Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Two and Out

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the students who get their two-year degree here, and hope to get a job with it.

It’s just not as easy as it used to be. And I’m not just referring to the recession, though that certainly made a bad situation worse.

My college has an enviable record as a pre-transfer school, sending students on to various four-year colleges and universities where they tend to do quite well. That’s great, and I’m happy to embrace and support that side of what we do. But many students have no intention of doing that.

There was a time, a few decades ago, when that was fine. The economy was such that you could come out with a two-year degree in, say, business, and find a job. It might not be a high-end job, and you might eventually have to go back to school to move up into management, but you could start making money in relatively short order.

Now, outside of the health care area, that’s mostly untrue.

Some of our programs have adjusted by becoming de facto transfer programs. They didn’t make a conscious change, exactly, but students started beating different paths and the facts on the ground changed. Other programs have slowly withered on the vine, as students have sensed, usually accurately, that their time had passed.

But we still get significant numbers of students hoping to do two-and-out.

This piece in the Atlantic spooked me a little. It’s a long one, but worth the read. Among other things, it notes that income gains in the larger society over the last few decades have accrued almost exclusively to those with graduate degrees (and/or inherited wealth). Even four-year degrees typically won’t do the trick anymore. At that point, a standalone two-year degree starts to look a little suspect...

The dilemma of public higher ed is that we’re trying to create a middle class for a society that no longer wants one.

Yes, there’s more to education than employment. Of course that’s true. But it’s also true that student loan burdens are a lot higher than they used to be, and they’re getting harder to pay back. When students who are already on the ragged edge of economic disaster come to us hoping for a pathway out, I feel an ethical responsibility to do right by them. And outside of the health care programs and the transfer function, it’s getting harder to do that.

On campus, we haven’t really had that conversation yet in any serious way. Individual programs have looked at individual outcomes, but we haven’t had the broader discussion of just what, exactly, we should be doing. The “produce the middle class” strategy worked brilliantly in the 1960’s, when community colleges boomed, and tolerably well in the 1980’s. The college was built around that. The world has since changed, but we haven’t.

This question is really for readers who work at community colleges. Has your college had a robust, campuswide discussion of its role for students in the new world?

"The dilemma of public higher ed is that we’re trying to create a middle class for a society that no longer wants one. "

On the contrary, our society desperately wants a middle class. The creation of the TEA party was an expression of desire for a robust middle class, where hard work and personal initiative are rewarded and bailouts of all those "too rich to fail" are ended.

The reasons behind the disconnect between education and employment lie elsewhere. Perhaps in the basket-weaving courses my kids had to take in college because the classes they really wanted were already filled up. Perhaps because employment has become more about connections, less about merit.
Yet, I just read an article today about CC's who are churning out AA degree holder for those middle class jobs. The computer technician, the nurse aide and things of that nature. Jobs that really only need an AA.

So, if we don't have a middle class does that leave us with just lower and upper? Or are we supposed to want just one class...because that's worked sooo(emphasis added) well in other countries.
Don't know if you'll agree with this, but it's interesting that it came out today:
NO, to your question if it concerns 2-year AS degrees. I don't even know what placement is like outside of health care AS and company-specific certificate programs.

YES, if it concerns the AA degrees that the vast, VAST majority of our students pursue. That has been on-going for more than five years.

Concerning "The dilemma of public higher ed is that we’re trying to create a middle class for a society that no longer wants one."

I think that statement is false. You are confusing votes based on a political con job in gerrymandered districts with the actual views of society as a whole. The interests of a wealthy derivatives trader (Rick Santelli) or wealthy retirees collecting pensions and Social Security and Medicare (The Villages) are not those of the middle class, but they have used effective PR to convince those who pay most of the taxes that we should reduce their taxes and only cut the services we get -- not the ones they get.

It is a mystery to me why no one points out that it is a lie to claim that taxes are too high when they are lower than at any time in over 50 years. It is a mystery to me why no one points out that the Interstate Highway System or lithium-ion batteries (developed by basic research at a state university by someone who had a low teaching load) were not a waste of tax dollars.

If the truth appeared as often as the lies, there would be a revolution against the taxed enough (sic) folks.
I agree with CCPhysicist and disagree with Edmund Dantes' statment, "Perhaps because employment has become more about connections, less about merit."

I see no evidence that unemployment is "less about merit" today. Do you know something I don't, something that's not just anecdotal or a "gut feeling"?

And what do you mean by "connections"?

Presumably this is a blog mostly frequented by academics. Is it too much to ask that we at least rise to the level of argumentative discourse that we community college English 101 teachers expect of our students? Like offering evidence in support of your assertions?

Otherwise, we might as well be listening to non-NPR talk radio.
The post was nice by Revathi
Um, are we all pretending that the Tea Party is something new, rather than the same Class Warfare that's been waged since Reagan?

Sheesh. Yes, of course DD has precisely stated the problem. In the 70s, it because clear that the middle class was going to include African-Americans. Reagan and his white supporters decided to destroy the middle class rather than allow it.

The Teabaggers have nothing to do with being against bailouts. The first thing they did when they got to Congress was pass a bunch of abortion restrictions. Then they tried to ruin the credit of the United States, so that the economy would tank and they could blame it on (surprise) an African-American President.

DD's stated the problem exactly. Our society no longer wants broad prosperity, because broad prosperity includes people of color. The Teabaggers would rather burn this nation to the ground than allow a black man to succeed as President.
wow punditus, what an angry post. The sad thin is that iI want you to be wrong, but in my heart of hearts I have to accept the truth of your arguments. That being said, besides the vocational aspect of comm. coll. we have to focus on making our students THINK! How to gather and compare information and not just listen to the dribble being forced upon us by the right and the left. The truth is somewhere in the middle but you can't simply accept the pablum being force fed to us daily! An educated populace is more likely to question some of the more absurd assertions but the candidates rather than simply accepting them because they sound right.
The post was nice by Revathi
Hey, there is so much worthwhile info above!
I completely agree with the post.
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