UH Raising Standards; Increased Importance of Community Colleges

What’s the cheapest way to increase graduation rates?  Slice off the unprepared ones from your enrollment!

At least that is the message that the University of Houston is  sending by raising admissions standards.  And if done correctly that may not be such a bad thing, as long as community colleges receive the financial support necessary to meeting the increased enrollment.

In my post in which I stated my reasons for voting against Proposition 4, I stated that graduation rates of most of the schools that Texans just approved free research money for must be increased in order to seem viable to the people who bestow Tier One status upon these institutions.

Apparently, the need for increased graduation rates was not discussed much before the Prop 4 vote.  Avoidance?

The bottom line to this discussion is the increasing importance and value of community colleges.

Students who don’t meet the standards will be referred to UH-Downtown, an option Antel said would fulfill the university’s traditional mission of educating the city’s working class. UH-Downtown is open admission, meaning anyone with a high school diploma or GED can enroll. (DC NOTE:  After the prospective student has taken a placement exam.)

But William Flores, who was named president last summer, said UH-Downtown will implement its own admission standards soon, although they will be more forgiving than those proposed for the flagship campus.

So while UH-Downtown prepares to accept more students turned away from the central campus, it also will be urging more of its traditional applicants to attend a community college, both for core academic classes and for remedial work.

“We do have some students who belong at community college, and we’re doing them a disservice,” Flores said.

Flores is correct.  If a student is unprepared to begin studies at a University and is required to complete remedial courses prior to being allowed into core and upper-level courses, then the community colleges are the most affordable solution.  Community colleges will play an integral role as universities increase standards.  But, this also presents challenges:

Community Colleges are mostly funded by local property taxes, unlike Universities which are funded through the legislature.  While community colleges have remained economically feasible, increased enrollment will required increased services and more infrastructure.  Massive increases in community college enrollments will affect services and infrastructure availability at community colleges.  Facilities are usually funded by bond elections, which, if a community college system is located in an anti-tax suburban area, may not pass.  And with locally elected boards which are extremely conservative, tax increases to meet the added cost will not be supported, either.

Either the Texas legislature must increase its commitment to community colleges in order to overcome obstructionist practices of conservative community college boards, or perhaps community colleges should become a state funded initiative.  Either way, if we are to close the gaps, increased investment will be required just for the bare necessities of running a community college.

2 responses to “UH Raising Standards; Increased Importance of Community Colleges

  1. In July, the Obama Administration announced a $12 million community colleges initiative. I think a Tier 1 school, increased enrollment standards & a boost to community colleges are all benefits. But I’m sure you’ll tell me why I’m wrong….

    • You’re not wrong, but Tier 1 status will take a long time given UH’s and other schools’ grad rates. The money from the Obama administration still has to trickle down to our community colleges, and what they spend it one is something that needs to be watched. While we need more workforce programs, we will definitely need more remedial courses to prep students who do have the drive to go on to a university, and I hope there is enough balance.

      The Obama initiatives include:

      • Community college challenge grants, to help underfunded colleges that are dealing with limited capacity and to build partnerships with schools and businesses.

      • The Access and Completion Fund, to provide performance-based scholarships and give colleges the tools to design more programs around work schedules.

      • Modernization of community-college facilities, with $2.5 billion to help renovate facilities and keep up with maintenance costs. The renovations will create jobs, Obama said.

      • Open online courses, to create options online as a tool that some think can be more effective than classroom instruction alone.

      Now, online courses do not help the increasing population of underprepared students. They need the classroom. I see HCC benefiting, but more than renovating existing facilities will be the need for more facilities.