I have written here on the blog about community colleges on occasion and it is no secret that I am an advocate for community colleges. I believe they fulfill an important need in American postsecondary education. I also believe that more needs to made of the transfer function of community colleges, so does the Center for American Progress. Read a recent policy brief here.
Better and more articulation agreements are needed so that students can move from a community college to a four year college and receive the appropriate credit evaluation. Of course, this is a multi-faceted issue (I mean what in education isn’t?). Community colleges need more resources so that they can provide advising to students who wish to transfer. Four year institutions also need to be willing to recognize credits earned at community colleges. If you are so inclined, an opinion piece (issue paper) I wrote on transforming transfers in Louisiana while raising admissions standards is available via google docs, see below. (I am sure the paper could use some more editing, but for what my thoughts are worth….)
I believe in the open access mission of community colleges, and believe they are essential for providing developmental education and sub-baccalaureate degree and certificate programs. Community colleges provide the means to preserve admissions standards at our selective institutions while still enabling all students with the ability to benefit to pursue postsecondary education.
In the policy brief from the Center for American Progress (mentioned above) it is also suggested that community colleges should give credit to students for prior knowledge through Prior Learning Assessments (PLA). I am a little weary of this though, unless students are passing a rigorous assessment of their prior learning through an extensive portfolio review or demonstrating mastery through an examination. I am a little concerned that credit will be awarded too freely. I am always concerned with upholding the standards that make higher education what it is– it’s from having started my career in admissions, I know.
Yet, if PLAs were adopted, it would be another task that community colleges would be taking on using their already strapped resources. If PLAs draw attention to the needs of community college and their students and result in more funding for the sector, then they might be an important innovation. But today’s community colleges cannot be asked to take on another role until they are better supported financially and have the ability to grow their staffs to meet the needs of their growing student population.