After Admission: From College Access to College Success

Russell Sage Foundation
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Enrollment at America's community colleges has exploded in recent years, with five times as many entering students today as in 1965. However, most community college students do not graduate; many earn no credits and may leave school with no more advantages in the labor market than if they had never attended. Experts disagree over the reason for community colleges' mixed record. Is it that the students in these schools are under-prepared and ill-equipped for the academic rigors of college? Are the colleges themselves not adapting to keep up with the needs of the new kinds of students they are enrolling? In After Admission, James Rosenbaum, Regina Deil-Amen, and Ann Person weigh in on this debate with a close look at this important trend in American higher education. After Admission compares community colleges with private occupational colleges that offer accredited associates degrees. The authors examine how these different types of institutions reach out to students, teach them social and cultural skills valued in the labor market, and encourage them to complete a degree. Rosenbaum, Deil-Amen, and Person find that community colleges are suffering from a kind of identity crisis as they face the inherent complexities of guiding their students towards four-year colleges or to providing them with vocational skills to support a move directly into the labor market. This confusion creates administrative difficulties and problems allocating resources. However, these contradictions do not have to pose problems for students. After Admission shows that when colleges present students with clear pathways, students can effectively navigate the system in a way that fits their needs. The occupational colleges the authors studied employed close monitoring of student progress, regular meetings with advisors and peer cohorts, and structured plans for helping students meet career goals in a timely fashion. These procedures helped keep students on track and, the authors suggest, could have the same effect if implemented at community colleges. As college access grows in America, institutions must adapt to meet the needs of a new generation of students. After Admission highlights organizational innovations that can help guide students more effectively through higher education.
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About the author

JAMES E. ROSENBAUM is professor of sociology, education, and social policy, and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. REGINA DEIL-AMEN is assistant professor at the Center for the Study of Higher Education, the University of Arizona College of Education. ANN E. PERSON is a doctoral student in human development and social policy and a graduate fellow with the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Russell Sage Foundation
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Published on
Jan 4, 2007
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Pages
280
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ISBN
9781610444781
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Education
Education / General
Education / Higher
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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In a society where everyone is supposed to go to college, the problems facing high school graduates who do not continue their education are often forgotten. Many cannot find jobs, and those who do are often stuck in low-wage, dead-end positions. Meanwhile employers complain that high school graduates lack the necessary skills for today's workplace. Beyond College for All focuses on this crisis in the American labor market. Around the world, author James E. Rosenbaum finds, employers view high school graduates as valuable workers. Why not here? Rosenbaum reports on new studies of the interaction between employers and high schools in the United States. He concludes that each fails to communicate its needs to the other, leading to a predictable array of problems for young people in the years after graduation. High schools caught up in the college-for-all myth, provide little job advice or preparation, leading students to make unrealistic plans and hampering both students who do not go to college and those who start college but do not finish. Employers say they care about academic skills, but then do not consider grades when deciding whom to hire. Faced with few incentives to achieve, many students lapse into precisely the kinds of habits employers deplore, doing as little as possible in high school and developing poor attitudes. Rosenbaum contrasts the situation in the United States with that of two other industrialized nations-Japan and Germany-which have formal systems for aiding young people who are looking for employment. Virtually all Japanese high school graduates obtain work, and in Germany, eighteen-year-olds routinely hold responsible jobs. While the American system lacks such formal linkages, Rosenbaum uncovers an encouraging hidden system that helps many high school graduates find work. He shows that some American teachers, particularly vocational teachers, create informal networks with employers to guide students into the labor market. Enterprising employers have figures out how to use these networks to meet their labor needs, while students themselves can take steps to increase their ability to land desirable jobs. Beyond College for All suggests new policies based on such practices. Rosenbaum presents a compelling case that the problems faced by American high school graduates and employers can be solved if young people, employers, and high schools build upon existing informal networks to create formal paths for students to enter the world of work. A Volume in the American Sociological Association's Rose Series in Sociology
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