Friday, November 17, 2006

Stretching them 

It's been a day for me to look at statistics in the colleges. Most of them would be boring, but I found this one via Phi Beta Cons,

Of students who entered [California] community colleges in 1997, half left after a year, said Ria Sengupta, the report's co-author. About a quarter of students who enter with the intention of transferring to a four-year school actually did that, and only one in 10 who took classes needed for transferring earned a two-year associate's degree.

``We were surprised the most by the high turnover rate,'' Sengupta said. ``The majority of students leave without transferring.''

Educators long have struggled to serve the variety of students who have turned California community colleges into the nation's largest higher-education system. While the schools traditionally are associated with recent high-school graduates who use them as stepping stones to four-year colleges, fewer than half the first-year students in 2003 took primarily transfer-oriented courses.

Other students took vocational classes such as dental assisting or electrical technology, while some focused on non-credit courses such as cooking or traffic school. About 14 percent took mostly remedial classes or English courses for non-native speakers.

It does make you wonder, as Joanne Jacobs does, why donors might fund these colleges more than in the past. Doesn't there need to be some focus to this?

During the last elections the gubernatorial candidates sparred over the cost of college education. But the cost of college is a function of the preparation one receives in K-12 education; if less than half of students stay in the community college system more than a year, how much of the cost of college education should be charged to area school systems? I agree with Richard Vedder that we are perhaps oversubsidizing students who spend probably no more than 30 hours per week as students, but like a pitcher suddenly put on a four-day rotation, more studying and class time may be something they are not prepared for.