MCC Daily Tribune
President's Wednesday Message
This past week, Community College Daily highlighted a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) about the more than 36 million individuals across the US who have some college credits but no degree or other credential. Locally, this number is around 80,000. On average, NSCRC reports that about 10 percent of all students in this population are "potential completers"--individuals who have a strong likelihood of returning and persisting. Increasingly, both community colleges and four-year colleges and universities are paying particular attention to the role they can play in helping these "stop outs" return to complete their degrees. As CC Daily notes, doing so will benefit both those who left before earning their degrees and the vast majority of community colleges (like MCC) that have seen enrollments decline consistently since the great recession.
NSCRC reminds colleges that If they truly want to help these students complete their degrees, they must rethink not just what programs and services they offer but also how and when they offer them. The median age of those with some college but no degree is almost 40, and these individuals have typically been out of college for about a decade. They face barriers including a lack of access to traditional financial aid and a need for non-academic supports such as child care. Colleges--at every level from the classroom to service offices to administrative policies and practices--cannot treat these returning students as they would first time students.
Because of the demands on their own schedules, which may have contributed to their stopping out, these returning adults often seek non-traditional academic schedules and supports: their goal is to complete as quickly and efficiently as possible, so online and acceleration mechanisms (including consideration for transfer-in of credit, online classes and services, and highly flexible scheduling) are key. While the assumption might be that these adult students would seek out career programs, those in the NSCRC study were most likely to complete in the liberal arts. The researchers suggest that the returners choose the "path of least resistance" and elect to complete in the program from which they withdrew to maximize previously earned credits. NSCRC points to efforts in states like Indiana and at institutions like Shasta College that are having a real impact in helping students return and complete.
Over the past few years, MCC has had a number of internal groups reviewing how we can best recruit and retain this student population. Initiatives such as Return to Complete and the Single Moms Success Design Challenge have grown out of our interest in helping these students come back to MCC and successfully complete. We are tracking the impact of these and other interventions and supports. However, as the NSCRC study notes, community colleges need to do even more to review their data to look for unseen barriers--practices, policies, assumptions--that may be preventing adult students from re-enrolling and succeeding.
As MCC continues to "see" our college from the perspective of those whose path to a degree fell short of a walk across the stage at commencement, your input and participation in the work of redesigning MCC to help our students achieve their dreams of college degrees are essential. If returning adults do not feel welcome, if they do not see that their needs are driving MCC's programs and practices, their fresh start at our College is likely to result in the same outcome as their first start.
I encourage you to connect with the teams working on Return to Complete (led by Sarah Hagreen and Yolonda Steward), Single Moms Success Design Challenge (led by Mary Ann DeMario), and Enrollment Management (led by Christine Casalinuovo-Adams) to learn more about how you can support these efforts. Please also leave your comments and thoughts about serving adult students on the blog.
Office of the President