Wednesday, May 2, 2007

What graduation rates don't tell you

The student speaker at Ishkabibble Community College took 5 years to earn her 2-year associates degree. Legislators and education bureaucrats are upset about people like her, because they impose some fixed costs on the college and take up space that will be needed as demand continues to grow for seats in our classes. Why would we choose a slacker like that to speak at graduation?

Maybe its because she represents all that we stand for as a CC.

Our speaker is in her 40s, and is president of our returning adult students club. She is working full time, which limits the number of classes she can take. But even that does not begin to tell her story.

She dropped out of high school at 16. She was a drug addict for 20 years after that. She lived long enough to start fighting her way out of that life, and apparently became something like a peer counselor. That led to her getting hired into a job that brought her to Our Town, but she was pretty sure her boss did not know she had only a 9th grade education.

She came to us in 2000 to get her GED. She graduated two years of night classes later, and started college. Now she is off to Wannabe Flagship to get a BA and MA in counseling, maybe in time to start that career when she turns 50.

When (not if) she does, we will continue to be proud of what she made of herself. We can all hope that the strong voice we heard at graduation will be heard by younger versions of herself, saving them the pain of two decades in the wilderness.

Oh, and one other thing. She has re-married the father of her 3 children, putting back together the family that drugs tore apart.

No set of statistics, not even the longitudinal data that probably show an odd outlier in the time-to-AA data for some high school 9th grader, can capture that.

Read this commentary from IHE.

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