Beyond an Associate's Degree

Community colleges are at the forefront of educating minority students and provide a vital avenue towards higher degree attainment for Hispanic students. Given the growth of the Hispanic population overall, the Hispanic college-age population has substantially increased, also expanding the potential 4-year college applicant pool. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), while Hispanics are under-represented in four-year institutions, they are clearly represented in two-year colleges – well over fifty percent.

Today in Warren, Michigan President Obama is proposing a $12 billion investment in the nation’s community colleges. The money is also expected to provide funds that will allow community colleges to modify their systems in order to meet the country’s changing economic needs. A system that will hopefully be examined is the bridge between two and four-year institutions. Research indicates that more than half of students that begin at a two-year college do not attain post-secondary degrees. This statistic is even higher for Hispanic community college students (Harvey, 2002). Given today’s global economy, an Associates degree has only limited value providing lesser returns than a four-year degree. Therefore, Hispanic community college students whose objective is a Bachelor’s degree, may be at a disadvantage.

After graduating from high school, I meandered through three community colleges in Los Angeles. I did so out of financial necessity not because I didn’t want to attend a four-year institution. Ultimately, I left Los Angeles to attend a four-year institution in Texas. Unfortunately, the credit hours I earned during my wandering experience did not transfer to my new school, and I literally started my college education again.

Facilitating the bridge between two and four-year institutions needs to be a  part of any initiative to revamp our community college system. If transfer improvements can be made, Hispanic and other minorities may have a better chance of moving through the education pipeline to four-year institutions – and ultimately the global workforce.   

 Source: Harvey, W. (2002). Minorities in higher education: Nineteenth annual status report. Washington, DC: American Council on Education.

Update: 6/15/09 

I just took a look at the press release regarding the American Graduation Initiative announced by President Obama yesterday. It seems like my thoughts above are addressed here:

Expand course offerings and offer dual enrollment at high schools and universities, promote the transfer of credit among colleges, and align graduation and entrance requirements of high schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities

Even better offering opportunity for dual credit. Plus the intiative advocates more business partnerships by developing additional internship opportunities.