To improve community college success, we need to consider the lived realities of students. Our nation's community colleges are facing a completion crisis. The college-going experience of too many students is interrupted, lengthening their time to completing a degree--or worse, causing many to drop out altogether. In The Costs of Completion, Robin G. Isserles contextualizes this crisis by placing blame on the neoliberal policies that have shaped public community colleges over the past thirty years. The disinvestment of state funding, she explains, has created austerity conditions, leading to an overreliance on contingent labor, excessive investments in advisement technologies, and a push to performance outcomes like retention and graduation rates for measuring student and institutional success. The prevailing theory at the root of the community college completion crisis--academic momentum--suggests that students need to build momentum in their first year by becoming academically integrated, thereby increasing their chances of graduating in a timely fashion. A host of what Isserles terms "innovative disruptions" have been implemented as a way to improve on community college completion, but because disruptions are primarily driven by degree attainment, Isserles argues that they place learning and developing as afterthoughts while ignoring the complex lives that define so many community college students. Drawing on more than twenty years of teaching, advising, and researching largely first-generation community college students as well as an analysis of five years of student enrollment patterns, college experiences, and life narratives, Isserles takes pains to center students and their experiences. She proposes initiatives created in accordance with a care ethic, which strive to not only get students through college--quantifying credit accumulation and the like--but also enable our most precarious students to flourish in a college environment. Ultimately, The Costs of Completionoffers a deeper, more complex understanding of who community college students are, why and how they enroll, and what higher education institutions can do to better support them.
"Since 1982, The American Community College by Cohen and Brawer has been the authoritative book on community colleges. Anyone who wants to understand these complex and dynamic institutions--how they are evolving, the contributions they make, the challenges they face, the students they serve, and the faculty and leaders who deliver the services and the curricula--will find The American Community College both essential reading and an important reference book." --George R. Boggs, president and CEO, American Association of Community Colleges
With the student body evolving quickly, and the looming challenge of the "completion agenda," community colleges are facing circumstances like never before in serving all students and propelling them to fulfilling their education aspirations. The Urgency of Now suggests a way forward, with students and their learning at the center of what community colleges, and all of higher education, must do to generate graduates in possession of high quality degrees and credentials. Through considering comprehensive assessment, new roles for accreditation, faculty engagement strategies, and competency-based education, The Urgency of Now describes our current challenges and the ways we might meet those challenges for the 21st century institution.
This book is intended to improve understanding about the complex issues surrounding the national college completion agenda. By highlighting the origins of this agenda and the dilemmas and opportunities it creates for community colleges, The Completion Agenda in Community Colleges: What It Is, Why It Matters, And Where It's Going describes the many innovations underway nationally. The book is an effort to bridge gaps between practice, policy, and research to provide the reader with a holistic view of community college response to the completion agenda. While this agenda is a positive development it also raises some critical questions. What is the appropriate balance between open access and ensuring more students earn a credential? What can policymakers do to incent innovation among institutions without jeopardizing the strengths of community colleges? In an era of constrained resources, how can colleges improve outcomes when so many students enroll academically unprepared? And perhaps most importantly, how can we collectively increase these outcomes while also ensuring that the credentials attained are high quality and with labor market value?