“Connecticut’s community colleges are essentially “driverless”…they lack a strong presence behind the wheel. Missing in action is some body clearly capable of navigating, steering, charging the system. FORWARD. Instead, a propensity to mindlessly “muddle thru” has led to confusion of purpose, chaotic inconsistencies, resistance to change. One has only to consider the sorry stats to see our schools are stumbling…” –Frances Pulle
Report by Paula Antolini
August 8, 2016 10:38PM EDT
OPINION / LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Connecticut’s Community Colleges: Course Correction Crucial; Letter to the Editor from Frances Pulle
Connecticut’s clutch of community colleges can best be compared to Ford’s “fully autonomous” car…both show promise, seek acceptance, herald change. They represent “new model” thinking–outside-the-box rebuilds for birthing something better. A better way to learn, achieve, move ahead…
The aforementioned colleges, however, like these curious cars are slogging down a rough ‘n’ rutted road. They are failing to gain momentum needed to reach sustainability and, thus, permanence. Their dismal track record prompts distrust and discourages buyers from investing in the product. Frequency of collisions and close calls cause consumers to keep their distance. Instruction manuals read poorly.
Why this sad state of affairs? Connecticut’s community colleges are essentially “driverless”…they lack a strong presence behind the wheel. Missing in action is some body clearly capable of navigating, steering, charging the system. FORWARD. Instead, a propensity to mindlessly “muddle thru” has led to confusion of purpose, chaotic inconsistencies, resistance to change. One has only to consider the sorry stats to see our schools are stumbling…
Nationally fourteen percent of first-time-in-college, degree-seeking students go on to earn a bachelor’s degree from any four-year institution within six years of entering the lower tier institution. In Connecticut it’s ten percent. The Nutmeg/ Constitution/Land of Steady Habits State ranks thirtieth out of forty-three states– (Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia university, 2016) thereby earning an “F” in “Transfer Mission”. Also, students are not advised to delay transfer until the associate degree is earned. When they fail to attain a bachelor’s degree they end up with nothing.
Inquiring minds (i.e., taxpayers) might enjoy knowing who/what is responsible:
–Open Admissions: some people should be shown the door. These include but are not limited to those aspirants whose skill/knowledge gap is too huge for remediation/tutoring/support/ to help. They will end up leaving anyway, but will waste time and resources in the process.
–Adjuncts: and other “road scholars” comprise 50–60% of the faculty. A concerted effort to up their numbers results in faculty being treated like interchangeable parts. Every semester or so many are awarded zero courses. This prompts part-timers to go elsewhere. The result is a devolving, not an evolving, faculty.
–Wide Range of Talent: Profs are faced with a roomful of people whose ages, abilities, prep levels, physical health, personal issues, motivation, future plans are all over the map. The prof would love to focus on those who are most likely to succeed. This can’t happen until the class thins a bit.
–Take four courses, the fifth is free: All students have either full or part-time jobs. Students who work 9 to 5 should not sign up for more than three courses. Also, many of these students require extra help which takes time. Counsellors should not “push” courses because they’re a bargain. This is not the mall.
–Prerequisites not enforced: Counseling problem here. Again. –Classes too Large: Course is open as long as you can find a chair! Seriously. –Issues: Students are absent due to recurring illness, problems at home, problems at work, car malfunctions, car accidents, trips to visit relatives, exhaustion.
–Freshman Orientation: Ineffective at best, a joke at worst. –Overuse of Technology : Students prefer discussion, debate, interacting with classmates, conversing with instructor, personalized anything. They are especially eager to learn what wasn’t taught in high school–actual academic subjects.
–Assessment Rubrics: The latest fad in education. They, at the very least, should be realistic, appropriate for the level of work expected at community college.
The state that engineered the Great (Connecticut) Compromise (Constitutional Convention, 1787 ) is more than capable of course correction. A reimagined, sleeker model might be just the thing to grow graduation numbers, conserve resources, insure accountability, give Connecticutters their money’s worth. Perhaps the original function of community college should be updated in light of changing demographics, increasing globalization, cutthroat competition. Perhaps a state that has figured this out–eg., Oklahoma– should be consulted.
Whatever we do–whatever we inhabitants of “The Land of Many Nicknames”
do–we should do what our glorious past commands. We should do something
Frances Pulle teaches Political Science at the college level.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual mentioned and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Bethel Advocate.