Making a Community College Work for You

Today’s featured article from the Chronicle of Higher Education addresses the challenges one community college faces as it scrambles to make room for a record number of incoming students.  As more and more community colleges face this issue, students attending these institutions will need to deal with a new array of challenges:

  • Increased class sizes and larger student bodies: A common complaint of students at large colleges is that they feel “lost in the crowd”.  In order to avoid this, it is up to students to take the initiative to create a smaller network of support in a large institution.  How? Simply put, by engaging the resources at their disposal: meeting regularly with an advisors, joining co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, taking the time to get to know classmates and making the effort to talk to instructors outside of class.
  • Strained school resources: As the article notes, many admissions advisors and counselors are dealing with full schedules and dwindling resources.  Therefore, students need to maximize the time that they are able to spend with these important mentors.  Preparation is key: students should come up with a list of questions, bring their resume to all meetings and have a solid plan of action each time they meet with an advisor.
  • A competitive job market: Even though community colleges provide important education and job training opportunities, finding work after school is not guaranteed – especially in this economy.  Students need to take every opportunity to expand their skills, including internships, networking with professionals in their desired field and staying up to date on the latest sector news and developments.  As exemplified by the truck driver and the former GM employee mentioned in the article, students need to think of their community college experience as an investment.  While this investment may not pay off immediately after school, it will undoubtedly increase skill level, earning potential and hireability in the long term.

How a Community College Makes Room

Scrambling to create classrooms as enrollments soar

How a Community College Makes Room 1

For a long time, nobody knew where the water in the library’s basement was coming from, but it was not a pressing concern. After all, most people on the Essex campus of the Community College of Baltimore County had no reason to venture into the building’s windowless depths.

That will soon change, however. Administrators expect enrollment in for-credit courses to surge by as much as 20 percent over last fall, and so they have decided that the big, empty space could help ease a serious problem: The college has run out of classrooms.

This summer, workers located the source of the water (a leaking valve). Soon they will build walls, rework the ducts, and convert part of the basement into two classrooms, each with about 24 computers.

“When need dictates, you get creative,” says Sandra L. Kurtinitis, the college’s president.

In Baltimore, as in many places throughout the nation, demand is growing faster than two-year institutions could ever hope—or afford—to build. This fall’s projected enrollment growth in the college’s for-credit programs follows a 10-percent increase it saw during the last academic year. In total, the college plans to enroll nearly 24,000 students in those programs this fall. An additional 37,000 are expected in its continuing-education courses over the coming academic year, a 9-percent increase over last year.

Read more…

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