• 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: Readers Respond

Responses on budgets, dual admissions and dual enrollment.

July 1, 2022

When I posted last week on the “word problem”—a budgetary dilemma, essentially—I was hoping that some folks had found elegant solutions for it.

Judging by the responses I received, others are facing the same dilemmas and are equally stumped.

Grants are helpful, but they typically come with pretty tight restrictions. (A tip of the cap to MacKenzie Scott for breaking that pattern, but alas, she remains an exception.) That’s particularly true with federal grants that rely on the “supplement, not supplant” rule. In plain English, that means they can’t be used on anything you would have paid for anyway without the grant. They can’t be used to offset cuts to operating budgets.

Regular readers may roll their eyes at another mention of Baumol’s cost disease, but until we get away from an entirely time-based model, we’re going to be facing dilemmas like these across the board. Alternately, we could see a sea change in our politics, but that seems like a risky bet.

The business model has to change. If there’s an example of a college that has cut its way to greatness, I haven’t seen it.

Thanks, too, to the wise and worldly readers who responded with some insights on dual admissions. I had suggested that the limited uptake of many dual admissions programs reflected a combination of student uncertainty about academic paths and student uncertainty about finances, possibly topped off with just not knowing that the programs exist.

A few readers suggested that geography plays more of a role than I had acknowledged. In some parts of the country, the nearest four-year college may be too far away to commute. Alternately, even if it’s relatively close, students with transportation issues might not be able to get there. It’s a good point.

Others mentioned disability as an access issue; a student who already struggles to reach a community college may find even a relatively close four-year school effectively out of range. Again, a good point.

I haven’t seen many dual admissions programs that focus on online enrollments, but it seems like they might provide workarounds for at least some of the issues. And it became clear that some programs are much more successful than others; I’ll have to do some digging to figure out their secrets …

The post on dual enrollment, and the relative lack of rules around it, unleashed a torrent of “tell me about it!” responses. The most common complaints centered around academic integrity and/or instructor credentials. When those aren’t tightly controlled, enterprising high schools may sometimes take liberties.

In my state, programs grew much more quickly than state awareness of them did, so the rules are lagging the practice substantially. It appears that my state is not alone in that.

Thanks to my wise and worldly readers for writing (or tweeting) in response. You keep me honest, and for that, I’m grateful.

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Matt Reed

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