Montgomery College to look at redesigning its remedial courses
Plan to integrate basic math, English into specialized courses comes as school joins statewide pledge to boost graduation
To increase the number of students earning their degrees from Montgomery College, officials may look at redesigning some basic courses and focus less on recruiting additional students.
Following a summit of Maryland's 16 community colleges on Friday and a pledge from all schools to increase completion rates, schools may also look to integrate remedial courses into more specialized courses of study to keep students enrolled in the fields they are interested in.
A little more than 30 percent of students enrolled at Montgomery College take remedial reading and writing courses, while just over 60 percent of students require remedial courses in mathematics, said DeRionne P. Pollard, the first-year president of the college who attended the summit, which was hosted by the Maryland Association of Community Colleges.
These numbers, Pollard said, make it important for the school to recognize how it can make those courses interesting to the students, especially because many students leave the college before completing their degrees for reasons such as illness or the need to work beyond the college's control.
Montgomery College faculty members at Friday's summit commented on redesigning such "developmental" courses, Pollard said.
"That's where I think you're actually going to see the substantial long-term change occur," she said.
The number of such students who either enter the work force or go to a four-year higher education institution before getting their degrees from community colleges has grown in recent years. Pollard also said she planned to meet with University of Maryland, College Park, President Wallace D. Loh and other four-year college and university presidents in upcoming weeks to stress that students who earn associate degrees at community colleges are more likely to complete their four-year degrees.
At the same time, the college may place less emphasis on trying to recruit more students to its three campuses in Germantown, Rockville and Takoma Park/Silver Spring, she said, so it can focus on students already enrolled. This fall semester, Montgomery College has 26,015 students. Of that total, 29 percent of students are black, 34 percent are white, 15 percent are Asian-American, and 12 percent are Hispanic, with 9 percent classified as multiracial.
Clay Whitlow, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges, said the challenge will be to integrate a remedial course in math, for example, into a more vocational course such as automotive repair so the student stays interested while also learning basics. This would allow more students to achieve their degrees in a shorter time span.
"It is a big challenge. It's also expensive in some cases to do that," Whitlow said. "But these are the kinds of things that we're talking about, because all of our colleges have similar numbers to what is happening at Montgomery, in some cases worse."
The association's summit was a state response to the White House Summit on Community Colleges in October in Washington, D.C. President Barack Obama called for the conference so education officials and others could discuss ways community colleges can help the country meet its workforce training and education needs. Obama has set a goal of having the U.S. achieve the highest percentage of college graduates of any country by 2020.