How Community Colleges Can Support Their Communities
Community colleges tend to serve the most vulnerable populations of students from low-income, first-generation, to individuals of color. Yet, community colleges are historically underfunded in comparison to four-year institutions and have been one of the hardest hit groups since the pandemic shifted everything within higher education. Federal relief funds to institutions only counted full-time student enrollment, which left community colleges out of the loop. However, the next stimulus bill being debated in Congress could use full and part-time students as a count to more adequately fund two-year colleges and increase Pell Grant funds for community college students.
The challenges faced by community colleges go beyond just what’s happening in the classroom, or online. Community college students typically are low-income or minorities, which requires the college to address issues of food and housing insecurity, financial wellness, transportation, lack of high-speed internet, those how have children, and more. As a result, many colleges across the country conduct their own surveys of students to assess the holistic needs of their community. However, due to lack of funding, community colleges are financially restraint on providing the necessary support and resources to adequately invest in support for their students. In the meantime, a new report from Ithaka S+R, offers advice on supporting services to colleges, finding that the community college holistic approach could provide insight for other four-year institutions.
Christine Wolff-Eisenberg, manager of surveys and research at Ithaka S+R, told InsideHigherEd:
For a long time, higher education institutions didn’t see it as their responsibility to provide social services to students. This has changed over the past few years. We’re interested to see how much of that perspective has persisted … Perhaps there are attitudinal shifts that need to happen.
The question then becomes what this all means for career services staff at community colleges. As the year progresses, community colleges should be prepared to offer their students with more holistic guidance to students as they may be facing more challenges that being more typically faced by community college students. Additionally, community college advisors need to be mindful of students managing multiple jobs, parenting duties, and the unparalleled challenges that are facing minority students during this pandemic. Some community colleges are helping provide their students with laptops, two-hour signups for study hall sessions in auditoriums, and working with local food pantries to help their move vulnerable students in their communities.
With Symplicity CSM, community colleges can meet their students’ needs by providing students with the tools and connections they need to enhance their employability while preparing to succeed in today’s job market. Not only does CSM provide students with the largest employer network in the space, it also provides staff with the ability to track post-graduation outcomes and translate it into meaningful trends that will resonate with stakeholders. CSM enables institutions to measure and report on critical KPIs around student engagement, streamline student and employer outreach, and run robust OCR and experiential learning programs.