The Systems of Community Colleges Discussion


CCCS Module Essay Primary Reading:
· Ginia Bellafante’s “Community College Students Face a Long Road to Graduation”
Secondary Readings:
Kyle Spencer’s “In College and Homeless”

 Karl Strikwerda’s “Community Colleges are Good for You”

Overview: Community colleges have come under increased national scrutiny in recent years. While nearly half of the nation’s college freshmen now attend community college, graduation rates at two-year institutions are often lower than at four-year colleges. Despite this, college students are choosing community colleges in high rates and often plan to transfer to four-year institutions after finishing their coursework at a two-year school.
Essential Questions
Why did you decide to attend a community college?

Where would you like to transfer after you complete your work at CCBC?
Do you agree with any of the points made in the Bellafante’s essay? Why or why not?

Your essay should touch on each of these issues, ultimately creating a thesis (typically found in the first paragraph of your essay) that states why you are attending CCBC and how the reading for this unit has influenced your opinion of community colleges.
Prompt: Ginia Bellafante’s New York Times article discusses the difficulties of one community college student, Vladimir de Jesus, and his experience at a two-year college in New York. Your essay should include discussion of why students (like de Jesus, yourself, and other community college students) select community colleges, the experiences students have at the community college, and some of the difficulties students face in transferring to four-year institutions from community colleges. Kyle Spencer and Carl Strikwerda’s essays will also provide evidence-based support that can be useful in addressing the issues that face community college students across the U.S.,
This essay should include an argumentative thesis in your first paragraph. Your thesis statement should discuss your decision to attend CCBC and your response to the Bellafante reading and consideration of the secondary readings.
Audience: Write for an audience that is not familiar with the experiences and challenges of community college students
Length: 3-4 pages (750-1000) words

Include an original title (not “Unit One Essay” or Bellafante Essay”)
Use MLA Style to format your essay 

Compose a thesis statement that expresses your opinion about community college as a student and in response to your research and the assigned reading
Use the Bellafante reading  as evidence to support your opinions
Summarize de Jesus’s experience
Discuss your own experience at CCBCWhy Community Colleges Are Good for You
These unsung engines of higher education deserve the resources and respect to be equal partners
with four-year institutions.
The challenges facing higher education are almost always analyzed in terms of four-year colleges
and universities, even though more students attend community college than any other type of
higher-education institution. In my career as a faculty member, dean, and president in New York,
California, Kansas, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, I’ve found that colleges and universities too often pay
only lip service to recruiting community-college transfers. Sadly, only 15 percent of communitycollege students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years. The reasons? Poor advising about how
to take courses that will help at the transfer institution, lack of financial aid, and the cultural gulf
between community-college students and the colleges and universities that do little to welcome
And yet, community colleges are essential to four-year institutions. Three reasons for this are
particularly important: They provide an open door to college that is vital for many young people and
that can rarely be duplicated by four-year institutions; they reach a far more diverse group of
students than do most four-year colleges and universities; and they are essential for higher
education’s goal of serving the national interest.
Providing an open door. For millions of young Americans, a four-year college or university is
intimidating, especially if it involves living away from home, tackling challenging courses in the first
semester, or taking on loans. Community colleges offer students a chance to taste college close to
home, with the possibility of taking courses part-time or moving easily from part time to full time and
back. Students who go to community colleges tend to take out fewer loans, even when one controls
for the lower tuition. They are still trying out college. Many wisely are reluctant to take on debt, which
is necessary today even at the lowest-cost public institutions, until they are confident that they can
choose the right major and succeed academically.
This also makes them less of a risk financially than many four-year college leaders fear. Judith
Scott-Clayton, a student-loan expert, says, “If not for students later attending for-profits, community
college entrants would have lower default rates than public four-year entrants.”
Reaching diverse groups. The community college that Elizabethtown College works most closely
with, Harrisburg Area Community College, is not only the largest community college in Pennsylvania
but has more veterans among its students than any other higher-education institution in the state.
The proportion of its student body
that receives Pell Grants is more than twice as large as Elizabethtown’s. Enrollment of black and
Hispanic students, too, is generally much higher at community colleges than at four-year institutions.
Thus, if four-year colleges want their student body to resemble the nation, recruiting communitycollege students is essential.
Fulfilling the nation’s goals. College graduates are a crucial asset for our society to compete in an
increasingly technological world and to provide the professionals we need in a wide range of fields.
Without partnerships between community colleges and four-year institutions, the United States will
never produce the number of college graduates that we need. We once led the world in the
percentage of college graduates in the population. No more. We send millions of high-school
graduates to college, yet too many leave without degrees. And it is doubtful that the proportion of
high-school graduates going directly to four-year colleges is going to increase significantly. To
increase the number of college graduates, we need to make it easier for many more of the millions
of community-college students to transfer to a four- year college and earn their degrees.
Are there risks to four-year institutions if they accept many more community-college students?
Certainly. Many four-year college leaders fear that weak transfer students will hurt their institution’s
reputation, and may only set these students up for failure. The risks, however, can be overcome.
When I was a dean at the College of William & Mary, a highly selective public institution, I found that
community-college transfers went through much of the same adjustment as first-year students.
Typically, their first semester was their weakest. Nonetheless, with hands-on advising and strong
transition programs, their learning curve was much more rapid. By the time they graduated, they
performed nearly as strongly as four-year students. Yes, it cost more per student to recruit and
advise these students than the average first-year student. But it was often less costly and ultimately
more successful than doing so for at-risk students who came to college as first-year students.
The transfers were more mature, confident about their major, able to handle the culture shock and
financial-aid concerns, and certain that they wanted to get a four-year degree. Programs created to
recruit at-risk first-year students and help them succeed are often excellent. If we want to contribute
to a better-educated future for America, we should adapt these kinds of programs to help
community-college transfers as well.
What most helps community-college students? Some obvious strategies are still essential:
articulation agreements that clarify course and major requirements for all students; financial-aid
packages that are as robust as those for first-year students; and teamwork between advisers at both
institutions to demystify transferring. Yet more creative strategies are still needed:
* Open-campus visit days with instant acceptance decisions for transfer students.
* Financial-aid counseling customized for community-college students.
* Specially designed “test drive” courses at the four-year college at community-college prices.
* Pipeline programs connecting a community college to a four-year college, like the one at Gwynedd
Mercy University near Philadelphia, which offers guaranteed admission to students who have earned
degrees at specified community colleges.
* Designated advisers who are sensitive to the needs of community-college transfers, commuters,
nontraditional students, veterans, and students with family obligations.
It is essential that faculty and staff at four-year colleges get to know students, faculty, and staff at
their partner community colleges. Too many well-intentioned transfer programs have failed because
of cultural and bureaucratic misunderstandings. Just as important, continuing-education programs at
four-year colleges and universities should be enlisted to help community-college graduates earn
their degrees while working full time. Many of these transfer students will never take courses full
time. At Elizabethtown College, evening, weekend, and online classes in our School for Continuing
and Professional Studies are the only way many transfer students will ever complete a bachelor’s
Community-college students deserve a chance that they may get only if we in higher education
commit ourselves to rethinking our practices, removing barriers, and replacing ignorance with
insight. All of us — and the country — will benefit.

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