SCHEV on the Community College Guaranteed Admission and Credits Programs

by James C. Sherlock

Image credit: Lumenlearning

I received a note from Peter Blake, director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), in reference to my column on that program in early July.

He thanked, as do I, readers for their interest and supportive comments.

We agree with you that (Community College Guaranteed Admissions and Credits) are one of the most effective ways to expand access, improve retention and completion, and make college more affordable.

We (SCHEV) talk about it regularly in our various reports and recommendations.

We have a standing item in our annual tuition and fees report that calculates how much a student can save by following a pathway that goes through a community college.

For years, we have worked on improving systems that guarantee not only admission but also acceptance of community college credits toward a bachelor’s degree.

We could always do more outreach, so we appreciate your interest in the subject and the positive response you received from your readers.

It is important that the state offers a way to mitigate substandard K-12 educations. Virginia does that very well as far as I can tell.

It is important to spread the word.

But the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) cannot replace fully the lack of a solid grounding in life and academics in K-12.

Bottom line. The VCCS is a godsend. More students attend those institutions than attend all of Virginia’s public 4-year colleges and universities combined.

The public K-12 schools must do far better in providing a basic education and instilling a sense of worth and self-respect in poor kids, whether or not they have good support at home.

There are two thing that they must get right.

  1. Enforce attendance. We don’t need new laws against truancy, just to enforce the ones we have;
  2. Provide a baseline of order, discipline and safety at school. Enforce that, too. Then teaching has a chance.

If school divisions are not willing to do that — enforce attendance and good order — then nothing will work.

If some refuse to do it, then they forfeit the right to force kids to use their schools. Offer parents vouchers to find alternatives. They can use them anywhere, including their kids’ current schools.

Kids who want to learn will do far better if there is true competition to educate them.

We can and should create it.

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11 responses to “SCHEV on the Community College Guaranteed Admission and Credits Programs”

  1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “But the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) cannot replace fully the lack of a solid grounding in life and academics in K-12.”

    I wonder how Mr. Blake feels about the segue in this piece from his complimentary letter to an attack on Virginia’s public school system…

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Read the results of all of the assessments of student learning. And see if you can find any consolation there. Do you really think that VCCS doesn’t have to deal with that every day?

  2. Moderate Avatar

    Another factor is at play – maturity. Many students want to excel and view the CC degree as a way to show that they can, especially if they are in a rural school system – but they need the 4 years of college to really mature and be ready for the workforce. Some settle for 3 years of college. We need to be careful about penalizing those who get 2 year degrees by limiting them to 2 additional years at college OR we’ve got to be completely transparent about the rules. Currently, especially if they want a minor or double major, students with the two year degree can easily go over the maximum number of credit hours and can face additional costs. Parents and students need to understand that if they take the 2 year degree, they are giving up up to 2 years of college. That’s not how folks look at the decision right now.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Do you mean that a student could not get an Associate Degree from a community college and then have those credit hours transferred to a four-year college, take the additional two years of courses, and get a bachelors degree, too?

      1. Moderate Avatar

        Students can get the associate degree and then transfer the credits to apply for the BS. Some don’t want to do that, want to spend 4 years in college. Many see the financial benefit of getting the associate along with the high school. Financially, it’s a benefit; depending on the person, socially and maturity wise, it may not be a benefit.

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          Why do you think the students will not mature during their 2 years of community college?

          1. Moderate Avatar

            They can. However, there is a strong push for students to simultaneously get their high school degree with the 2 year degree. That is when there are issues.

  3. NotJohnConnor Avatar

    The biggest problem is there is significant variability in quality of instruction across VCCS. There is a lack of overall quality control . Too much done by poorly paid adjuncts.

    Lots of great instruction but also lots of poor instruction. Requiring acceptance of inferior courses doesn’t help students in the long run.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      “Significant variability in quality”. That pretty much describes the world as we know it. But the foundation of VCCS is sound. Pretty much all we can ask.

    2. DJRippert Avatar

      Isn’t that true of four year colleges as well – a lack of consistency?

      1. NotJohnConnor Avatar

        absolutely true, both between colleges and within colleges; however, the state government is less involved in mandating acceptance of courses from one 4-year to another. It’s normally negotiated.

        There’s a push to require acceptance of VCCS courses, as there is with AP courses to reduce cost. I fear college is becoming more about getting a participation ribbon, and less about actually acquiring relevant skills. That is, it’s following the destructive path of K-12.

        My child has taken several courses at a VCCS. They are generally more rigorous than high school, but less than a reputable 4-year college. I still suspect they are better than an online degree mill, but I don’t have direct experience with those.

        My concern is the overall consistency. Before we tout it as the best path, I think there needs to be a better assessment of consistency.

        VCCS is on the front lines of providing remedial support, and they need more support. I think it is a great transitional path.

        For some in demand fields, it is difficult to find competent and motivated instructors at that level.

        I’m less convinced that a 2+2 to bachelors is the best path for those wanting to become competent in their fields. But, again it depends as much on the student as it does on the instructor and system.

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