Academic journal article College Student Journal

Adult Students and Community College Beginnings: Examining the Efficacy of Performance Stereotypes on a University Campus

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Adult Students and Community College Beginnings: Examining the Efficacy of Performance Stereotypes on a University Campus

Article excerpt

This study focuses on the university academic performance of adult students (25 years and older) who begin studies at community colleges. Data were extracted from student transcripts (n = 717) at a major university in the South. Multiple regression and covariate analyses showed that adult transfer students did not differ significantly in GPA or baccalaureate attainment from students who began freshman studies at the university (natives). Majoring in science and business, however, did contribute to a lower GPA. It is the author's conclusion that community colleges are a good investment for most adult students who wish to purse a baccalaureate degree, and that negative stereotypes on many four-year college campuses are generally without merit.

Constituting nearly 45% of higher education's total enrollment, adult students (25 years and older) are projected to comprise another 3% by the year 2006 (NCES, 1996). Higher education is no longer an exclusive facility for the 18-24 year old: and if adult students are to be given realistic opportunities to achieve, senior colleges must do more than open a revolving door with little possibility for tangible success. Making assumptions about needs and concerns, senior college leaders for years have expressed doubts about their institutions' abilities to meet the needs of adult learners (Campbell, 1984). More recently, administrators have become increasingly more optimistic, but must remain evermore attentive to the needs of this growing population if real success is to be achieved. With similar goals to those of more traditional-aged students, adult students are not much unlike their younger counterparts which have disproportionately filled college campuses for decades. Despite those realities, however, and notwithstanding limited successes, negative stereotypes surrounding the potential for adult students to achieve academic success persist. Add the negative stereotype that transfer students are inferior and unprepared (Barry & Barry, 1992; Baser, 1992), and it becomes apparent that adult students beginning studies at community colleges and transferring to senior colleges have many obstacles to overcome in pursuit of success.

Geographical convenience and low cost (Dougherty, 1994) make the community college an attractive educational beginning for most adult students. As a result, senior college student bodies are becoming more diverse and less traditional than in years past. The potential for success, then, is jeopardized when senior colleges are not adequately prepared to meet the needs of adult learners transferring from community colleges.

A General Comparison of Educational Experiences

The quality of transfer education (preparation for senior college studies) in the community college is one of the more widely debated issues in higher education. Community colleges have been praised for their democratic access to higher education (Vaughan, 1982) while simultaneously criticized for their limitations (Brint & Karabel, 1989; McGrath & Spear, 1991). Proponents of community college education stress the needs of the learner. They recognize that the majority of community college students have traditionally been excluded from participating in higher education and wish to extend educational opportunity to all persons (Griffith & Connor, 1994). Because of this commitment, these institutions are widely regarded by students as the best and most humanized form of instruction (Southerland, 1986). Critics, however, argue that community college educational practices amount to nothing more than "coddling" and "hand-holding" (Mellander & Robertson, 1992, p. 19) and that any self-esteem gained by the student comes at the expense of decreased academic standards.

Although highly controversial and somewhat unfair to selected community college educators, many agree that the educational orientations at senior and community colleges are substantially different. …

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