Twenty-five community colleges have been named finalists for the Awards of Excellence sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges. Awards will be given in five categories: Emerging Leadership, Student Success, Exemplary CEO or Board, Advancing Diversity and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership.
The finalists and winners will be honored April 23 during the closing brunch of the 2013 AACC Convention in San Francisco.
As elite colleges try to boost diversity, more community college students are transferring to selective four-year institutions, reports the New York Times.
At the end of his first year at the Community College of Philadelphia, Christopher Thomas decided that his goal — to go back to school and get a degree — was no longer worth it. He was in debt from thousands of dollars in student loans. After class, he rode a bus an hour and a half to a suburban restaurant where he worked as a waiter. When the shift ended at midnight, it took him three buses to get home. He couldn’t afford a computer, so in the middle of the night, he walked to his aunt’s house and used hers to finish his class work.
. . . A woman in the college’s Institutional Advancement department, Patricia Conroy, kept sending e-mails about a $2,000 scholarship. “WHY DON’T YOU APPLY FOR THIS,” she wrote. He won one.
. . . This fall he will enter the University of Pennsylvania.
Increasingly, the students here are making that jump. Dawn-Stacy Joyner, a former hospital cook, will also attend the University of Pennsylvania. Nine women graduating this spring have been accepted to Bryn Mawr. Larry Thi, who hopes to become a teacher, transferred to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
As debt fears grow, more ambitious students are starting at community college with hopes of going to a selective college or university, according to Rod Risley, executive director of Phi Theta Kappa, the community college honor society. While most community college students don’t tranfer, those who do are likely to compelete a degree.
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation gives scholarships of up to $30,000 a year to to help outstanding community college students earn a bachelor’s degree. The foundation also gives up to $1 million a year for community college recruitment by such four-year institutions as the University of Michigan, Cornell, Amherst, Berkeley, the University of North Carolina and Bryn Mawr.
Elite colleges teach students to be smug, wrote Andrew Delbanco, director of American Studies at Columbia, in a New York Times commentary.
If each Ivy League college committed to accepting transfer students from community colleges for 1 percent of their junior classes, privileged students would begin to encounter students from the other 99 percent. Research confirms that low-income and minority transfer students, after being transformed by a community college education, graduate at the same or higher rates than students who began at the same college.
Making transfers a part of the elite colleges would provide living proof that intelligence, drive and achievement are not the sole province of students born with good fortune, but are as alive as the American dream among strivers at community colleges.
Elite colleges have tried to create racial and ethnic diversity, but have paid little attention to socioeconomic diversity. Taking community college transfers — and military veterans — would shake up the smug.
Elite colleges enroll few low-income students and many very high-income students, notes the New York Times. The “single easiest way” to increase socioeconomic diversity is to accept community college transfers, the Times writes. Transfers have made the University of California campuses in Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego much more diverse than other top colleges.
The truth is that many of the most capable low- and middle-income students attend community colleges or less selective four-year colleges close to their home. . . . Incredibly, only 44 percent of low-income high school seniors with high standardized test scores enroll in a four-year college, according to a Century Foundation report — compared with about 50 percent of high-income seniors who have average test scores.
“The extent of wasted human capital,” wrote the report’s authors, Anthony P. Carnevale and Jeff Strohl, “is phenomenal.”
While drop-out rates are high at community colleges, students who succeed tend to be highly motivated and far more likely to be “war veterans, single parents and immigrants who have managed to overcome the odds,” writes the Times.
Amherst has succeeded in boosting socioeconomic diversity: Some 22 percent of students now qualify for Pell Grants, up from 13 percent in 2005. One strategy: 62 percent of transfer students came from a community college.
“America is the place where you can make it if you try,” President Obama told graduates at Miami Dade College on Friday. His commencement speech was cheered by the crowd at one of the nation’s largest and most diverse colleges, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The president said:
. . . I believe that community colleges like this one are critical pathways to the middle class that equip students with the skills and the education necessary to compete and win in this 21st-century economy. And that’s why I’ve made community colleges a centerpiece of my education agenda, along with helping more students afford college. I couldn’t be prouder of the work we’ve done in community colleges. And your accomplishment today is vital to America reclaiming the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. So I am proud of you.
Many graduates have overcome obstacles and doubts to fulfill their family’s dreams, President Obama said. “This is their day, too. This is their day, too.”
The president said he supports the “Dream Act,” which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented high school graduates who go on to college or the military. He blamed Congress for refusing to pass the bill. He also pledged to work on comprehensive immigration reform.
Teaching community college students requires skills that don’t come with a master’s or a PhD, argue graduate programs that offer a special credential, Inside Higher Ed reports.
Temple University offers a community college teaching certificate; students don’t have to be enrolled in a Temple graduate program. In addition, there is a track for current community college instructors who want to learn new teaching techniques.
The certificate for current community college instructors consists of a three-credit seminar on “teaching in higher education” — with broad-based lessons on various teaching philosophies and course designs — and three one-credit modules on specific topics. Current topics are “assessment,” “diversity and inclusive teaching” and “teaching with technology.” Aspiring higher education instructors in graduate school take the same introductory seminar but then take on a teaching practicum in which they serve as teaching assistants at Temple instead of taking the module courses.
One of the most valuable aspects of the program, according to its participants, is the opportunity to talk about their individual teaching practices with other community college instructors and learn from one another.
Valerie Schantz, reading and critical thinking professor at Delaware County Community College, took the teaching class even though she’s taught for more than six years. She plans to allow students to use technology more often.
So instead of always assigning a five-page essay for students to show their understanding of a concept, she said she will encourage the creation of videos or other multimedia presentations for the class. Additionally, she said, she will try to make more use of interactive online tools to stimulate discussion among her students outside of the classroom.
The certificate program also includes a module on “diversity and inclusive teaching,” which teaches instructors to develop “diversity action plans” and adapt their teaching to the demographics of their students.
Temple hopes to offer an online version of its community college teaching certificate program.
A few other graduate programs offer certificate programs for teaching certain disciplines at community college, such as San Francisco State’s graduate certificates in “the teaching of composition” and “teaching post-secondary reading.”
Jennifer Trainor, an English professor at the university, explains that most students who pursue these certificates are earning master’s degrees in other disciplines such as literature, creative writing or linguistics.
. . . “We try to give those in the certificate program an overview of composition theory, and we also show them common student errors in writing and how to approach them constructively,” Trainor said. “Sometimes the first response to bad student writing is to put red ink all over a paper, throw your hands up and go look for another job. We try to show these future instructors what kinds of mistakes students make and how not to mark up everything and how to take teaching them step-by-step.”
San Francisco State is working with community college to strengthen the program by preparing students for the online learning environment and for administrative duties new instructors may have to take on.
Sugie Goen-Salter, another English professor at San Francisco State, wants to require future instructors to study the history of community colleges and their missions.