Calls for free community college as there are fewer during the pandemic
The one-year pandemic has resulted in an overall decrease in students enrolled in colleges. The decline, however, is most pronounced at community colleges in the United States.
In its latest report, the National Student Information Center said this college registration fell almost 3 percent overall. And community colleges saw the biggest drop of 9.5% from a year ago.
Doug Shapiro is the executive director of the organization. He warned that schools and policy makers “will need to work together to help bring back learners who are struggling during the pandemic and recession.”
Community colleges generally serve lessIncome students. Most are two-year programs designed to prepare students for specific jobs or to continue their education in four-year schools. Many community college students take part-time classes and some are older adults who are already working.
the American Association of Community Colleges said tuition fees and fresh at a community college averages $ 3,730 per year, while costs at a four-year public university average over $ 10,000 for state students. The information dates from the 2019-2020 school year.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced many businesses to close and has resulted in an economic recession in the United States and around the world. In the past, people often attended community colleges to seek new skills, more education, or vocational training during a recession.
Dr. Sanjay Rai is Senior Vice President of Montgomery College in Maryland. He said that during the 2008 recession, the college saw strong enrollment growth. But during the pandemic, the college saw a 4% drop.
In Montgomery County, unemployment fell from 2.4% in December 2019 to almost 9% in May 2020. Rai said more than half of students at Montgomery College had lost some or all of their income.
“I don’t think it’s a recession,” Rai said of the economic struggles of the pandemic. “I think it’s a whole different phenomenon. “
Todd Kitchen is an administrator at Northwest Arkansas Community College (NWACC). He said that during the last recession that started in 2008, college enrollments were at their highest levels. In the past year, his school has seen a 10% drop, Kitchen said.
Kitchen believes people are more concerned about safety and health during the pandemic. “I think with the pandemic it was a little different because of so many uncertainty, so much fear, ”Kitchen said. “It really surprised us off guard. “
Rai and Kitchen said their colleges are working to meet the changing needs of students during the pandemic. With a growing need for vaccines around the world, Montgomery College, for example, now offers a medical manufacturing program.
“The most immediate need in our community is to find employment for people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic,” said Rai.
Britney Jenkins is a 21-year-old sophomore from Northwest Arkansas. She has noticed far fewer students in her classes, which are now online. As vice president of the student government, she heard the concerns of many students about paying for their studies.
In addition to tuition fees, students have to pay for things like books, school supplies, housing, and other living expenses.
“I am very fortunate that my parents can help me,” Jenkins said. “But there are other students who, when the pandemic hit and they lost their jobs, had to leave community college. There was no doubt about it. “
A free community college, Jenkin observed, “would open so many doors for so many people.”
Free community college
Seventeen US states now offer tuition-free programs for community colleges. Many states, including Maryland and Arkansas, provide “last dollar” assistance to students. This means that the state will provide students with the remaining tuition fees after using federal student aid.
This week, US President Joe Biden laid out a plan to provide two years of free community college to all Americans. The plan will also provide up to $ 1,400 in additional assistance to low-income students. Biden’s proposal, however, will need Republican support in an equally divided Senate.
First Lady Jill Biden herself is a strong supporter of the Free Community College. She is a longtime community college teacher and plans to continue while in the White House.
The first lady recently expressed her support for the free community college in a speech at Sauk Valley Community College in Illinois. She said, “All Americans merit the same opportunity at to pursue their passions, get a great education, and build a career they love. “
Sanjay Rai of Montgomery College said, “If there’s one administration that can do it, I think it’s this Biden administration.”
I am Caty Weaver.
Dan Novak wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in this story
to register –v. take (someone) as a member or participant
Income –not. money that comes from work, investments, business, etc.
tuition fees-not. money paid to a school for the right to study there
fresh–not. a sum of money that must be paid
phenomenon -NOT. something (such as an interesting fact or event) that can be observed and investigated and that is generally unusual or difficult to understand or fully explain
uncertain–adj. not exactly known or decided : undefined or fixed
off guard- adj. not ready
merit –v. used to say that someone or something should or should not have or receive something
opportunity -NOT. a length of time or a situation in which something can be done; a chance
to pursue-v. trying to get or do (something) over a period of time
passion-not. a strong sense of enthusiasm or excitement for something or to do something