The Case for a Four-Year College from the CQE

| 5 Comments

A letter from the Committee for Quality Education:

One of CQE's priorities in recent years has been to encourage families of those graduates who leave Metuchen High School with the intention of earning a bachelor's degree to have their children begin their studies at a four-year college.  The reason is simple:  There is a far greater likelihood that a student will earn a bachelor's degree if he/she begins at a four-year college, as opposed to at a community college.  

On average, only 31% of community-college students who begin full-time and who set out to get a degree complete it within six years, whereas 58% of students at four-year schools graduate within that time frame.  Furthermore, it is well known that people with bachelor's degrees have greater earning potential and a lower unemployment rate than those who do not.  Workers with a bachelor's degree earn 20% more than those with an associate's degree (translating to over $500,000 of lifetime income), and have 23% lower unemployment.

Over the last 10 years, an average of 32% of Metuchen students did not attend a 4-year college straight from high school.   These numbers are high compared to other New Jersey towns with similar demographics.  There are 48 high schools in Metuchen's demographic category as defined by the state Department of Education, and Metuchen ranks 46th out of those 48 in sending graduates on to four-year colleges (as of 2009, the most recent year available).

Beginning at a community college is not the most efficient way, nor sometimes even the most economical way, of pursuing a 4-year degree, if that's the intention.  Alternatives need to be explored. For example, attending a four-year college and commuting from home could be an option (especially with Rutgers so nearby) or applying for merit money. 

Individual students and their families must make the best choice for themselves, of course. For some of these students, the best option is not direct enrollment in a four-year college - community colleges, trade schools, the military, and the workforce can all offer viable alternatives.

All MHS parents and students should be informed about the best way to ensure a four-year degree, and given all of the tools to make the best choice.  CQE respectfully request that the Board of Education take a serious look at how to give all MHS kids who intend to earn a four-year degree an equal opportunity by exploring ways for them to begin their studies at a four-year college.  A town like Metuchen should be sending more of its students to four-year colleges.  We need to figure out why we are below our demographic group.

For a more complete discussion of this matter including research citations and an explanation of the State's demographic categories, please visit us at www.metuchencqe.org.

5 Comments

To the last poster: Citizens for Quality Education is also supportive of 2-year colleges because they do much good for the community. They provide training and certification in a wide variety of fields and further the education of many non-traditional students, such as those returning after many years away from college or high school graduation and those attending part-time like yourself who needed to financially support your parents. Community colleges also offer remedial courses for students who graduate from high school, not academically prepared for the rigors of a 4-year college. But for the traditional student who wants a bachelor’s degree in 4 years, community colleges are not the best route. Using a community college as a stepping-stone to a university is statistically a bad choice (for example, MCC has a graduation rate of 13%).

But this discussion was not intended to be about the merits of community colleges at all. It’s about Metuchen High School graduates who want to earn a bachelor’s degree and where it would be best for them to start their studies if they are to achieve their goal in four years. At the heart of CQE’s position is the statement by Jim Jaques (President of CQE): "CQE respectfully requests that the Board of Education takes a serious look at how to give all MHS kids who intend to earn a four-year degree an equal opportunity by exploring ways for them to begin their studies at a four-year college. A town like Metuchen should be sending more of its students to four-year colleges. We need to figure out why we are below our demographic group."

For at least three years now, the Board of Education has shied away from exploring why so many of our students are choosing a route that has a poor success rate for attaining a degree in four years. Examining which colleges MHS students applied to, were accepted at, and enrolled in would be a beginning step in knowing if indeed our students are choosing MCC for financial reasons or perhaps because of lack of academic preparation, two issues which can and must be addressed. The Metuchen Schools must see not only that all our students graduate from high school, but also that they all are placed on the best path for their individual success.

I must chime in also on the side of community colleges. I'm not sure when or why the CQE is so opposed to the community college as a worthy alternative to the first two years of an undergraduate career. I began at Middlesex Community College because I could not afford to attend a four-year school. I had to work full time to support parents. I was not alone; I had many peers in a similar situation.

I went on to earn two advanced degrees and feel that the education I received at MCC was excellent. I transferred easily to Rutgers after completing my associates degree. CQE seems concerned at the time it takes one to earn a degree. I do not see that as an issue at all. It took me four years to complete my associate's degree because I worked 60 hours per week. It took another six years to finish my first master's program. So what?

I completed my education with ten years of full time work under my belt! I attribute my professional success to the educational path I chose----and it all began with community college.

There are exceptions to every rule and a community college may indeed be the right place for some students to begin their college education. But parents and students need to be informed consumers when it comes to paying for a college degree.

Federal law mandates that all colleges report their graduation rates within 150 percent of the standard time for a degree -- six years for a four-year institution and three years for a community college offering associate degrees. According to law, graduation rates only include those students who are attending full-time with the intention of earning a degree, not part-time students, not those who are earning a certificate.

Unfortunately, Middlesex Community College, the 2-year college of choice for most MHS graduates, has a 13% three-year graduation rate (http://www.american-school-search.com/review/middlesex-county-college). Perhaps the better financial choice would be for students to attend a State school like Rutgers, where the graduation rate is 75%, and to live at home (www.collegeresults.org). Sussex County Community College has a graduation rate or 28%, the best in our State among 2-year colleges (http://www.communitycollegesinusa.com/New_Jersey_School_Codes.html). It’s clear that statistically your chance of earning a degree improves greatly by beginning at a 4-year college.

We all want the best opportunities for our own kids and I assume we all want the best opportunities for all graduates of MHS. It would be good to know how many MHS students are choosing a community college because of financial reasons. Other alternatives should be examined to allow those kids the better chance of earning a degree by beginning at a 4-year school— seeking merit money, financial aid, work-study programs, and/or living at home.

I agree with the last poster. When you around the Metuchen/ Edison area it is easy to see that 60 % of households can afford four-year colleges and 32% of families will opt for 2-year degrees. I don’t think it is fair to assume that two-year college graduates are going to have a harder time in life. (I took the long road to a four-year degree without issue). Maybe a survey of two year graduates in recent years in this area rather than the general public may answer some questions.

Instead of looking at how we compare across the other state, perhaps we should look at each individual child and what is best for them -- based on their individual needs.

Plenty of high achievers started out at community college. Here's a short list of successful alumni:

Gwendolyn Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet
Eileen Collins, former National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut
Joyce Luther Kennard, California Supreme Court justice
Jeanne Kirkpatrick, former United Nations ambassador
Nolan Ryan, retired Major League Baseball professional athlete
Jim Lehrer, news anchor
Robert Moses, choreographer and dance company founder
Sam Shepard, Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright
James Sinegal, cofounder and chief executive officer of Costco
Maxwell Taylor, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Source:http://www.collegeboard.com/student/csearch/where-to-start/150494.html

I find it sad that we are sending the message to those students that might benefit from a community college experience as a starting place that this is not a good option -- or an option that will "put you behind the curve."

I started my college experience at a community college -- graduated from a 4 year institution and ended up doing just fine. Had my son been inclined to do this, I would have been both proud and supportive.

Leave a comment


Recent Comments

  • Kathy Liss: To the last poster: Citizens for Quality Education is also read more
  • cca: I must chime in also on the side of community read more
  • Kathy Liss: There are exceptions to every rule and a community college read more
  • CinC: I agree with the last poster. When you around the read more
  • weidmaier: Instead of looking at how we compare across the other read more

Monthly Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.21-en
/