School change: Worthwhile or grades 13 and 14?

by Steve Wyckoff on June 9, 2010

Recently, I was at a social gathering and three sets of parents were engaged in a conversation about their kids attending community colleges. One of the students after graduating from community college was attending a technical college for training in a healthcare field.

This isn’t my first conversation with either parents or students about community colleges. I’ve become aware that there are really two sides to community colleges. One side is made up of very traditional, liberal arts, gen ed courses. Students typically pursue this educational opportunity for one of two reasons, to get the first two years of a four-year degree, or because they’ve been told you have to go to college to get a good job.

The other side of the community college is dedicated to job training with a core of gen ed courses. Students pursue this educational opportunity for specific job training.

There are two reasons for attending postsecondary institutions in the minds of Americans. One is to become a well-rounded citizen, and the others to get a better job.

When I think of the experiences that our students get when they attended a community college I would grade in this way:

If the student is pursuing a liberal arts education in order to be that “well-rounded citizen” I would give the community colleges a letter grade of “D.” It is my opinion that, for the most part, students in the traditional liberal arts classes approach them exactly like they did the core curriculum in K-12. They attend (usually), participate minimally, and do enough to get their desired grade, and move on. In addition they have done little, if anything, to enhance their career opportunities.

If on the other hand, the student is pursuing a specific career training program, I would give the community colleges a letter grade of at least a “B” if not an “A.” While the student may not have covered the material to become that mythical “well-rounded individual”, they have dramatically enhanced their career opportunities.

So if you are contemplating if your child to a community college, I would suggest that you strongly consider a specific training program. Your child will still meet the criteria for admission into a four-year university if they choose, and at the same time will have many more opportunities for jobs. By pursuing this option a student could avoid attending a community college and then finding it necessary to attend a technical college to receive training to actually get a job. – Steve Wyckoff

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