Is Your Community College in Crisis? Why Not Turn to Online Learning Instead?

Barry Lenson

Is Your Community College in Crisis? Why Not Turn to Online Learning Instead?

Community Colleges Online American community colleges – those respected institutions that opened their doors to give all students a route to college – are in crisis. Over the last year, cuts in state budgets have forced them to cancel classes, turn away more students, and raise costs. And the worst part of the problem could be that the states that have cut back most severely - including New York, California, Michigan, and Illinois – are the most populous states with the largest number of students who need community colleges.

“Community College Estimated Growth: Fall 2010,” a report issued in 2011 by the American Association of Community Colleges, contains a mixed message about how budget cuts are affecting American community colleges . . .

Although community colleges are admitting more students overall, they are also turning away larger numbers of applicants.

To visualize that, I find it helpful to think of a large crowd of students standing outside the gates of a community college, trying to get in to enroll for classes. Even though more of them are able to get in and sign up this year than did last year, a larger number of them are left standing outside when the doors close.

Why do community colleges turn students away? According to the report, the leading causes are  . . .

  • Insufficient funding.
  • Limited physical facilities.
  • Insufficient number of qualified staff.

What If You Are Left Outside the Gates, Looking In?

A favorite college professor of mine once offered me some advice on how to achieve success in the world. “If they throw you out the door,” he said, “come back in through the window.”

I think that advice can be applied if you are denied access to the courses you want and need at community colleges. If you are shut out or told to wait, you can keep moving your education ahead anyway, by taking online college courses.

Incidentally . . .  Jill Biden and Hilda Solis, the U.S. Secretary of Labor, have been visiting community colleges over the last month. Biden, the wife of vice president Joe Biden, used to teach at a community college, and she has been out there talking about a proposed $8 billion funding bill that could help community colleges retrain workers to perform jobs that are in demand.  Sounds good. But if you are standing out in the cold at the moment and unable to wait until that funding gets approved (or disapproved), why not start taking the courses you need online right now?

In other words, come back in through the window. When the going gets tough, the tough get . . .  educated.

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