Providing Adult Learners in Community Colleges With Education and Support

Providing Adult Learners in Community Colleges With Education and Support

Stephanie B. King (Mississippi State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1306-4.ch006


This chapter provides an overview of the development and mission of community colleges to present the challenges that adult students who attend community colleges often face, and to explore ways that community colleges can help students overcome these challenges. Challenges are often related to other obligations adult students face, financial pressures, geographic location, academic ability, and feelings of not belonging. Community colleges are uniquely situated to address these challenges through programs and practices from beginning orientation, through coursework, and onto graduation. Postsecondary education can lead to employment that can give students the resources they need to improve the lives of their families and communities.
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Literature Review

Community College Development

The community college has been defined as “any not-for-profit institution regionally accredited to award the associate in arts or the associate in science as its highest degree” (Cohen, Brawer, & Kisker, 2014, p. 5). In addition, a growing number of colleges are offering the community college baccalaureate degree (Bilsky, Neuhard, & Locke, 2012). These degrees are usually designed for working people who want to pursue higher education for employment advancement while still meeting other demands on their time (Bragg & Ruud, 2012). They are generally offered in fields where there are labor shortages (Bilsky et al., 2012), primarily in areas of business, education, healthcare, and information technology (McKinney, Scicchitano, & Johns, 2013). Many of the students enrolled in these programs are adults, and more colleges intend to offer the programs online to meet the needs of students (McKinney et al., 2013).

According to Cohen et al. (2014), the community colleges, or junior colleges as they were called, were first established in the early 1900’s, and enrollment grew throughout most of the century as the number of high school graduates increased and more graduates sought postsecondary education. Salomon-Fernández (2019) stated, “Community colleges were born out of a need to innovate the then-existing higher education model when the first college was founded in 1901” (p. 99), and they have continued to adapt over the years. In addition, they serve a range of students, from those still enrolled in high school to adults returning to upgrade their skills or seeking leisure courses.

Not all students at community colleges began their postsecondary education at a community college; a number of them began at a university and transferred back to a community college for a variety of reasons. “A growing proportion of the population served by community colleges engages in reverse transfer: they begin their college careers in a four-year institution but transfer to a community college prior to earning a degree” (Kalogrides & Grodsky, 2011, p. 853). A national dataset revealed that of the 44% of students who began at a 4-year institution but did not earn a degree, 10% transferred to a community college. Of these transfers, 26% earned an associate degree or certificate, and an additional 18% eventually received a bachelor’s degree or higher. Disadvantaged students were more likely to transfer down or drop out of postsecondary education. Reverse transfers earned more credits, which may have increased their job earnings, than did students who dropped out completely (Kalogrides & Grodsky, 2011).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sense of Belonging: The feeling of fitting in with other students in the college as well as not feeling out of place there based on societal expectations or expectation of college personnel.

Financial Struggles: Struggles that many adult students face related to supporting themselves and their families financially; often the reason they are pursuing postsecondary education.

Family Responsibilities: Responsibilities that many adult students have related to a spouse, children, parents, and/or other family members.

Academic Ability: The capacity of the student to successfully complete required coursework.

Geographic Location: The place where the student lives, often with his or her family; often the student is unwilling or unable to leave this location.

Community College: Colleges that typically offer the associate degree as the highest degree but also offer certificates and other credentials.

Work Responsibilities: Responsibilities that many adult students have related to traveling to work and performing their duties there; often necessary for financial sustainability of the family.

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