Editorial: students should not be put on a timeline to finish

There is a lot of positive light on community colleges lately as President Barack Obama has proposed making them free. Tom Hanks even praised what they did for his life in an article for The New York Times and another article from that same publication called for an end to putting down community colleges by calling university real college.

At the same time that more money has come into the system through propositions and budget changes, there has been a greater focus on making sure students can succeed and move forward in their education.

The problem with that focus on students is that, in the name of success, the freedom of choice is being lost.

There was a time when college was the place to experiment with different majors and potential career paths before eventually having to make a choice about where a student wanted to focus completely.

That time of experimentation has diminished over the years and has almost vanished as the call for shuffling out more students with degrees get louder.

Most of this comes from the Student Success Act of 2012, where emphasis began to be placed upon the completion rates at community colleges to push students to choose and succeed in their educational choices much faster.

Basically, students need to know what they are doing and either get an Associate’s Degree, certificate or transfer to a university after two years.

Part of the act calls for educational plans made with counselors, putting students on a path to completion. Added to that is the scorecards that colleges must now keep to communicate the progress they are making in improving the completion rates.

While new degrees like the AA-T are a good move in helping students be able to move forward in their educational goals, mixing that with educational plans pretty much as soon as students enroll in community college and you get a scenario where more and more students might end up in a major or program they have no interest in but they had to choose something in order to move ahead.

Sitting on the fence about a major is no longer a practice that college administrators can allow to happen, as schools that have lower completion numbers are seen as failures.

The pressure to find a major and to stick to a plan needs to stop. Students need the freedom to find themselves as they enter not only the world of higher education but also the world of adulthood in many cases.

Students who are forced into choosing a program are likely to fail in the future, because there is no passion or desire for the path they find themselves on.

Pressure also needs to be eased for those that are coming back to school later in life, looking to improve themselves.

Pushing these students out in the name of making sure there are big numbers of students being funneled into four-year schools goes against the principles that community colleges were founded upon.

That doesn’t mean that the various moves for success are wrong or bad.

Adding in the AA-T, helping students more with counseling and the ability to make an educational plan for the future are great goals.

Just give students the space to make the choices they need to make to find themselves. Very few people know what they want to do for the rest of their lives at 18 or 19.

Administrations need to stop worrying so much about the numbers and worry more about the students and what they need.