Commuter Colleges are Different

Commuter Colleges are Different

Blog: Confessions of a Community College Dean

A loyal reader sent me a heads-up about the June 4th Senate committee hearing on “Going Back to College Safely.” Witnesses scheduled to testify include Mitch Daniels, from Purdue; Christina Paxon, from Brown; Logan Hampton, from Lane College; and Georges Benjamin, from the American Public Health Association.

Notably missing is anyone from a community college, or even a commuter college.

That matters for grounds beyond the usual. The issues that commuter campuses face are essentially different.

At the most basic level, our students leave campus every night, going to homes( or gondolas, unhappily) all over Monmouth and neighboring counties. In many cases, they share those residences with people who work in other manufactures wholly. Some of those people are older, some are immuno-compromised, and some are children.

My own college, like the majority of community colleges across the country, doesn’t have dormitories.( Among their local communities colleges that do have dorms, as far as I know, in most cases the dorms house merely a minority of the student body .) We don’t have the option, as some of the tonier universities do, of telling students not to leave campus for months at a time. They leave every night.

At one position, that obligates topics simpler; not having dorms planneds not having to manage dorms. But the committee is also makes it’s much harder to control exposure. My own college, for instance, has over 11,000 students in credit-bearing classifies, plus thousands of others in various non-credit courses( workforce proliferation, adult basic education, and the like ). Some attend full-time, but most attend part-time while also making paid places. A student who shows up “clean” on Monday for a morning class might return asymptomatic on Tuesday, having manipulated a transformation Monday evening, or having picked it up at home from person they live with who got it at work.

Over the past few years, as student basic needs have reaped greater attention, we’ve worked with the local public transit the authorities concerned become the bus planned more was in keeping with the class planned. For all of its dignities, though, public transportation wasn’t built for social distancing. It wields by capture economies of proportion, which is another way of saying density. Density and distancing are at odds.

We likewise have planneds for which physical distancing is an awkward fit, like automotive tech or culinary. The Brown Universities of the world may not have to face those issues, but many parish colleges do. It’s part of the mission.

Luckily, we have some advantages. Community colleges have been teaching online for a long time. My own previously had several full degree platforms entirely online even before the pandemic thump, along with a robust teaching and learning core staffed with instructional designers.( A vast shout-out to them, btw, for their work over the last couple of months !) Many professors who had various onsite years in the spring likewise had at least one online one, or had coached online before, so they had a base of know-how on which to rely. Unlike, say, Purdue, we never proceeded the OPM route; our online department are also our onsite module. That mattered when we had to make a mid-semester rotate. I hope we don’t have to do that again — gravely — but if we do, I know we have parties capable of stimulating it work.

Our greatest challenge, as opposed to Brown’s, is funding. It is helpful in simply to have someone in the area at a hearing to explain that the usual “supplement, don’t supplant” rule for federal coin would be counterproductive during a pandemic. We’ve had our operating supporting eviscerated; we need to be able to replace it directly. As I outlined in this column last week, vacated commonwealth aid is properly understood as a cost directly related to the pandemic. But the kinfolks likeliest to know that aren’t scheduled to be in the room.

There’s no shortfall of competent people available to speak on behalf of community colleges.

No disrespect to Purdue, Brown, or Lane College; each is terrific in its own way. Community colleges are fabulous in their own way, very; they should be heard from. Treating a commuter college as if it had dorms isn’t likely to end well.

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