Community colleges put to the test

Two letters from Cape Cod educators which appeared in the Boston Globe this past week;

Boston Mayor Menino is once again attacking Massachusetts community colleges without acknowledging (or perhaps understanding) all of the facts ("Higher effort on higher learning," Op-ed, Feb. 26).

The mayor does not seem to realize that inadequate funding might have something to do with our ability to deliver the "appropriate academic and student support services" he and co-writer Gary Gottlieb, chairman of the Boston Private Industry Council, call for in their op-ed.

Massachusetts ranks among the lowest in the nation in state support for public higher education, and as a result, we have student charges that are among the highest in the nation.

Cost of living and cost of higher education already present significant barriers for community college students, and we cannot in good conscience seek the needed funding by adding to students' burden.

Moreover, we serve students with the greatest need for remediation and support services, but are funded less per student than any other sector of higher education. What would the mayor have us do?

Attacking us in the public sphere will not solve the problem. Perhaps advocating for adequate funding would.

KATHLEEN SCHATZBERG
West Barnstable

The writer is president of Cape Cod Community College.
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No group is more disheartened by the low graduation rate of community college students in the Commonwealth than community college faculty. In their criticism, Menino and Gottlieb left out one of the major factors contributing to this dismal picture. Studies, such as that of Daniel Jacoby in the November/December 2006 Journal of Higher Education, show a clear correlation between the rise in the use of adjunct faculty and the decline of graduation rates.

Part-timers are not paid to hold office hours, do advising, or serve on committees, so as the number of full-time professors decreases, their workload increases, and they have less time to help individual students. Students who need help from a part-time faculty member are usually out of luck.

The American Association of University Professors recommends that colleges have no more than 25 percent adjunct faculty. In my department, there are nine full-timers and 36 part-timers. If the Commonwealth is committed to improving community college graduation rates, it must also be committed to funding more full-time faculty positions.

BETSY SMITH
Brewster

The writer is adjunct professor of English as a second language at Cape Cod Community College

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