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Community Colleges: The Great Remediators?

  • One of the things that made me fall in love with the mission of the community college is the fact that it is equal opportunity and open admissions. We've been affectionately coined "the Ellis Island of higher education". I tell that to scores of prospective students and family during my admissions presentations and I say it with pride. 



    But with the pool of resources, particularly at the state levels, shrinking ever so steadily and the cost of tuition at four-year schools rising so rapidly, students are flocking to community colleges in droves because, let's face it, we're the best deal in town. 


    Okay so this is not necessarily a bad thing for us, but, are community colleges prepared to handle the myriad of issues that come with this? One issue that comes to mind is the ongoing struggle with developmental education.



    Today I read an article in the Community College Times on this very issue. As many four-year schools begin to phase out, or at least severely limit their developmental options, more students are being referred to community colleges to get them up to speed. On the surface, it seems like a good bone to be thrown. But is it really?


    Remedial education has long been part of the many services that we offer to our students. But with the pressure being increasingly placed upon community colleges to provide what, in truth, should have been given at the K-12 level, one must ask at what point the heat will be put back on the K-12 institutions to produce more college-ready students rather than pushing those students off on community colleges to re-educate them (Just a caveat...I'm speaking specifically about students coming right out of high school. Adult students are a different story) I fail to see the reasoning behind high school graduates paying to take developmental courses that do not count toward degree requirements, to learn skills they could have learned for free in grade school. How does that help our students?


    Why should our resources be drained by remedial education when we have other responsibilities to our community beyond that? Community colleges are also workforce training centers. We are research institutions (maybe not in the Carnegie classification sense) and hubs for recreational community learning. 


    By no means am I advocating that community colleges not offer development education. I think there is a need for it, but I do not believe that it should be our responsibility to carry alone. My hope is that community colleges and local high schools can partner together more on initiatives that will help produce more college-ready students such as offering non-credit supplemental math instruction or essay-writing camps over the summer. 


    Thoughts? How do you think community colleges should handle developmental education?