Thursday, March 13, 2008

Community College and education

Ill-prepared students flood Iowa community colleges
Call for Equity for Community Colleges

Working draft

In today's higher education environment, community colleges were asked to provide more and more services. Part of the reason is the lack of well defined goal for community colleges. The broad mission of supporting the community is leaving the details to be interpreted what ever way you wanted. Without those details been defined, community colleges will be asked to take case of the never-ending responsibilities without been compensated appropriately by the public fund.

Community colleges are supported by public money and is, therefore, respond to public's needs. We, however, must understand that responding to public's need does not necessarily mean to take care of ALL the public's needs. It is, therefore, community's job in defining the mission of a community college and provide appropriate support for it. In the process, remember that there is no such thing as free lunch. Public or the community must decide if assigning a particular mission to a community college server the best interest of the community.

For example, should we assign community college the mission of teaching remedial courses to cover up for the failing of the K12 system? And how should this be funded? Is this the best use of public resources?

At this point in time, a lot of community colleges take on the job of teaching remedial courses without community's direction and specific fundings. Problems created are many. For one, this blur the responsibility line between K12 and higher education.

In order to analyze the problem at community colleges, it is necessary to find better defined

We have to agree that community colleges are in hot spot. Reports on poorly educated K12 graduates are plenty. There are plenty of proposals in how to fix this problem. The thing that is lacking in these proposal is the responsibility piece.

The most important piece in education is to teach students to be responsible. To lead by example, this means that we all have to be responsible - whether you are a parent, a teacher or an institution.

At this point in time, we have an education system that largely ignore the importance of responsibility. For example, parents do not put emphasis on school works, there is no good checks on high school graduates, fund raising become a big events in K12 and there is this open enrollment messages.

We, the American, are way too nice in taking other people's problem in our own hand. Which is nice but does not help addressing the root of the problem. For the community college, with today's environment, I really like to see the community colleges went out and emphases to students and parents that if a students is not doing well in K12, they will be paying for remedial courses that are not to be considered as college works.

The message is that it is parent and students' responsibility to be prepared for the college work. They can pay the fee to take the remedial courses or to go and pound on the K12 system to provide adequate education.

Concerning the funding for community colleges, I see no reason that public should share the cost for the remedial courses. Or maybe, those cost should be provided through the K12 system. The result of enforcing this policy is that the K12 system will have to address the problem by providing proofs that they did the right thing in providing adequate instructions. Please noted that I say 'instructions'! Students and parents are responsible for working out the assignment and asking for help.

The bottom line: We simply have to build a responsible education system.

Beyond the responsibility, we have to understand that all human beings are different and, with the best education system we can have, we can only wish that every student will have a Doctor degree.

Basically, community college's duty is to full-fill society's higher education needs that do not meet the mission of traditional 4 year institutions. Traditional 4 year institutions, in general, are geared toward providing general/humanity education in addition to specialized training.

At this point in time, the mission of community college is not well defined.

The mission of community college is either not well defined or is dynamically defined. It serves the purpose of re-education and bridging the K12 and 4 year college. It also serves the career oriented students. Or serve as a bare bone substitution for 4 year courses. The big problem is to dynamically relocate resources. It is hard to know the need of students and that is what make managing community college challenge. You need to know the community well and it will be hard for community to install fixed assets/durable goods because the dynamic nature of the business.


The biggest problem in education is teaching students the responsibility. Of cause, to lead by example, this means the responsibility are a prerequisite of parents and teachers.

Community colleges are, in general, open enrollment. However, as it is clear by now, this send a wrong message to the general public - you can always have college education as long as you can afford it. Besides, Uncle Sam is going to help you.

I am coming from a different society, in which, if people can't pass the college entrance exam, they are on their own. They are responsible to find a way to finance themselves to prepare for the exam. Today's community colleges fulfill this part of the duty for American citizens - which is a good thing. However, the message is muddled and not clear: You are not here to get your college education! You are here to make up what you missed in higher school and this will cost you! This message should be send loud and clear to parents and students: You got yourself a bargon to the free K12 education. If you screwed up, you will have to pay for yourself.

We should all understand by now, duty free welfare is not the way to go. You can build a society without everyone take their share of the duty. This is the only way to keep the working ethic alive. Just look the reaction of the middle class, they are crying for their share of education cost too. We simply have to build society on a fare ground. This lead to the question of the funding of community colleges.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps you haven't done your research, then, to call into question the mission of the two-year college. It is dynamic, and it is broad. These two things do not make it a negative in or for our society.

I have a problem with your "know it all" posts when you do not work in higher education, and from your writing clearly did not receive a very good education. You offer claims without support and move from logical arguments to post hoc and other fallacies.

I found your blog from an "Inside Higher Ed" comment post you made. The post incited me to anger, actually, and I could not leave the site without following up on who you are.

I have a huge problem with your position that what goes on inside the classrooms of our colleges and universities is somehow to be distrusted. Institutions of higher education are under scrutiny for their expenditures every 5 to 10 years. Accreditation boards are fully aware of the cost of education per student per class, and if they felt that a school had poor instruction or had been spending money foolishly, the school would be tagged for it.

In other words, the school would have a limited period of time to "fix" the error before losing accreditation.

At least try to be in the know before writing about a field of which you are not a part. I don't know what part of education you worked in or why you left, but my guess would be that you haven't a clue about what good teaching really is or how to run a college or university. You certainly seem clueless about the purposes of the community college.

Dr. Duncan Hsu said...


Thanks for the comment. I do expect comments like this came from an insider.

Personally, I taught at higher ed and if you do try to find out who I am, you shouldn't have trouble in doing it. Unless ...

But I do have an open mind and try to see things from different view point, especially, those of students' and public's.

Since you so care, I don't mind sharing my view of teaching with you. A good teaching is to guide students to independent thinking. All others are history.