Q&A About Community Colleges

An Interview with Dr. Michael Lesiecki

Maricopa Advanced Technology Education Center (MATEC)

 

Thank you to Dr. Lesiecki for taking time to answer our questions!

Q:  In researching community colleges and talking to faculty and staff across the country, we noticed a wide range of diversity in programs. I was surprised at how many progress from a community college to a four year university. Is this typical?

A: It really depends upon the program. For example, in Manufacturing Technology, 85% do not go to a university. Their goal is for a technical degree or workforce development. In contrast, at CGCC (Chandler Gilbert Community College) in the Engineering program, it is designed exclusively for transfer to a four year university degree.

 

Q: So it depends on the program and what the students need?

A: It also depends on what the future employers need. For example, about a decade ago, Bio Tech companies almost exclusively hired students with four year degrees. Then the Bio-Link National Center, http://www.bio-link.org/home/about, began working closely with employers and helped them realize two year community college graduates had in many cases the requisite skills. Now students can enter the workforce with two-year degrees or transfer to colleges and universities for obtain their four year degrees. 

 

Q: How common is this?

A: The critical need for hands-on skills is a growing trend. About 10% of our technical students aleady have 4-year degrees and they come to a community college to gain these skills. We refer to this as “reverse transfer” in education.

 

Q: I read about President Obama issuing a challenge to add 5 million students by 2020. Can you tell me more?

A: That is known as the Completion Agenda. On average 26% of students at a community college complete a degree after 3 years. For comparison at a state university, about 50% complete a 4 year degree in 6 years.

 

Q: Do all students go to a community college to complete a 2 year degree? I thought many attend for certifications and workforce development?

A: That is correct. A topic we frequently discuss is what metric to use for determining student success.

 

Q: I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz recently about the new Next Generation Science Standards. How does that affect your programs?

A: It only impacts the curriculum work we do with high schools. Modules that we provide either are already aligned or can easily be aligned to the new standards. Knowing that the modules are aligned is a huge help to our high school educators.

 

Q: Any other trends to know about?

A: STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) programs at community colleges is definitely an area of growth.