With President Obama proposing free community college, it seems like a new promising era has arrived for education, and especially adult learning. But I think this plan needs to be thought-through in a little more detail. Because, although it sounds like it could be good idea to address the rising learning needs of the 21st century, I believe there are a number of problems that could be either better or worse through this plan.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I really think that we need to embark on a new era for community colleges. There needs to be a focus on elevating the status of the 2-year degree. Community colleges now primarily serve those who want to transfer to a 4-year school, and their focus is still primarily the liberal arts. These are the courses that students have to take as general education requirements, and they take them at community colleges to save money. But is this the best approach?
Many studies have cited the problem that very high achieving students who enroll in community colleges first usually don’t do very well. And for those students who would really prefer to get a practical 2-year degree, they don’t do very well either, because many have to take remedial courses. So the community college is not really serving either group very well.
The solution is to have the community college only provide practical 2-year degrees with no liberal arts courses. Even though students have a practical 2-year degree, there is really no reason why they couldn’t transfer to a 4-year school later even through they don’t have the standard liberal arts/general ed requirements. If a student gets an Engineering Tech 2-year degree, and then decides to get a Engineering degree later, does it really matter that they didn’t take all those Gen Ed. liberal arts courses? I really don’t think so. There should be many different ways to proceed through coursework depending on individual needs and interests.