Australian ACE providers are not the only ones which have experienced a drop in enrolments by disadvantaged students. The USA has followed suit: “There is deep concern about the steep drop in enrolment at community colleges, particularly among Black and Indigenous students,” said Tom Brock, Director of Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University (pictured).
The US Government has provided US$3 million to establish an Accelerating Recovery in Community Colleges (ARCC) Network that will “identify strategies that community colleges can use to bring students back, support their learning, and ensure they can succeed in the rapidly evolving post-pandemic economy – work which is critical for students and colleges that have been set back by the COVID pandemic.”
The network will focus on “groups most affected by the pandemic at community colleges, including students of colour, low-income students, first-generation students, and adult students.”
Community Colleges Australia (CCA) recommends that the Australian Government follow suit, and commission an action research project that aims to achieve similar outcomes in Australia. “The new Jobs and Skills Australia is the likely organisation to take charge of such an investigation,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of CCA. “Earlier this year, CCA charted how many disadvantaged students at Australian adult and community education providers have left training because of the pandemic, and not returned. We need systematic research to understand how we can best re-engage these students in study leading to better employment opportunities,” said Dr Perlgut.
About US Community College Research Center (CCRC)
CCRC studies community colleges because they have the potential to dramatically improve educational equity and social mobility in the United States. Community colleges are for everyone, at any time of life: high school students exploring their interests and getting a head start on a degree; college students seeking the most affordable route to a bachelor’s degree; career-changers looking to acquire new skills; lifelong learners exploring interests and making new connections. Community colleges make it their mission to open up opportunities for students from traditionally under-served groups—including racially minoritised, low-income, immigrant, and first-generation students. But while community colleges play an essential role in higher education and workforce development, they operate with far fewer resources than their four-year counterparts, and completion rates for their degree-seeking students tend to be lower.
By conducting high-quality research, CCRC aims to help community colleges enrich the lives of every student who passes through their doors, and in doing so, to promote a more just higher education system and a more just society.
CCRC is an independent research organisation funded entirely by grants from foundations, government agencies, and other organisations. (Read more about the CCRC here.)