Community colleges try to polish image

Despite record enrollments, community colleges don’t get much respect, notes College Bound.  In a recent Gallup Poll, only one in five people “strongly agreed” that community colleges offer high-quality education.

Community college leaders can improve the sector’s image by taking responsibility for student outcomes, writes J. Noah Brown, president of the American Association of Community College Trustees, in First in the World: Community Colleges and America’s Future. Brown calls for measuring the success rates of a variety of students, including part-time students.

Brown also encourages community colleges to communicate their results and better orient new students. If schools are indeed good stewards of the public dollar, he writes, their success should be rewarded by the government. The new Voluntary Framework for Accountability is part of that effort.

Government funding for community colleges is at the lowest point in 20 years, notes College Bound.

The community college track to success

“How to Achieve the American Dream Without a Mountain of Debt” is the subtitle of Thomas J. Snyder’s The Community College Career Track, a guide for high school students and their parents, career changes and displaced workers.

Snyder, president of Indiana’s Ivy Tech Community College system and a former CEO, tells prospective students why they should consider a low-cost community college, how to get scholarships, grants and aid and the pros and cons of online courses. He explains how to prepare for college work, ace the placement test and chart a path to a “great” career by earning a one-year professional certificate, associate degree or bachelor’s degree.

“Everyone should consider a science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), or health care related career,” Snyder writes. Learn math, then do the math: High-tech manufacturing, biotechnology, health care, information technology and energy are growing fields that pay a premium for technical skills.

Snyder also has advice for students who want to use community college as a “smart start” to a bachelor’s degree.

Also new is First in the World: Community Colleges and America’s Future by J. Noah Brown, president and CEO of the American Association of Community College Trustees. Despite increasing visibility in recent years, community colleges remain “woefully underfunded and undervalued,” writes Brown.

Investing in community colleges has been a big part of American prosperity since the end of World War II. Regaining our position of global leadership by increasing educational attainment rates is the way out of our current economic malaise.

Increasingly, community college students drop in and out and back in again, confusing measures of success or accountability schemes, he writes. College leaders must find ways to benchmark student progress to show how well colleges are meeting their multiple academic and vocational goals.