Hi, I’m Valeria Olivares, the engagement reporter for The Dallas Morning News Education Lab. I’m here to answer your questions about community colleges with a few experts: - Mike Pierce, an attorney, advocate and the executive director of the nonprofit Student Borrower Protection Center. - Ricki Korba, a 23-year-old student from California who struggled to transfer her community college credits to a four-year-university. - Jason Dodge, the director of ADVANCE, a partnership designed to streamline the transfer process from a community college in Virginia to a four-year-university.

This AMA is part of Saving the College Dream, a collaboration between AL.com, The Associated Press, The Christian Science Monitor, The Dallas Morning News, The Hechinger Report, The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., and The Seattle Times, with support from the Solutions Journalism Network.

PROOF: https://i.redd.it/hepo6hmt3q3b1.jpg

Comments: 92 • Responses: 9  • Date: 

AceyAceyAcey111 karma

I’m a community college prof. You may want to cross post this on r/college or r/academia. My questions are:

1) How can we survive the demographics cliff? Especially with enrollment never having bounced back after the pandemic.

2) How will we learn to live with AI assisting student work?

dallasmorningnews48 karma

Responding to your first question, Mike Pierce said it’s essential for states to provide more direct support for community colleges.

In Texas, lawmakers pushed a revamp of the way the state funds its community colleges to address such challenges.

Texas Rep. Gary VanDeaver previously said the overhaul could help “bring students back into community college” by making it more affordable after the steep enrollment drops such institutions saw in the last few years.

If the legislation is adopted by Gov. Greg Abbott, high school students from low-income families could also enroll in dual credit courses at no cost through a new Financial Aid for Swift Transfer program.

You can read more on the legislation here.

dallasmorningnews35 karma

On your second question, our experts said they don't have a specific answer about that. However, Ricki Korba, a 23-year-old student from California, said she wouldn't rely on artificial intelligence software for her coursework because "there's just some things it just gets wrong."

She also added some professors use unreliable tools that scan students' work and note if it was created by AI or not, noting that people have uploaded the Constitution of the United States to test it out. The website said AI had been used.

Still, some professors recommend it for things like cover letters, Korba said. She believes there's still a long way to go before colleges, students, teachers and administrators adapt to such tools and is unsure about what AI's impact will be on higher education.

HomelessCosmonaut45 karma

It feels to me that colleges - both community and higher - try to fill two key societal roles whose goals don’t always align. On one hand they are a venue for personal enrichment & the pursuit of knowledge/understanding. On the other, they’re the accepted finishing school for the greater economy’s supply of skilled workers.

Can a community college - or any college for that matter - truly fill both those roles without damaging compromises, or does one need to take priority over the other?

dallasmorningnews8 karma

Here's Jason Dodge's take:

Community colleges, for a long time, have been successful in meeting the diverse needs of their local populations. I’ve worked at community colleges with very robust “personal enrichment programs”, while others have focused predominantly on either transfer and/or workforce programs/pathways. For community colleges in particular, their ability to remain relevant depends on continuous market research in order to support local needs as well as bring in the necessary revenue via tuition dollars.

While the community college has a diverse set of goals, I do not believe this necessarily impacts the overall quality of one mission in particular or of the institution as a whole.

---ShineyHiney---44 karma

I feel like the questions here (and the AMA in general) are going a bit all over because no one is really sure what issues you’re here to discuss/ who your organization is

What do you guys do?

dallasmorningnews22 karma

Hi, we are a local news organization in collaboration with a few experts: Mike Pierce, Ricki Korba and Jason Dodge. Our pros are experienced with anything related to financial aid and transferring from community college to a four year university. Both Ricki and Jason have both been community college students, so they can also answer questions from their personal experiences.

Here are more details on our collaboration with seven other newsrooms. We have stories covering a range of issues:

Community colleges are in trouble. Their enrollment has fallen by 37% since 2010, and nearly half of students drop out within a year. Scant advising, labyrinthian financial aid, and unclear career pathways are among the challenges facing the two-year schools and their students. Seven newsrooms joined together to explore the crisis facing these institutions, and ways to solve it.

LudovicoSpecs7 karma

Are there any steps being taken to standardize which credits from community colleges are transferable? Or to flag ones that can't be transferred?

Or to regulate the much-hyped "And you can transfer these credits!!" claims that often amount to false advertising?

dallasmorningnews7 karma

Here's Jason Dodge's take:

Good question. In short, it depends. Particularly, it depends on the state. However, there are also inter-state transfer and articulation policies. States like Florida have done a great job standardizing lower-division courses and implemented common course numbering for ease of transferability/course evaluation. Further, like Florida, Virginia has developed a General Education certificate which allow for more flexibility when transferring between state-institutions without an Associates degree. The Interstate Passport seeks to expand a similar model on a multi-state level (https://interstatepassport.wiche.edu/). The Education Commission of the States provides a breakdown of transfer policy, including general metrics and state-specific policy: https://www.ecs.org/50-state-comparison-transfer-and-articulation/ . As a transfer student, I recommend connecting with your community college’s transfer office to learn more about your state policies as well as any articulation agreements your institution has with particular universities.

theGreatBromance6 karma

Community college systems vary wildly between states, can you elaborate on the differences in the challenges faced by students in the at least three states (California, Texas, and Virginia) I see represented by your panel?

dallasmorningnews7 karma

Great question!

TEXAS — I recently wrote a story on how one community college system in Texas is supporting its students, many of which are first-generation, parents or adult learners who are at least 25 with a full-time job.

Because life hurdles, unclear pathways to a career and uncertainty about the value of pursuing a college can derail their education, they saw the need for a more hands-on approach to ensure students' success. The college then implemented success coaches — who not only provide academic advising or help with financial aid applications, but also anticipate barriers.

Overall, success coaches help students navigate the college and connect them to free resources they may need — such as childcare, food pantries or bus passes — in efforts to reduce the amount of students who drop out of school.

You can read my full story on this here (all of The Dallas Morning News Education Lab content is in front of the paywall!)

- Valeria Olivares

California — In California, a common issue I see, talking with both my cohort from community college as well as other students in my transfer institution, is credits not transferring over perfectly. Many students from a range of majors have had classes that should have had their credits transferred but simply have not.

Another issue I have seen is the culture shock of being a transfer student on a CSU/UC/Private campus. In my experience, it was hard to adjust to both the campus culture and the city I moved to.

- Ricki Korba

Virginia — Online education has obviously done a lot for college access, however, if there is not a stable internet connection, rural students will continue to struggle with degree completion. Affordability continues to be top of mind as well. Our program (and a growing number of others) looks to alleviate this for students within a specific income-level through a last-in grant, called the Mason Virginia Promise.

Opportunities such as this, particularly those that do not require an application, can support low-income students’ continuous enrollment, which increases likelihood of degree completion. More info here on the MVP.

- Jason Dodge

dallasmorningnews5 karma

While you ask and we answer your questions, take a look at this collaboration of stories between seven newsrooms about the different issues facing community colleges. https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/Saving-the-College-Dream

DungeonMaster245 karma

How will inclusive access textbooks affect communities colleges in the future? Will publishers eventually leverage their market share into charging more for e-books? Will physical copies grow even more expensive? What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of the IA model?

dallasmorningnews5 karma

Hi, here is a website created by multiple organizations that provides a lot of information regarding inclusive access textbooks: https://www.inclusiveaccess.org/. We unfortunately have not extensively researched this topic, so we can't directly answer all of your questions.

IA textbooks have become more popular in recent years, with many institutions offering the option. Ricki Korba, current college student and former community college student, said that her school has been trying to do more zero-cost textbooks and most are digital copies. She said her professors prefer digital textbooks so there’s more access. This was also the case at her former community college.

According to https://www.inclusiveaccess.org/, the advantages of the IA model seem to mainly be lowering costs for textbooks and providing a more accessible option for students. However, that may not include the costs of used textbooks, which could ultimately be cheaper.

There is also speculation on how much IA textbooks have improved academic outcomes overall. Additionally, there is another alternative called Open Educational Resources (OER).

dallasmorningnews3 karma

Hi, we are currently discussing this question with our experts and will get back to you soon with more on inclusive access textbooks!