Education

A Study Offers a Caution on Obama’s Community College Pitch

By Debra Viadero — January 28, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In his State of the Union address last night President Obama reiterated his longstanding support for community colleges, calling them “a career pathway to the children of so many working families.” He may be right about that. But, as I reported in this story back in September, the research on community colleges suggests they can also be a dead-end for students who get bogged down in noncredit remedial courses and never earn a certificate or a degree.

A new study out this month, however, suggests that community colleges could take a cue from for-profit, or career, colleges. The Educational Policy Institute, a research group in Virginia Beach, Va., based its study on a federal data on nearly 7,000 higher education institutions, 41 percent of which were career colleges, as well as its own surveys.

It focused on students who were at risk of not graduating for a variety of reasons, including lack of a high school diploma, delayed enrollment, enrolling part-time, being a parent, or holding down a full-time job, and found that they stood a better chance of completing a degree or a certificate in a career college than they did in a community college. The career colleges had an average graduation rate of 59 percent for this group, compared to 23 percent for public two-year colleges and 55 percent at private, not-for-profit institutions. (A grain of salt here: the study was sponsored by a group that supports career colleges.)

Part of the problem may be that community colleges are asked to be all things to all people. They provide a stepping stone to four-year colleges, vocational training, and English-language instruction for new immigrants, among other services. In my September article, James Rosenbaum, a Northwestern University researcher, offers some additional thoughts.

“Community colleges are big on choice exploration, delaying decisions about your major, and getting a lot of diversity in your first studies,” he said. “Private two-year colleges help students make a decision quickly at the outset and then have a very set curriculum. You don’t make mistakes. You don’t waste time, and it doesn’t take you longer to get a degree.” He said the private two-year schools also cut out vacation time, schedule classes in ways that are more compatible with maintaining a regular work or child-care schedule, and mandate student-counseling sessions.

It’s something to keep in mind, at least, as Congress debates legislation that would make sweeping changes to the federal student loan program and redirect money from the projected savings to bolstering community colleges, among other education-related uses.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.

Events

Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Senators Put YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat on the Defensive on Kids' Online Safety
Senators questioned executives from YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat about what they’re doing to ensure young users’ safety on their platforms.
5 min read
The Youtube, left, and Snapchat apps on a mobile device in New York, on Aug. 9, 2017. The leaders of a Senate panel have called executives from YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat to face questions on what the companies are doing to ensure young users’ safety. The hearing Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, comes as the panel bears down on hugely popular social media platforms and their impact on children.
The Youtube, left, and Snapchat apps on a mobile device in New York, on Aug. 9, 2017. The leaders of a Senate panel have called executives from YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat to face questions on what the companies are doing to ensure young users’ safety. The hearing Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, comes as the panel bears down on hugely popular social media platforms and their impact on children.
Richard Drew/AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 27, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Vulnerable Students Left Behind as Schooling Disruptions Continue
The effects of unpredictable stretches at home can mirror those of chronic absenteeism and lead to long-term harm to learning.
4 min read
Students board a school bus on New York's Upper West Side on Sept. 13, 2021. Even as most students return to learning in the classroom this school year, disruptions to in-person learning, from missing one day because of a late school bus to an entire two weeks at home due to quarantine, remain inevitable as families and educators navigate the ongoing pandemic.
Students board a school bus on New York's Upper West Side on Sept. 13, 2021. Even as most students return to learning in the classroom this school year, disruptions to in-person learning, from missing one day because of a late school bus to an entire two weeks at home due to quarantine, remain inevitable as families and educators navigate the ongoing pandemic.
Richard Drew/AP
Education 'Widespread' Racial Harassment Found at Utah School District
The federal probe found hundreds of documented uses of the N-word and other racial epithets, and harsher discipline for students of color.
1 min read
A CNG, compressed natural gas, school bus is shown at the Utah State Capitol, Monday, March 4, 2013, in Salt Lake City. After a winter with back-to back episodes of severe pollution in northern Utah, lawmakers and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will discuss clean air legislation and call for government and businesses to convert to clean fuel vehicles.
Federal civil rights investigators found widespread racial harassment of Black and Asian American students in the Davis school district north of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo