Maybe you read Column inside Washington post The proposal for free community colleges that many states are adopting and the federal government is considering is highly criticized. At the risk of oversimplification, this column describes the 2-year institution as a drop-out factory, causing serious loss of credits when students transfer.

This is just one of many columns recently criticizing the idea of ​​free community colleges. There is a review article on Forbes entitled “Community college students need better choices, not free tuition,” claimed that 46% of community college students dropped out of school within five years without obtaining an associate degree or certificate.

Then there is a more complicated part Herchinger reportTitled “Economists find that free community colleges may backfire“It believes that increasing university teaching expenditures will have a greater impact than the abolition of tuition fees, and the cancellation of 4-year institution tuition fees for students who qualify for Pell grants will have a greater impact on the production of bachelor’s degrees than free community colleges. .

Then, there is another piece Watch in the market This also shows that other policies are more cost-effective than free community colleges.

Hope you also read Matt Reed’s sharp, sharp and witty rebuttal To postal Listed in Inside higher education.

However, I do hope that those scholars who know the community college best will also respond.

Even if Jay Matthews’ argument is too simple and lacks nuance, it still raises questions that deserve a detailed response from academia. After all, Matthews’ views have not only been widely recognized by many faculty and staff in 4-year universities, but also by most of the upper-middle class parents.

The following is a series of issues arising from the dispute:

Question 1: Community colleges have multiple missions-admission, remedial, vocational and technical training, and transfer to a 4-year institution. Is the efficiency of the two-year institution’s work in each task the same — or do these multiple tasks conflict with each other, leading to the “one-size-fits-all, nothing” result?

Question 2: Will attending a community college prevent a large number of students who are fully capable of getting a bachelor’s degree?

Question 3: Community colleges rely more on part-time teachers than 4-year colleges. And the job security of these teachers is even lower than that of most teachers in schools that award bachelor’s degrees. How does this differ in terms of teaching effectiveness, student learning outcomes, and feedback received by students?

Question 4: We know that peers have a very powerful influence on educational outcomes. Given the diversity of community college students in preparation, credits per semester, school time and time available for study, and ambitions, ordinary students are as affluent from the beginning of the 2-year institution as they were at the beginning of the 4-year institution?

Question 5: If students enroll in an institution with significantly fewer resources, including financial resources, rich activities, and support services, what will they lose? Does the relatively small class size of the community college make up for the difference in resources?

Question 6: Some people compare the 2-year/4-year gap to a kind of educational segregation. Relative to their academic potential, is it possible for free community colleges to worsen the “insufficient placement” of black, Latino, and low-income students?

Question 7: Will increased funding for community colleges lead to mission spreading (for example, encouraging these schools to provide more applied bachelor degrees), thereby weakening the commitment of two-year institutions to their other responsibilities?

Of course, in my opinion, the biggest weakness of Jay Matthews’s argument is that most bachelor’s degree-granting institutions are unwilling or unable to recruit and provide effective services to many students currently attending community colleges. The fact is that many institutions I am familiar with are not interested in part-time students, veterans, working adults, and home care workers, and cannot meet their needs.

In other words, despite facing many obstacles, there are still many community college transfer students successfully graduating from 4-year universities, which left a deep impression on me. These include:

  • There is a lack of consistency between the courses of the 2-year and 4-year institutions.
  • Failed to coordinate the recommendations between the 4-year school and the midwife school.
  • 4-year institutions are unwilling to apply excessive transfer credits to genetic and professional requirements.
  • Delays in credit transfer assessment often result in closed courses.
  • A financial aid policy that is conducive to full-time students enrolled for the first time and discriminatory transfer students.

The success of these students is a testament to their extraordinary enterprising spirit. Their tenacity, determination, and tenacity are extraordinary, and these students deserve more respect than they usually get.

I think the biggest danger posed by many free community college proposals is that they fail to increase the resources of these institutions. We now have many examples of ways to promote the success of the most disadvantaged students:

  • Co-existence of tutoring means that students are directly allowed to participate in credit courses while providing them with supplementary academic support.
  • The guiding approach provides students with a clear structure and an educationally coherent approach to obtain a certificate with strong labor market value.
  • Intensive one-on-one consultation and career consultation and technical tools to assist in choosing courses and determining the goals of support services.
  • Encourage full-time enrollment.
  • All-round support designed to meet all the needs of students, including access to childcare services, transportation allowances, and emergency grants.

But implementing these evidence-based initiatives requires additional resources. The money is worth it, but unfortunately, it is not as attractive as the word “free” politically.

Steven Mintz is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin


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