Role of Student Life in The Community College

Perhaps I should comment on the nature of the community college student before discussing the role of my philosophy of whole student development. My comments are based purely on observation and not on any scientific research. Some may not necessarily be valid when comparing residence and non-residence campuses.

My observations suggest a few broad generalities.  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 are 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.

2011 Summer High School Journalism Institute

It’s really all about collaboration, communication, connection and creation of content

They are 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 is 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.

2011 Summer High School Journalism Institute

Marley Molitor and Maggie Mang discuss college options and career opportunities

With these observations in mind they tend to 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 cost efficient flexible options..
• Serve as a conduit of connectivity to community, industry and academia.
• Facilitate a 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.

My philosophy is really pretty simple. Meet students where they are and help them reach beyond what they dreamed possible. To do that we need to help them: discover themselves, develop an action plan and connect them with a broad based support group.

It appears that most students “drop out” not as a result of academic challenge but from a lack of personal engagement. The isolation is often the result of a lack of direction. As they become more electronically connected they become more personally disconnected.

Building relationships through cohorts, social activities, faculty led events, international connections are all part of the mix. Accessibility to faculty is imperative. Close connection with academic advisors and mentors is a must.

Beyond that, allowing students a measure of control over their own learning path is critical. “One size fits all” programmed learning certainly does not meet the needs of today’s students or our world.