We notice them every now and then—students in our community college classes who already have bachelor's degrees. When you visit with them privately they express a variety of reasons for their presence, usually related to a dead end in the job department.
The phenomenon may be more common than we think. Please have a look at this article by Matt Krupnick, produced by The Hechinger Report, published in U.S. News.
Here are some numbers:
A surprising one out of every 14 of the people who attend community colleges—widely regarded as low-tuition options for the less-well-prepared—has already earned a bachelor's degree, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. That's 770,000 students. At some community colleges, the proportion is as high as 1 in 5.
Any high proportion of these folks at a given community college is probably explained by local economic circumstances, such as layoffs. All the same, this category of student is worth noting and sharing. Our story isn't all about low graduation rates.
One of the perennial difficulties with measuring student success is the variety of permutations. Let's say a student with a bachelor's degree enrolls in a two-year school, perhaps to gain a credential for prospective employment in a new field. Then, conditions improve and the student gets his or her old job back, so the individual doesn't complete the program. By some metrics this is failure. But it's not.
One of the persons interviewed for the article is Richard Rhodes, president of Austin Community College, who shares an anecdote regarding a classroom visit.
It's not discussed in the piece, but we also notice some students with degrees—often retired seniors—who want to use their time to learn about, say, the humanities or fine arts, while earning credits. They often make outstanding students who add extra diversity to the mix of a class.