• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


Friday Fragments

More bad news from Illinois, the student loan debate, and more.

March 3, 2016

I was sorry to hear that the budget standoff in Illinois, which has already kneecapped state universities, is starting to hit community colleges. Apparently John A. Logan college just approved laying off 55 people, including 38 percent of the college’s instructors.

Folks in the community college world are suffering pretty severe cognitive dissonance these days. We hear about economic recovery, which should be good, but our enrollments are counter-cyclical. We hear calls for free community college, and plenty of praise from the Feds, but state and local funding have not recovered from the recession.  

My condolences to everyone at John A. Logan. Until the governor and legislature there start acting like adults, there’s really no elegant short-term solution.


Neal McCluskey and I have been having a colloquy online this week about his proposal for replacing universally available student loans with student loans provided by banks, using whatever screens for likely success make sense to them. His response to my response to his response (I think) is here.

While we disagree on some pretty fundamental points, I’m glad to see that we agree that it would be silly and irresponsible either to deny adults education, or to use high school GPA’s as screens for people in their 30’s. Even if every high school in America achieved perfection today -- never mind how much that would involve -- the average age of a community college student is well into the 20’s. They can’t just be written off. Adult education can’t be squeezed into policies built on the assumption that students are coming right out of high school.  


Which raises an empirical question. Is there any good data on the predictive value of high school GPA for new college students for whom high school is, say, ten or more years ago? I haven’t seen any, but I’m hoping some of my wise and worldly readers have.


Dogs are great excuses to do things you really should do anyway.

Last weekend was the first glimpse of Spring for the year, so we took The Dog to Asbury Park and walked the beach with her.

Along with most of the state, apparently.  I had no idea so many people had dogs.

We kept The Dog on a leash, because as longtime readers know, she has gone on walkabout before. But plenty of canine Americans roamed free that day, which made for quite a sight. Our favorites were two pugs who loved to chase bubbles. It was a windy day, and their human brought a bubble wand.  She’d loose bubbles into the wind, and the pugs would give chase, higgledy-piggledy. (I don’t often get to say “higgledy-piggledy,” but nothing else quite captures it.) They’d return at breakneck speed and wait urgently for her to do it again. Meanwhile, TD kept watch with a question mark on her forehead.

We went for TD, but we enjoyed it more than she did. Admittedly, she couldn’t be expected to know the significance of the Stone Pony, what with being a dog and all. But still. Policy and reflection and routine are all great, but sometimes, you just need to watch pugs chase bubbles, higgledy-piggledy.


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