An article published in Texas newspapers is generating attention for its pointed criticism of community colleges over low graduation rates. Here is the piece as it appeared in the San Antonio Express-News. The authors, John D. Colyandro and Russell H. Withers, are affiliated with the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, based in Austin.
The writers are also critical of President Obama's proposal to offer free tuition and fees to community college students.
Please have a look at the piece. Even though the article contains no new information, it might partly frame the discussion when the Texas Legislature convenes in January 2017. You may recall a similar message on highway billboards a few years ago, sponsored by the CEO of the Texas Association of Business.
All community college educators know the underlying cause of poor graduation rates. Students are woefully unprepared for collegiate work when they arrive at our schools. Furthermore, part-timers can't finish quickly, no matter what their level of preparation. It's not hard to discern the cause of low graduation rates, but there is no quick or cheap panacea.
Targeting community colleges is a misplaced strategy based on a false choice. No one blames doctors and nurses for the rates of illness in a community. If crime goes up we don't question the need for supporting the police. Fire departments receive extra funding if there are more fires. Shouldn't we think of education in a similar way?
In prior generations, most high school graduates went directly into the workforce. Those sorts of jobs are hard to find today, so such students enroll in community colleges, for good reason. That's our present challenge and we need all the help we can get.