Illinois is one of the states in the United States located in the Midwestern region of America. In terms of the land area, its ranked at 25th largest state, as well as 6th in terms of the most populous state (Moses). This State has a strong desire to provide its students with an appropriate and efficient pathway to higher education, and thus it hosts several community colleges in its territory. That notwithstanding, previous studies indicated that there is a higher dropout rate particularly among community college students resulting in low graduation (McPherson and Schapiro).
Additionally, according to the deputy governor’s report, the findings demonstrated that only one student in every five community colleges students completes their degree program (National Institute of Education (U.S.)). Often, community colleges have been attributed to budget-conscious learning institution which enables students to pursue higher education in efforts to get themselves well-paying jobs and profession after completing their certificate or degree program.
However, the majority of students in Illinois’s community colleges does not end up finishing their respective certificate or degrees programs. As a result, many students gain little in terms of their educational background leading to lack of adequate skills and manpower to get a job they need. Therefore, this paper seeks to highlight the plight of Illinois community colleges with regards to low graduation rates, and consequently provide recommendation forth with to salvage the situation.
Over the past few years, many community colleges and higher learning institutions have been implementing appropriate policies and taking measures to improve retention, in a bid of increasing graduation rates. However, before we look into a various way of improving graduation rates particularly in Illinois, it’s also important to assess and determine the causes for low graduation rates. Typically, low graduation rates are attributed to various factors, for instance, according to the report released by the deputy governor of Illinois, one of the main reasons of low graduation rates remedial math course (McPherson and Schapiro).
Remedial math course is nearly mandatory to the majority of students in community colleges. It’s required that all students must take a remedial math course before beginning their regular coursework. Despite the difficulties and challenges this course bring to many students, it takes much of their time and money but does not help them get any closer to earning their degrees (National Institute of Education (U.S.)). When students take longer to earn their degrees, they are more likely to drop out of a program prior to completion.
In addition, some of the causes of the decreasing graduation rates in community colleges are lack of adequate preparedness of students as well as the limited allocation of resources devoted to instruction and institutional preferences (National Institute of Education (U.S.)). According to the research conducted by Lovenheim, it was found that many students drop out of a program prior to completion because of the inadequate resources allocated to the institution. As a result, the institution becomes unable to offset the increase of new students’ enrollment in higher learning institutions (McPherson and Schapiro).
After highlighting some of the reasons of low program completion rates among students in various community colleges in Illinois, it’s essential to assess and determine appropriate techniques and strategies to improve retention and consequently increase graduation rates. Based on the causes of low graduation rates as demonstrated above, there is the need to solve the remedial math course because it poses a problem for many. Therefore, instead of the mandatory remedial math course, there is need to allow students to take math voluntarily within a full four-year program of their course, as an alternative to a three-year period currently required by the State (National Institute of Education (U.S.)).
Additionally, it’s important for high schools and community colleges to partner so as to offer a joint credit in math course both in high schools, as well as in colleges. This partnership will redesign remedial course is the sense that, the course provides developmental skills while lowering the amount of time and money spent on this particular course. A partnership will ensure that students do not invest their resources in terms of time and money to separate classes that do not count towards a degree. In turn, this will build student morale, focus, and determination towards earning his/her certificate or a degree (McPherson and Schapiro).
Moreover, to increase graduation rates among community colleges, students must be assisted in few areas within the timeframe of their respective course programs. The specific areas students may require help from either their mentors, parents, teacher or guardians includes guiding and helping them out select a suitable major, and understand the requirements they must fulfill to graduate (McPherson and Schapiro). As well, community colleges should adopt appropriate learning strategies and policies that will support and improve the academic performance of students. Helping students stay on track throughout their course program will subsequently enhance and improve their chances of finishing their course programs and earn a degree/certificate (National Institute of Education (U.S.)).
Also, building the employability of students through securing them part-time jobs and helping them define and understand their desired career path is another way of improving retention in community colleges and by extension increasing the rate and number of students completing their course programs (National Institute of Education (U.S.)). Equally, providing students with sufficient financial aid such as scholarship programs will also contribute significantly to increasing graduation rates in community colleges. This is because higher education is somewhat expensive, and providing sufficient financial aid will keep many students colleges (McPherson and Schapiro).
In addition, helping students to effectively manage their lives and be productive in terms of their academic performance is also another important strategy of improving graduation rates in various community colleges in Illinois. This can be achieved by helping them connect with people who cared for them, as well as develop and maintain a positive attitude (National Institute of Education (U.S.)). Ultimately, resolving problems that might bring about difficulties and challenges towards their ability to graduate is a key factor with regards increasing graduation rates in higher education institutions.
Finally, making the first two years of community college free is another proposed recommendation geared towards increasing graduation rates at community colleges. According to the former president of the United States Barrack Obama, this is part of the administration’s larger effort in a bid of getting, keeping and making many students graduate from colleges (National Institute of Education (U.S.)). This is because community colleges enroll over 38% of undergraduate students and host a much higher proportion, low-income students. Therefore, making the first-two year colleges free will keep many students in colleges improving the retention levels.
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