Does Georgia need a community college system?

An education study committee assembled by Gov. Sonny Perdue has recommended merging the state’s technical college campuses with the two-year colleges to create a comprehensive community college system.

The proposal is one of several suggestions aimed at improving access to college.

Opponents say two-year and technical colleges have separate and competing missions that would make any merger difficult and dangerous.

Some two-year college professors worry a merger would weaken the academic standards at their institutions and make it more difficult for students to transfer to four-year colleges.

But committee members argue Georgia needs a seamless transition as students move from high school to college.

They say a merged community college system also would make it easier for dual enrollment programs to occur by creating a central agency to oversee these programs. Currently individual high schools and districts set up these programs, meaning some students don’t have access to college classes.

Should Georgia merge its technical and two-year colleges? How should the state improve access to these programs and the four-year colleges?

20 comments Add your comment

Joy in Teaching

June 1st, 2009
11:43 am

We need to keep our technical schools alive and separate.

Technical schools have different needs in that they need to be able to change quickly in order to adapt to the changing techincal needs of the community. Two year colleges do not adapt very quickly and 4 year schools take at least a generation to change.

Ernest

June 1st, 2009
1:07 pm

I want to ‘guess’ the problem they are attempting to solve is maintain separate school locations and faculties. Perhaps they see consolidation as a means of reducing costs. I thought admissions for both 2 year and technical colleges was increasing. Regarding improving access, could they simply ensure students are aware of their options starting in the middle schools? At the same time, there could be a dual outreach program for parents and other members of the community. I believe the only ‘problem’ is that not enough citizens are aware of these options.

I agree that each school has a separate mission and I question whether consolidation will bring forth a stronger and more viable institution.

catlady

June 1st, 2009
5:20 pm

Having lived plus studied them extensively as part of my masters and PhD programsand worked in a real community college in Florida, which does not have this “separate but unequal” setup like in Georgia, I think the only thing that is against this is territory guarding. We already have 3 (I think) colleges that embrace this frame–one is Dalton State College, which has the transfer programs, technical degrees, diplomas, and certificates in its technical division, and now some 4 year programs. It works JUST FINE. I think everyone would actually benefit (except those with a vested interest in dual faculty and staff, or the “pride” of having an institution in their town.)

Lee

June 1st, 2009
6:14 pm

I agree with Cat, there does seem to be some turf guarding going on here. Neither side wants to relinquish control of their little ‘kingdom.’

Also, over the years, it has been my observation that many in academia tend to evaluate others by how many letters come after their name. The comment about “weakening academic standards” is a perfect example. They will only weaken if you [professors] do it yourselves.

Besides, we’re talking community college here – not the Phd program at Vanderbilt.

Mitch

June 1st, 2009
9:37 pm

Wow, I couldnt agree more with catlady and Lee. You watch, the two year professors will come out of the woodwork saying they are worried about students, but really worried about their cushy, tenured jobs. They know technical school teachers actually have to work for a living and they are scared to death at what a combined system would look like for them. And they will be against this, even if its determined that this combined deal is the best plan for our students.

cynthia

June 1st, 2009
10:44 pm

For once I agree with the governor. At a time when the state is in economic peril it appears to be a sound fiscal move and one that would weaken academics only if by design. While we are at it, I believe that the governor should consider consolidating some of the K-12 systems, especially in smaller counties. The administrative and operational costs of maintaining this many school systems probably equals or outranks teacher pay.

Joe

June 1st, 2009
11:03 pm

Mitch is dead wrong. Two-year professors have cushy jobs? Those folks teach the most demanding course loads of any institutions in the University System of Georgia. And they aren’t paid very well comparative to their State University/ State College peers. Get your facts straight before you start blathering.

sophia

June 2nd, 2009
8:17 am

Catlady used the example of Dalton State College which is a University System of Georgia School not a technical college school. The current recommendation is that the USG 2 yr colleges are to move to the technical college system. If Dalton State and other USG institutions have already piloted this combination, why isn’t the recommendation to incorporate the technical college system into the University System of Georgia. That would streamline the system. If we have proven that has worked, they why would we try something different?

rr

June 2nd, 2009
9:07 am

I am a professor at a two-year college. It isn’t a cushy job. I teach five courses each semester, between 125-150 students. I also teach summer sessions. I typically work 50 hours or more each week and take work home at night and on weekends. High school teachers with the same degree (Ph.D.) that I have actually earn more money. Why do I do it? Because I love teaching college students. If this merger occurs my colleagues and I may lose our jobs. It would be hard, but we would find employment elsewhere. However, many of our students, who would be shut out of the USG and would thus see their chances at a college education severely limited wouldn’t be so lucky. Neither will the communities and businesses who would be adversely affected by this merger. If the state wants to streamline the system, it should merger the Technical System with the USG. From what I can tell, merging the two-year colleges with the Technical System is just about obtaining state funding and power politics. In the long run it will only benefit administrators in the Technical System, not students or the state’s economy.

Lynn

June 2nd, 2009
5:48 pm

The professor at the two-year college is right. They work harder than most professors at the 4-year college and university levels. They get paid a lot less than teachers in the public school system with comparable degrees. I also agree with merging the technical colleges under the University System of Georgia. If the governor wants to save money, that is the best way to insure that the students in Georgia will get the quality education they deserve.

soccer mom

June 3rd, 2009
10:21 am

The way I understand things is that technical institutes were designed to provide training in a trade or skill. Someone must have thought that changing the name from “institute” to “college” would upgrade the image of the training being offered.
Conversely, “community colleges” are, I believe, usually 2 year colleges offering your basic liberal arts core courses.
With the economy the way it is and with the much-increased competition at the larger universities, especially the public ones, many students are attending 2-year colleges first and transferring to 4-year schools. These students are relying on the availability of the 2-year school as an option for pursuing a college degree. The community education aspect of the 2-year college is a happy by-product of the school’s main mission – to prepare students for transfer to a 4-year college or university.
I believe that merging the technical “colleges” with the 2-year, true colleges would be a mistake. It would degrade the quality of education formerly offered by the 2-year colleges while requiring that some students, who may not be interested in the traditional college type courses or who may not be capable of succeeding in them, take classes they don’t need or can not afford.

JT

June 3rd, 2009
2:41 pm

Just want to say that I also agree with rr, the 2 year school professor. I too teach at a 2 year school here in GA and it is not about saving a cushy job. I wish. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and love the students that are served by my institution. But at the same time, I know that I make much less that a K-12 public school teacher and I have 10 years at this institution. I work on campus and bring work home for a total of about 50-60 hours a week. That does not include the service learning programs that our outside of class time.

Moving on, I am concerned about those students mentioned above that want to get a good, sound start before going to a 4-year school. I am not really sure how this type of merger benefits ALL students and the education system in GA. This is supposed to make it better, not worse.

jim d

June 4th, 2009
5:28 pm

Actually we wouldn’t need it if more professions would do as many of the trades do and provide apprenticeship programs.

arf

June 6th, 2009
10:51 pm

It is interesting that all the individuals commenting on how bad this would be have yet to mention how they know this will be detrimental. To the instructors posting, as a former student at what is now known as College of Coastal Georgia I can truly say how fortunate I was to have instructors that were willing to put in the necessary time and effort and go above and beyond. However to those saying that merging the two systems will degrade the quality of the education, I suggest that you go and speak to some of the students currently looking for jobs. I can’t speak for all the graduates from my particular degree field, but I know that quite a few of the courses that were required for my B.S. have absolutely no real impact on the jobs that many of my fellow CIS students acquired. While it’s a great thing that the standard baccalaureate programs teach you how to analyze and think, one of the things that the technical colleges do better is to teach you the skills necessary to actually get a job. I may have a degree, but most of what I use on a daily basis in my job was never taught to me during my education at UGA, Coastal Georgia, or VSU. I agree that we need to be careful in the way this process is approached, but there is no reason why both sides can’t gain in the end.

Bugs Bunny

June 10th, 2009
9:52 am

I have to chime in here.

To say that technical colleges are not real colleges is insulting to the people who work at these colleges. Many of the technical colleges are accredited by SACS-COC, and others are in the process of being accredited. SACS-COC is the same organization that accredits colleges such as UGA, Georgia Tech and Georgia Perimeter.

I teach a “liberal arts” course at a technical college, and I work hard to make sure my standards are up to the same standards as UGA and other four-year colleges. My class is required for an associates degree, and the final grade from this class is easily transferable to a four-year college or university.

I won’t say our two-year counterparts don’t work hard, since I don’t know. What I will say is that faculty at technical colleges often work 40 hours or more at the college, and many, like myself, take an additional 8-10 hours workload home for grading and preparation. Sometimes, that extra time is spent volunteering for student groups, conferences or sports (yes, some of our colleges have sports!). On some days we come in early in the morning before most people wake up, and we leave at night when most people are watching American Idol. No complaints from me – I love my job. I’m just stating a fact.

Everyone at the two-year colleges say that remedial programs will die. That notion is also false. We have those programs as well, and many of our students enroll in them before taking degree level courses.

I’m not saying this merger would be either a good thing or bad thing. I do think, however, to assume that the quality of education would suffer if the two-year colleges would merge with the technical colleges is a sorely misguided notion.

mm

June 30th, 2009
10:14 am

I work at one of the two-year University System colleges that has a technical side. Bugs Bunny states that “I won’t say our two-year counterparts don’t work hard, since I don’t know. What I will say is that faculty at technical colleges often work 40 hours or more at the college, and many, like myself, take an additional 8-10 hours workload home for grading and preparation. Sometimes, that extra time is spent volunteering for student groups, conferences or sports (yes, some of our colleges have sports!)”. This statement implies that the University System faculty don’t work 40 hours per week. I have worked at a couple of two year colleges, and as a faculty member, I regularly put in 60 – 80 hours a week in teaching my classes, working on committees, advising and working with students, attending to my professional development needs, etc. Now, we don’t have to work 8-5 everyday, but, we do work 40+ hours a week.

r2

July 15th, 2009
9:22 am

I work (diligently) at a 2-year community college, and after graduating from 4-years of high-end prep school, 4 years of Washington & Lee University and my 2-year MS program at Old Dominion University, I can honestly say that my current academic environment compares admirably well with any of these. In fact, for the moderate cost to the student it is a miracle, brought about largely by a singularly inspired and driven faculty and staff. The hours are “endless” (who doesn’t like a little recognition now and then), the curriculum and facilities are continually monitored and refined and the students are highly regarded as the sole reason for our presence. I personally feel that along with many other 2-year liberal arts colleges, our emphasis on accessibility and diversity is a singular contribution to the progress and future of this community and nation. If my colleagues and I were not instinctively compelled to protect this “turf”, we would be brain dead.
Enough intro, allow me to attempt a potentially worthwhile point. Having read much regarding the proposed merger, the argument seems without bounds; I find myself giving pause to both sides since there are two vastly polarized views that clearly lack a common frame of reference. Before any decision is seriously contemplated, would it not be constructive, appropriate and in fact essential to conduct and report some objective surveys of two or three merged institutions (local and/or otherwise) and fully project the “pros” and “cons” of the proposed merger? Despite the necessary time and expense, some credible research would let the governor, educators, students and the people of Georgia address this tormented issue on a more informed basis, and avoid a potentially critical error. Debate is futile when no informed choice is possible, and such an informed choice can be supported only by clear definition of the alternatives. Even the Wright brothers had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen when they cranked up their engine and started down that rail.

Judith R. James

September 17th, 2009
4:15 pm

All the stated concerns and issues are exactly as those articulated in Kentucky when the legislature passed the Higher Education Reform bill. Eleven (11) years later, the now Kentucky Community and Technical College System is rolling along beautifully and effectively!

Elizabeth Jensen

January 12th, 2010
6:46 pm

Judith R. James’ comment regarding Kentucky is not accurate.

In Kentucky, a merger identical to the one recommended in the Tough Choices or Tough Times report has resulted in a decline in the number of students transferring to four-year institutions from the comprehensive community college system formed over ten years ago. The University of Kentucky alone has experienced a 32% decline in the number of two-year college transfers.

Transfers from the community college system to the university system in Kentucky have decreased for the following reasons:

a. University requirements make it difficult to transfer academic credits.
b. The community college system lacks sufficient financial aid and advisors to help students transfer to the four-year institutions. (Changing systems requires more advisement.)
c. The four-year colleges and universities are reluctant to recruit community college students because they are two separate systems with separate standards.

If a merger were to occur, students might only benefit if the technical schools were merged under the University System of Georgia, creating ONE system. One system would reduce costs and make transfers seamless for all students. Creating two separate systems would do the opposite.

In compliance with Liz

March 8th, 2010
6:27 pm

Judith,

I would like to know where you came up with your comment because as Liz said, it’s very inaccurate. It’s nothing that she told me, or wishful thinking on my part. I read about it in a local article.According to the studies done about the potential merger, it would be a BAD idea for Georgia. Far as the states of Kentucky and California, the mergers haven’t helped them save money or better transference of school credit. I have attended a 2 year college( will be in a four year one soon) and I have a sister who is currently enrolled in a Technical College and she also want to to go to a four year college. According to what one of her counselors told her, her credits would not be easy to transfer to a four year college and depending whose technical school you attend, it can be even more difficult. If you think that it’s not true, just go to Georgia State University’s website and use their credit scale with any technical schools and compare them with 4 years colleges .Then you’ll see why Community colleges are opposed to this idea.