Perhaps it is most appropriate to comment on the nature of the community college student before discussing the role of the community college. My comments are based purely on observation and not on any scientific research. I would also suggest some may not necessarily be valid when comparing residence and non-residence campuses.
My observations suggest a few broad generalities. It would seem that community college students seek:
• Occupational education,
• Affordable options,
• Program flexibility,
• Fundamental workforce entry skills,
• Pre-university readiness preparation/remediation,
• Self directed/selected personal improvement study and/or
• Opportunity for seamless transition to a 4-year college or university.
Increasingly students appear to be multi-ethnic products of single-parent households. They are often first generation higher education attendees. It appears they are also increasingly female. Many are single parents themselves.
They appear to be more sophisticated and technologically adept than their predecessors. I would characterize them as being more special interest oriented individuals who not only want to make a living but also make a difference. They tend to arrive on campus, take courses then leave. They tend to rely more on personal technology resources for study and homework. They function in a multi-tasking, always on, connected society that isn’t dependent on the college. Their learning tends to be less time and location dependent.
They are more likely to use guidance and personal support services including financial aid, day care, health services, job placement and career counseling.
It also appears they are less likely to:
• attend athletic events,
• eat at on campus food service,
• use campus resources for rest or relaxation,
• use campus athletic resources,
• participate in campus social groups or
• attend cultural events.
With these observations in mind they will most likely choose an educational institution based on convenience, location, cost, flexible scheduling, career goals and portability of credentials to four-year institutions.
So what should be the role of the community college?
• Meet the needs of the students and community.
• Provide high quality flexible options that are cost efficient.
• Serve as a conduit of connectivity to community, industry and academia.
• Facilitate seamless transition between secondary, post secondary, workplace and lifelong learning opportunities.
• Remain flexible, agile, and aware of changes in our world then respond to them.
• Be forward looking and pre-active rather than re-active.
• Do not prepare students for careers that do not or soon will not exist.