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Urban Community Colleges Are Urged To Help Youths Earn 4-Year Degrees

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Community colleges must do more to help urban youths who want to obtain a college degree, and should forge new partnerships to expand their role as a force for improving the quality of life in the inner city, two recent reports conclude.

The authors of a report published last week assert that community colleges no longer provide sufficient opportunities for students to transfer to four-year institutions of higher education.

The report calls for community colleges to restore "the transfer option" as their central role, especially for minority and low-income students.

"Community colleges offer the only hope for many urban students to gain access to higher education," write the authors, Fred L. Pincus and Elayne Archer. "No other institutions take on the awesome task of working to salvage hope for so many who have been given up on by others."

Their report, "Bridges to Opportunity: Are Community Colleges Meeting the Transfer Needs of Minority Students?," was prepared by the Academy for Educational Development, a nonprofit educational foundation, and published by the College Board.

The transfer rate has sharply declined since the 1960's and 70's, when community colleges played less of a role in vocational education and were attended by fewer disadvantaged students, the report states.

While the transfer rate once may have been as high as 30 percent, now only 15 to 25 percent of all community-college students ever transfer, the authors write.

Although not all community-college students want to transfer to four-year institutions, the report states, only 20 to 30 percent of those who say they want to transfer actually do so. Also, white and Asian-American students are more likely to transfer than are black and Hispanic ones, according to the report.

The report cites a number of social and educational reasons for the decline, but says one major factor is that the transfer function is no longer the top priority of community-college administrators, who have been influenced by such factors as student demand and job-market requirements.

The report calls for administrators and faculty members to make student preparation for transfer the central role of community colleges, especially those in urban areas.

Among the report's other recommendations:

Community colleges should stress greater intellectual rigor and more critical thinking.

Dual-admission programs should be established with state colleges and universities to guarantee admission and to ensure transfer students will not have to repeat courses.

States should develop financial incentives to reward community colleges with high transfer rates.

A federally funded scholarship program should be established for low-income students who transfer to four-year colleges.

More nonprofit foundations should establish programs to enhance transfer rates.

In another report released last month, the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges concludes that community colleges have become vital providers of education and job training that can help urban youths break the cycle of poverty.

The report, "Who Cares About the Inner City: The Community College Response to Urban America," asserts that community colleges have become "anchor points" of opportunity for urban residents beset by a constant backdrop of "drugs, crime, illiteracy, and family deterioration."

The report, written by Maurice D. Weidenthal, examines successful programs at urban community colleges across the nation. It calls for a "national urban extension act" that would build partnerships between city governments and community colleges in the same way the Rural Extension Act made partners of county governments and universities.

The report is available from the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges, Suite 410, One Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. 20036-1176.

The report on the transfer role of community colleges is available from the College Board, 45 Columbus Ave., New York, N.Y. 10023-6992.

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