Don't knock community colleges

May 11, 2011

Regarding Fred Millar's Op-Ed commentary about the "cooling out" of poor and minority kids in community colleges ("'Cooling out' poor, minority kids in community college," May 9), I was surprised at how the author was unaware of or chose to ignore so many other factors in order to make his point.

I have taken several courses at our community college, which has grown tremendously over the years. The quality of the teaching is often very high. Throughout the program, the choice is always the student's whether to get into a certificate program or take the basic courses in order to transfer to a four-year college. Many of the not-so-poor students are doing this because the costs of school and living away from home have had a tremendous impact on families.

Teaching new job skills is not about blaming "allegedly defective workers" but the reality of changing technology and new skills that are necessary to move ahead in the world today. The computer world is not that many years old, and how many jobs in that field didn't exist just a few years ago?

The author claims the dropout rate at community colleges is around 50 percent. And what is the dropout rate after the first year at four-year colleges? That is why there are always places for transfer students.

The community colleges have many supportive services for those needing them, and they are often more available than those at the four-year schools.

The community colleges' strength is that they will take those who may not meet the requirements at four-year schools and enable them to learn and get the grades needed to transfer. It is often the lack of adequate high school teaching that slows down the process for many students who seem not to know how to read and, especially, write well. This has nothing to do with class or ethnicity.

To blame community colleges for not enabling poor and minority students discounts the valuable service they perform for students who want to further their education.

There will always be exceptional students who are deserving of scholarships to four-year programs. But for many others it is fortunate that community colleges exist.

Sharon Chaiklin

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