Donald Douglas and the community college system


Budget to decide Penn State tuition

By Bill Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – Facing deep cuts in its appropriation, Pennsylvania State University trustees yesterday approved raising the base in-state tuition on the main campus by up to 9.8 percent, or $1,280 a year, a decision one trustee called “heart-wrenching.”

It is the more severe of two price plans for 2009-10 that the trustees, meeting on the New Kensington campus near Pittsburgh, authorized administrators to implement, depending on how Penn State fares in the commonwealth’s final budget.

A less-severe price plan, raising the base in-state main-campus rate by 4.5 percent or $590 a year, would be imposed if a 13 percent appropriation cut facing the university is erased over the next seven days. As of late yesterday, there was little indication that any such budget breakthrough in Harrisburg would occur by then.

The yearly base rate on Penn State’s main campus for in-state freshmen and sophomores was $13,014 in 2008-09, and the worst-case plan approved yesterday would be the largest percentage increase since 2003-04.

Even with all of that, Penn State faces a large budget cut. Full disclosure: as regular readers know, my older daughter will be returning to Penn State this fall. I’m not particularly worried, because the United States Army is paying her way. We don’t yet know where the younger Miss Pico will be going to college, but it looks like the Army will be paying her way as well. :)

I bring this up in part due to a couple of articles by Donald Douglas, an associate professor of political science at Long Beach City College.

Political Science at LBCC: Training the Next Generation of Leaders

I love it – slouching behind his keyboard in his junior college office, hurling threats like some 1930′s tough guy in a bar fight. Well, I guess that’s all it takes to be a conservative intellectual.”

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Readers might recall my post from a couple of months back: “You’re a Professor, Really?

In addition to the “I can’t believe you’re a professor” slur, I also get put down as “he’s only a junior college professor.” TBogg at Firedoglake perfected it into snark, with “JuCo Toynbee.” The comment at top is from radical leftist Green Eagle, who joined the attackers during my recent go-’round at Brain Rage.

But as I’ve noted many times, when the leftists slam community college professors, it’s a particularly good indicator of their indifference to students of lower socio-economic status. Actually, leftists are all about radical power (and not about not caring, citizenship, and community-building). You’d think leftists would be the first to respect those who work with the disadvantaged. But it’s generally not the case. The “junior college” repudiation is a dime-a-dozen during the online debates.

It’s funny too. There’s really no better place for someone to truly experience our incredible diversity than on the average community college campus: In almost ten years, I’ve had battered women come to me seeking help and personal counseling. I’ve mentored women making the transition from welfare to work, as part of my college’s workforce development programs. As the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported, “The college serves about 530 such students per semester and has the capacity to serve 1,500 per year.” A couple of summers ago, I had a rebellious classroom. It was a difficult situation. A lot of students were unruly, and management was an issue. A student came to my office to share her thoughts. She felt for me. She was a black woman who had lost her daughter to violence. Her baby was strangled at five years old. She was coming back to college after years of alcohol and drug abuse. Our lectures and discussions on civil rights were thrilling. She felt empowered. She was happy to be clean and getting back on track. I almost cried after hearing her story. And she was only unusual in that she openly shared her experiences with me. Lord knows how many of the other stories of hardship and trauma that I’ve never heard about.

Our demographics are as diverse as anywhere in the country. A 2001 study found Long Beach to be the nation’s most diverse city “in a ranking of the 65 biggest cities in the United States.” And a U.S. Census report in 2004 found “that a roughly 13-square-mile area of southern Los Angeles County from North Long Beach to Bellflower to Artesia is among the most linguistically varied swaths of territory in the nation.” It’s not unusual, during classroom discussions on immigration reform, for students to regale first-hand stories on the entrenched poverty and socio-economic islolation found in the region’s unassimilated ethnic enclaves.

I’m getting more and more veterans from our recent wars as well. I couple of semesters ago I had a student who did two tours in Iraq. He went back for his second tour after recoving from a grenade attack that blew off his left calf. THESE GUYS LOVE MY TEACHING. One of my former students is a regular commenter at my blog. I mentioned him previously, in my post on Glenn Beck’s recent “survival scenarios” (see, “Worst Case Scenario? Preparing for Anarchy in America“).

There’s much more to the article, and it deserves to be read. It is Dr Douglas’ second article which really caught my attention:

Can Community Colleges Save the U.S. Economy?

Here’s a little follow-up to my recent post on community college teaching, “Can Community Colleges Save the U.S. Economy?“:

Many politicians and their well-heeled constituents may be under the impression that a community college — as described in a promo for NBC’s upcoming comedy Community — is a “loser college for remedial teens, 20-something dropouts, middle-aged divorcées and old people keeping their minds active as they circle the drain of eternity.” But there’s at least one Ivy Leaguer who is trying to help Americans get past the stereotypes and start thinking about community college not as a dumping ground but as one of the best tools the U.S. has to dig itself out of the current economic hole. His name: Barack Obama.

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Only 31% of community-college students who set out to get a degree complete it within six years, whereas 58% of students at four-year schools graduate within that time frame. Students from middle-class or wealthy families are nearly five times more likely to earn a college degree as their poorer peers are. In 2007, 66% of white Americans ages 25 to 29 had completed at least some college, compared with 50% of African Americans and 34% of Hispanics.

The whole essay is here.

It was very difficult for us to pay for the older Miss Pico’s first two years at Penn State, and we aren’t poor. You try pulling $12,000 out of the family budget for tuition! Even with that, she had to take out some student loans — which the Army will also repay! :)

Well, we’re lucky, in that our daughters have decided to take career paths that will get the government to pay for their college educations; in return, they have assumed/ will assume active duty obligations to the Army.

But the military isn’t the right choice for everyone, and isn’t even the right choice for most people: the size of the armed services is far smaller than the number of college students. Dr Douglas demonstrates that the community college systems across the United States perform a valuable service, and as the economy pushes tuition further and further out of reach for a lot of people, community colleges are a good place to start.

And for some people, even a good place to finish. My darling bride (of 30 years, one month and 24 days) is a registered nurse, and she went to nursing school at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia. At TNCC she was able to take some classes at night, when our daughters were very young, after I got home from work, and then, after they were both in elementary school full-time, able to complete her degree during the day. Nursing school isn’t easy, and doing it while you have two small children and a husband needing attention doesn’t make it any easier. But she was able to learn what she needed to learn, earn her Associates in Science degree, pass her nursing boards, and she’s become a pretty good nurse.

Ask yourself: what does a registered nurse, with an AS earn, compared to someone with a BA in English Literature?

10 Comments

  1. Ask yourself: what does a registered nurse, with an AS earn, compared to someone with a BA in English Literature?

    My wife’s research nurse gets about $90,000.00 a year. My neighbor, the environmental remedial contractor, with a B.A. in English Literature, about $250,000.00 a year. ;)

  2. When I taught at a community college, one of my students gave me extremely precise answers to a homework assignment. She volunteered that she had used a ‘different method’ to derive the component value for a filter network. She told me that she had a program on a floppy disk (this was in the early 1990s) that she had gotten when she was a student at Johns Hopkins getting her BSEE. I asked her why she was taking my class and she said that she wanted to learn about systems. She was employed at a Government agency and they were paying for her classes.

    I took that as a very high compliment.

  3. Right. In my mind, the CC system is far, far, far more important than the CSU and UC systems.

  4. “loser college for remedial teens, 20-something dropouts, middle-aged divorcées and old people keeping their minds active as they circle the drain of eternity.”

    Snark aside, does the commenter realize just how much of our population is comprised of remedial teens, 20-something dropouts, middle-age divorcees and the elderly? What a wonderful opportunity community college can provide for those still finding their way – no matter their age, economic standing, or age. Shouldn’t this be something we can all appreciate and rejoice in rather than sneer at? If it were not for community colleges, many people who have actually lived their lives, made bad decisions, been unsure, or simply not yet at a place to make the decision for higher education whatever the reason, would not be able to advance themselves.

    Not everyone knows what they’re going to be when they grow up at 18 or 20 or 25. From my experience, those who sneer at the community college are those who have not lived much grown-up life and/or have been insulated from the real world while living out a sheltered life in academia.

    Another thing to consider is in certain demographics, academics are not going to be what the bulk of population opt for because they are either not interested, nor suited for it. Therefore being practical and realistic demands the acceptance that simultaneously offering academic courses, communities can highly benefit from the vocational and certificate programs that community colleges offer. We will always need a blue collar workforce that is trained and knowledgeable. Community college can provide said training and knowledge in a variety of honorable professions.

  5. My darling bride (of 30 years, one month and 24 days) is a registered nurse, and she went to nursing school at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia. At TNCC she was able to take some classes at night, when our daughters were very young, after I got home from work, and then, after they were both in elementary school full-time, able to complete her degree during the day. Nursing school isn’t easy, and doing it while you have two small children and a husband needing attention doesn’t make it any easier. But she was able to learn what she needed to learn, earn her Associates in Science degree, pass her nursing boards, and she’s become a pretty good nurse.

    This takes some serious commitment and determination. It is very difficult to have a family and focus on school. I think too that there a maturity in the student going back to finish a degree later in life than one who bounces right from high school to a 4-year institute. I’m admire your wife’s tenacity to finish her degree but not at the expense of her children. Admirable to put them first and I’m sure they evidence that good love they were given.

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  9. A teacher who is also a political hack in Delaware collects about $370,000 per year as head of community college. Nice sinecure if you can get it.

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