What is Community College Success?

With the Obama administration’s interest in community colleges representatives of many schools are coming together to define community college success. According to an article by Matthew Dembicki in Community College Times:

A federal committee charged with recommending to the U.S. education secretary what measures would best gauge student success at community colleges used its first meeting this week to survey the landscape—from what should be measured to who would use the data.

The trouble was that the group had kind of a hard time figuring out what success means. Eventually the group agreed to narrow down to a few things, including transferring, remedial education, and employment. According to the article:

Community college leaders on the committee emphasized that any new measures should not overburden community colleges, many of which have limited resources and face increased enrollments while states cut their funding. Bailey agreed that the committee’s work should “balance ambition with reality.”

Community colleges actually have a lot of missions. There’s jobs training. There’s community development. There’s helping people transfer to four-year schools. There’s remedial education. There’s also the ambiguous goal of just giving underprivileged people a taste of higher education.

All of these goals are valuable, but they’re also in conflict. Like at all colleges, community college divisions compete for resources. What are the more important things to improve?

The major topic of conversation that emerged at the committee meeting had to do with helping community college students transfer to traditional colleges. Only about 37 percent of students who begin higher education at a community college eventually graduate from a four-year school.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer