Finishing School [Part Two]
How age-old obstacles and a brand-new law affect college completion
“I had a bachelor’s degree in biology from Coppin State University,” says Kimberly White ’12. “But I needed something that was going get me into the workforce quickly.”
White, who had been out of the research field for more than 10 years, feared her skills wouldn’t be relevant in today’s innovative labs. That prompted the mother of five from Shady Side, Md., to enroll at the College in fall 2010. She planned to combine her prior course work with classes in cell culture and computer science.
Soon after she started, White, like many of her community college contemp-oraries, had a life crisis threaten to stop her progress. Her husband required surgery in January 2011. Dr. Collins Jones, a biotechnology professor at the College, recommended she take a class in cell function and cell structure so she could make herself more marketable.
In August 2011, White landed a research specialist position at the NICHD Brain and Tissue Bank located at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Our lives are not one dimensional,” says White. “Sometimes stuff gets in the way of our plans. Fortunately, I was able to hit the ground running with the experience I got in the lab classes at the College.” While working full time, she finished her associate’s degree in spring 2012.
“I debated whether or not to finish the degree,” says White. “In the end, it paid off in ways I never expected. I wanted to walk across that stage and show my kids I completed something. They were excited to see that aspirations and goals can be reached and accomplished.”
White’s children—and many other Maryland students with college degree ambitions—will benefit from the new college completion legislation. It enumerates a series of goals, strategies, and initiatives aimed at reducing the need for remediation and enhancing college completion. The list of expectations includes expanding access to early college, enhancing transferability, expediting the time for degree completion, and ensuring more high school students are college ready.
Every year, more than two-thirds of all Maryland community college students enroll in remediation, just like Hesse, who had to take two developmental math courses when he first arrived. Developmental courses are necessary to ensure a student’s success in college-level course work, but these add to a student’s financial burden, and they often push back a student’s anticipated completion date.
In a report released by the American Institutes for Research in 2010, of the 1.1 million students who entered college in 2002, nearly 493,000 failed to graduate within six years, causing them to earn much less than students who graduated and costing an estimated $4.5 billion in lost income and federal and state income taxes in 2010.
Choosing the Right Course of Action—in High School
In May 2012, while his Montgomery College classmates were preparing for commencement—and the job market—18-year-old Matt Abod was helping his team win a baseball crown, heading to prom, and getting ready to graduate from Magruder High School.
Abod, who needed only a year of English to graduate from high school, believed he would be better served taking college classes. Through the College’s early placement program, he earned 13 college credits in his senior year of high school. At the end of the fall 2013 semester, Abod will have enough credits to transfer to a four-year school. “It was a little more expensive to come here in high school, but I felt more confident taking college classes and earning the credits.”
Abod believes that finishing at Montgomery College a semester ahead of time—and showing initiative by taking college classes in high school—will give him a much-needed leg up on the competition vying for spots in University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
Matt Abod will finish at Montgomery College a semester early because he took classes his senior year. This will afford him time to pursue emergency medical training classes at the Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department and to take classes at Montgomery College toward his accounting degree at the University of Maryland.
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