleges will survive, writes Rob Jenkins, a Georgia Perimeter College English professor, in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

MOOCs or other forms of mass education can’t provide the workforce development and training sought by many community college students.

Most technical training is by nature hands-on, requiring extensive facilities and on-site instructors. (Honestly, would you want to have your hair cut by someone who learned how to do it by watching the equivalent of YouTube videos?) Many companies do not have their own training facilities and count on local community colleges to provide skilled workers. That is unlikely to change anytime soon.

It’s also unlikely that students who need remediation will succeed in a MOOC, Jenkins writes. These students need instructors.

Community colleges could outsource many of their courses to elite universities via MOOCs, writes Harden. They could serve more students with fewer faculty, lowering costs.

Community colleges have “figured out how to make online courses as personal as possible, which seems to be the key for the vast majority of students,” Jenkins writes.

. . .  MOOCs and other such “innovations” . . . seem to appeal mostly to students who are already well educated.

Often those students are either professionals seeking to gain additional expertise in their fields or people looking to expand their intellectual horizons—like the engineer who takes an advanced poetry course just because she likes poetry and didn’t have an opportunity to pursue that interest in college.

In other words, these are highly motivated, extremely self-directed learners. But the vast majority of undergraduates who register for online classes are not either of those things—especially in required core courses they don’t really want to take. That’s why online faculty members at community colleges have worked so hard for years to make their courses as student-friendly as possible.

Most online students “will seek out the smaller ‘classrooms’ and more personalized online experience offered by community colleges, rather than the faceless crowds of MOOCs,” Jenkins predicts.

MOOCs let students take courses taught by famous professors from Stanford or MIT. But these famous professors aren’t necessarily great teachers, writes Jenkins. Great teachers “can be found disproportionately at community colleges.” And there won’t be 10,000 students in the class.

While many four-year colleges and universities require students to borrow heavily, community colleges are  ”a great value,” Jenkins concludes.

In my state, tuition and fees for a full-time student at a two-year college are about a third of what students pay at one of the state’s large research institutions, and about half of what they pay at the smaller, regional universities. Many of our students also live at home, which reduces their expenses even more.

. . . As long as students are looking for inexpensive courses that transfer easily, with excellent teaching, a supportive environment, and a variety of options—both online and face-to-face—community colleges will continue to thrive.

I think Jenkins is right about the survival of community colleges — and Harden is right about the demise of non-elite residential colleges and universities.

If I were an entrepreneur, I’d develop “college experience” apartment complexes for 18- to 24-year-olds. There’d be keggers, pizza parties, frisbee contests and a designated football and basketball team to root for. There’d be T-shirts and sweatshirts with the complex’s name and tastefully designed logo. Residents who wanted a degree could study online; others could enjoy the experience without paying tuition.

College in high school

Teaching college classes at high schools poses a series of dilemmas for Community College Dean.

High schools prefer to run “bite-size” classes five days a week, while college instructors are used to longer classes taught two or three days a week. High schools have a longer school year, but take more days off. There are no support services in the summer to help students apply for classes and make sure they’re qualified.

Students have to test out of remedial English to take the classes the dean’s college offers. “A disturbing number of the high school seniors who are motivated enough to sign up for college courses” turn out to be ineligible.  That can mean there aren’t enough left to fill the class.

I’ve floated the idea of just setting aside some seats in some online sections of classes we’re running anyway.  That way, I thought, we’d get around both the ‘travel’ issue and the minimum size issue.  If, say, six students out of twenty-five in a given Intro to Psych class are high school seniors, the class can run just fine.  I’d even argue that they’re getting a more authentic college experience, to the extent that their classmates are primarily 18 and older.

But that doesn’t always meet the needs of the high schools.  For reasons of their own, they need to have students in prescribed places at prescribed times, with someone who is paid to teach/supervise them.

In a Florida study, dual-enrollment students showed gains if they took classes on a college campus, but not when the classes were taught at their own high school. Apparently, it’s harder to provide college-level rigor and a real college experience in the high school environment.

Read the comments on Inside Higher Ed from people who’ve taught college classes at high schools.

Community colleges add housing

Community colleges are building dorms and leasing apartments to attract out-of-the-area students and provide a residential “college experience.”

Half of New York community colleges offer student housing and more are considering it, reports the Post-Star

In June, Dutchess Community College broke ground on a 465-bed residential hall.

In Schenectady, the community college is working with a company to build a student housing complex adjacent to the campus.

At Finger Lakes Community College, a residential hall opened in 2007 and officials want to add more to meet a demand that leads to a long wait list in the fall.

. . . SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury might soon join the group. The community college has designs for a 406-bed housing facility on campus, and is now determining the cost and means to finance it.

Student housing must pay its own way.  Community college is a lot more expensive with room and board added on, but there are students — or parents — who see residential life as worth the extra money.

“There are a lot of students who would like to live away and have the college experience,” said Ronald Heacock, president of SUNY Adirondack.

“I think most community colleges view that this is going to be the future for community colleges,” said Ron Marquette, a SUNY Ulster spokesman. His college is looking into offering housing.

Florida Keys Community College, which attracts out-of-state and out-of-county students to its marine science and diving program, has opened a new dorm.

Kansas City Kansas Community College is offering student housing for the first time. The college rented two apartment buildings near campus.