Thursday, May 07, 2015


Some College, No Degree

Have you seen a college have major success in attracting local adult students who have some college credits they’ve picked up over the years, but who don’t have degrees to show for it?

The “some college, no degree” group isn’t small.  In many cases, these are folks who did a year or so somewhere, but then dropped out for various life reasons: economic, familial, or just personal.  Some may have decided that they have no interest in further college, which is their prerogative, but some probably intend to come back at some point to finish.

I see community colleges as a natural point of re-entry.  They’re affordable, local, and easy to get into.  Many now offer enough online classes that people with difficult schedules can finish their degrees in between shifts that shift.  Some, such as HCC, have ramped up their credit for prior learning mechanisms, to allow students who have picked up skills in the workplace or the military can get appropriate credit for what they can demonstrate that they already know.  

But finding these students in large numbers is a real challenge.

Part of that is the sheer heterogeneity of the group, of course.  A returning veteran may have different needs than someone returning to college after raising a family.  In some cases, those could be the same person.  

Connecticut tried a program a couple of years ago in which returning adults got some free classes to get them started.  It struck me as a great concept, but enrollments fell far short of projections, even with freebies. I don’t know why; readers who know the Connecticut program well are invited to shed light.

For a while, for-profits recruited these folks heavily.  At DeVry, the term of art for a new student arriving with previous college credits was a “quality student,” and they were considered highly desirable.  (I don’t know if they still use that term.)  But for-profits have fallen on remarkably hard times of late, so this is a good moment for community colleges to raise their game, if they can figure out how to do it.

Wise and worldly readers, have you seen a particular community college do a much-better-than-you’d-expect job of reaching out to adults with some college but no degree?  If so, are there any portable lessons other colleges could use?

Not directly responsive, but I get the feeling that this is one of the markets/student pools that a lot of schools/systems (including mine) are suddenly hoping to serve/draw from. There is, of course, some overlap with the probably-mythical pool everybody was chasing a year or two ago -- students who would go to college if it were only more geographically convenient/time-flexible, so all they need are online programs. And there's useful differentiation from the other pool everyone's chasing -- international students. That doesn't mean there isn't a population out there to be served (and community colleges do seem like a sensible place to start, at least for students who basically need some combination of sophomore year and a refresher of some parts of freshman year), but I still get the mental image of everyone rushing frantically from edge to edge of an already-unstable ship, looking for rescue (and I fear some consultants, somewhere, are making a lot of money giving everyone the same advice).
I think you would have to get past the phenomenon of credits "expiring" after 7 years or not being accepted from unaccredited schools.

Honestly, I think that credits should expire. If you haven't used knowledge/skills they tend to fade. As well, fields change enough that in many cases (at least in the sciences and tech areas) a course taken (say) two decades ago is probably outdated and needs to be retaken.

I'm an engineer, and I wouldn't rely on a course I took more than seven years ago for anything specific.
"Go Back to Get Ahead" was a short-lived program; it only grabbed students who could enroll over the few months it ran. Not that it was a bad idea, but I think you'd have to do something like this for a while in order to get real numbers. Nobody has the budgetary patience for that, though.

AFAIK unis with such programmes or classes like one of my local ones, already have such requirements for their science classes. Any credits older than 10 years must be retaken in order for the degree to be granted.
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