19.6.06

CONNECT THE DOTS. The dean at Anonymous Community takes a question from a colleague at some other Anonymous Community who is apparently fed up with the retention follies. The meat of the question:
For example, in California, over half the community college students never graduate with two year degrees nor do most transfer to four year institutions. Classes, on my campus, are crammed with hardcore, bully-students and severe remedials who are operating with about fifth grade skill levels. Yet, all these "diverse" students demand college degrees, except they don't actually want to attend class nor do they want to study or for that matter learn. When a student erupts in class, as they often do, raging at a professor, if the prof goes to a Dean, the student is supported.
(Tell us what you really think.) The dean's response:
If a college is mired in ‘survival’ mode, it will easily fall prey to short-term thinking: whatever you do, don’t lose a tuition-paying student! Anybody who has ever taught knows that this is self-defeating, since you’ll eventually hit a point at which the courses are so watered-down that the better students start to bail, out of disgust or boredom. It takes relatively far-sighted leadership to be able to instruct your middle managers (i.e. deans and department chairs) that the customer isn’t always right.
Or to recognize that the real customer might be the four-year college, or the heating contractor, or the body shop. That's the missing piece of a recent Inside Higher Ed post that opens with
Degrees from elite private colleges are increasingly limited to those who enroll as freshmen, even though increasing numbers of undergraduates nationally start their higher educations at community colleges, according to a summary of a report being released today by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
(The foundation's recent releases.)

The column proposes that there might be gains from trade between the 100 claimants to the top 40 and the community colleges.
The idea behind the new report is to focus more attention on the transfer issue, in preparation for a conference the foundation is holding later this month on how community colleges can help increase the socioeconomic diversity of elite institutions. “Our best colleges and universities ought to open their doors wider to top community college graduates,” said Joshua Wyner, vice president of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
Why? We're not talking about the New Haven Railroad and the Boston and Maine Railroad deciding that running a train from New York to the White Mountains makes more sense than requiring all the passengers to get off one train at Springfield, wait for another train, and board it. Presumably the "best colleges and universities" are able to dip into their endowments to subsidize enrollments by individuals who will diversify the student body. That appears to be administratively less cumbersome than attempting to evaluate a transcript from Retention-Obsessed-Grade-Inflating Community. Mr Wyner qualifies his statement with "top" but an overburdened admissions office at the four-year has some responsibility to its own students, job fair participants, and faculty to get that right.

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