Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Rodney Dangerfield of Higher Education

As a kid growing up I remember watching a number of good comedians.  Red Skelton, Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett, Dan Rowen and Dick Martin to name a few.   Another comedian I remember was Rodney Dangerfield.  He is famous for his frequent uttering, "I get no respect".  Take a brief trip in the past and click on the "I get no respect" and see a You Tube video of Rodney Dangerfield.

The Community College is one entity within the higher education sector that also "gets no respect". At one point in the history of the community college they were called, "junior colleges".  The very name implied something lesser than college.  People even talk about the community college as being "someplace where students go if they can't get into college." That very language suggests that the community college is not a college.  In spite of the poorly chosen language, community colleges are far from being "lesser than a college".  Let me illustrate.

First, one must understand that the higher education sector is diverse and the community college is just one of many entities within the sector. The community college mission is linked to career and technical education, but they are often comprehensive in nature so a student is able to get courses applicable to the first two years of a baccalaureate degree.  The regional university or college is focused more on teaching. The research university focuses more on research.  There are private colleges, religious colleges, and for-profit colleges each of whom have their own unique mission or niche within the sector.  Still no institution except the community college garners so much disrespect.

I believe the reason the community college is the least respected is because it is the least understood institution of higher education. Also, the community college is surrounded by myths.  For example, one myth is students who go to the community college go because they can not get into the four-year college or university.  Fact: many students who choose to come to DACC are not students who can not get into a regional college or research university, but are knowledgeable students who understand how the community college can facilitate their educational goals.  For example, some students choose to come to DACC because they can get the same course work applicable to their desired bachelor degree at a more affordable price with smaller class sizes.  Some students choose to come to DACC because they clearly know what career they wish to pursue and they know DACC has the program to help them get the training they need.  For example, some students want to be a welder or auto mechanic.  These students are good with their hands and find well paying jobs at the conclusion of the program.  They come to the community college because community colleges traditionally prepare students for career and technical careers.

Myth # 2:  Community colleges are not as rigorous as four-year colleges or universities.  Fact: many of the technical programs include a great deal of science and mathematics within the course work. These programs are rigorous and prepare students for a career, but can also prepare students to go on to seek a bachelor's degree.  Biomedical engineering, information technology, alternative energy, robotics and aerospace engineering prepare students to be technicians within these fields, but several graduates eventually move into a four-year degree program.

The hallmark of community colleges are the health education programs.  DACC prepares students to become LPNs, RNs, Nurse Assistants, Radiographers, Sonographers, Dental Hygienists, Dental Assistants, and Respiratory Therapists.  All these allied health fields require students to master science and mathematics principles in order to be well prepared practitioners.  All of these programs are rigorous and include a national test in order to gain their professional license.  Talk to any graduates of these health programs and they will testify to the rigor of their course of study.

Community colleges were established to make education available to the masses.  Community colleges are uniquely American.  The richness of the higher education sector is a tremendous strength in America.  The community college is the workhorse of the sector.  Take a minute and explore your local community college and see the wide array of offerings available to students.  Community colleges really are worthy of respect.  If you can't visit the college, check out the programs at the Dona Ana Community College web site by clicking here.     

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