More community colleges offering four-year degrees
- Community colleges that are allowed to award four-year degrees are on the rise nationwide, according to Community College Daily, and Community College Baccalaureate Association Executive Director Beth Hagan notes that there were more than 90 community colleges in 19 different states offering four-year degrees for students.
- Community colleges may be located in areas or regions more conducive to students seeking a particular degree or credential, and it could also be beneficial to local employers who find that the number of students graduating from four-year institutions are not meeting workforce demands.
- Community colleges are often able to develop strong relationships with local business leaders and employers, and employers want to be able to offer insight on changing workforce needs and what's most useful for students seeking applied Bachelor's degrees, supporting arguments that community colleges can adapt more nimbly to those changes in contrast with conventional four-year institutions.
As states like Wisconsin are reconfiguring the design of their university system due to a lack of enrollment in community colleges, offering another option for potential student applicants can be one way to boost enrollment and tuition revenue, particularly if the credentials are clearly aligned with the workforce needs of local industry. Especially in rural areas that may continue to face higher levels of unemployment compared to their metropolitan counterparts, community colleges offering credentials targeted to local industry may be a more feasible solution. Such colleges should also partner with local high schools to ensure students who will soon be considering the possibility of postsecondary education know there are affordable options nearby that will help them improve their employment potential if they intend to stay in the area.
Policymakers will also be more likely to support these kinds of measures with increased funding if it is clear that the result will be a working population that is skilled and prepared for the modern workplace.
Community colleges must also ensure that they are reaching nontraditional students and adult learners, particularly if their Bachelor's programs tend to be informed by local industry and can help offer a boost for graduates in the workplace, tailoring their marketing and outreach approaches to the burgeoning applicant population of learners who may not be of the conventional age and background.
Additionally, schools must be sure to invest in making these programs strong enough that they will yield a return on investment for students. Kristin Bailey Wilson, an associate professor of Educational Administration, Leadership and Research in the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences at Western Kentucky University, noted recently that lower tuition rates could boost enrollment, but can sometimes lead to "cheap academic infrastructure." With fewer options, community colleges should be aware their faults will become clearer more quickly.
- Community College Daily Four-year itch