On Sunday, Washington Post columnist Jay Matthews published a superficial and unhelpful article. sheet Attacking community colleges ultimately leads to poor policy recommendations. To my delight, New Jersey continued to advance and issued a smarter proposal last month.
Matthews’ article mainly relied on the opinion of a high school teacher who believed that the low graduation rate of community colleges caused them to drop out of factories, rather than places like Duke and George Mason. In addition, community college credits are not always transferred. Therefore, he suggested that it is best to send students directly to four-year schools and let community colleges die on the vines.
It is difficult to know where to start.
Long-time readers know that IPEDS rates are not suitable for community college students. Many students study for a year and then transfer to obtain a degree within the specified time, but the statistics show that they dropped out. Moving to more realistic measures, such as the voluntary framework for accountability, has increased these success rates by double digits. (For example, according to College scorecard, My own university “graduation rate” is 31%, but the graduation plus transfer rate is 57%. This is not a rounding error. )
It is foolish to blame community colleges for not transferring credits; we do not make these decisions. These decisions are made by the receiving agency. I totally agree that four-year schools have more room for responsibility to justify the rejection of credits, but this is not our requirement. We have obtained good data nationwide, showing that students starting from community colleges perform better than “local” students when transferring, which shows that we are doing the right thing. We also have good data showing that nearly half of bachelor’s degree holders in the United States have community college credits, regardless of whether they have received an associate degree. These data points are not in line with the “dropout factory” statement.
But in Matthews’ argument, the most obvious, screaming, and you’re joking shortcoming is a direct comparison between open admission universities and highly selective universities. Brookdale accepted the top 100% of applicants.according to College scorecard, Duke took 9%. The median SAT at Duke University exceeds 700 in both verbal and mathematics. Duke University’s students as a whole are well prepared academically, their parents are educated, their incomes are high, and their private school backgrounds are disproportionate. If you filter out people who do not have a record of outstanding performance in school, you will have a high success rate. If these students switch to community colleges, their graduation rate will be very high. This is what they did. Our students look more like America. It is absurd to pretend that these variables are irrelevant.
Are there any automotive technology courses at Duke University that I missed? Respiratory treatment plan? If not, where do the people who do these jobs come from?
This did not even solve the financial problem. Part of the high success rate of elite institutions comes from the level of resources at their disposal. Duke University charges about ten times that of ours, and the annual income generated by its donations exceeds our entire operating budget, even if we have more students. (As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out not long ago with a different example, Duke’s exemption from capital gains tax costs more taxpayers than all our operating subsidies combined.” “It’s a relative term.) I don’t think taxpayers want to pay Duke-level tuition and fees for millions of community college students across the country, and I didn’t expect that selective places would open their doors. They have the opportunity to do so in a pandemic; instead, they choose to become more selective. There is a reason for this.
Rejecting community colleges would be disastrous for this country. Fortunately, my own state came up with a better idea.by Garden State Guarantee, Students below a certain income threshold can get two years for free at a community college in New Jersey, and then two years for free at a public four-year university. The genius of the program is that it understands that for many students, the message should not be “community college or four-year college.” It should be “community college and four-year university”. Starting from a place that specializes in the first two years, the cost is low and it serves many students better; those who continue to study outperform the “local” freshmen. For other people who choose to join the labor market earlier—not at all in Matthews’ work—the two-year community college may be like this. Princeton is cute and wonderful, but it will never be open to the public. We are already.
For people reading Inside Higher Ed, most of the content may be old news. But more people read the Washington Post and are exposed to arguments like Matthews. I hope that before Matthews’ superficial and stupid and rude behavior cause real damage, the virtual information in the bottle can be conveyed to some important people.