CCP aims to become more of a community player
The president of Community College of Philadelphia, Donald Generals, sat in the AL DÍA News roundtable and talked about Obama’s free community college initiative, why he is optimistic about Governor Wolf, the representation of Latinos, his proposal for ESL classes and international students.
The open admission policy (that requires only a high school diploma or a GED) and affordable tuition of about $850 per class, or $2,500 per semester for full time students, make CCP a great place to start. The small size of the classes and the support the institution offers to its students are other characteristics to help students realize their potential.
Generals said the details of Obama’s free community college initiative are still vague and he hopes it doesn't bite into the funds students with financial aid get from Pell grants or PHEAA.
With an operating budget of 128 million, about 60 percent comes from tuition. When it comes to the rest, about 16 percent comes from the city, and the remaining “twenty-something” percent comes from the state, but now that Corbett is gone and Wolf is the governor, Generals hopes to get more.
Here’s what he had to say.
About his vision for CCP:
There are some challenges and part of those challenges have to do with becoming more of a community player to the various communities within the city. Philadelphia is a big city with a lot of small communities and we need to strengthen our presence by having a better relationship with each of those communities. One of my goals is for the institution to become more prominent in the issues pertaining to workforce development, the educational pipeline, as well as the social and economic issues that pertain to city life here in Philadelphia.
About Obama’s free community college initiative:
My personal opinion is that President Obama is late to this story. Around the country states are finding ways to provide tuition or expand tuition dollars and scholarship dollars to students. We realize that even though we’re still a bargain, for the students that we serve, the choices they have to make are relative to feeding their family or coming to school. If we can encourage them to go full time with a tuition incentive, to go during summer, to go counseling, to orientation… at the end of the day our students will graduate and will be able to get into the workforce or transfer a lot quicker.
About the switch from Tom Corbett to Tom Wolf:
Wolf knows that for education to work it needs full funding and our funding has been cut. I think he is going to be looking more in the way of success, preparation programs and tech programs that enable students to move into the job market but also provide them an opportunity to continue working. He is going to be looking for us to work with businesses and industries so that we can align their needs very specifically with the educational programs we offer. I am very hopeful and optimistic that there will be more dollars coming from the state.
About the graduation rate at CCP:
Students who come in full time and persist for three years, graduate at about a 12 percent rate — the national average may be around 25 percent — but that’s not a true reflection of what we do. Some of our students come part time, some of them transfer before they graduate. If a student comes to us and then transfers to Temple, that to me is a success. But in our records it doesn’t show in the graduation rate. It shows up as attrition.
About the representation of Latinos at CCP:
The representation of Latino students in the college is about 12 percent. I was surprised to see that the largest percentage of graduates within a six year period were also Latino. In terms of staff and faculty the numbers are around 3 percent. We have a long way to go. The institution is working towards solving that problem.
About the efforts to reach out to the Latino community:
We have to be connected to the institutions within different communities to have a better relationship with them. We have to work more closely with the school system and schools in certain areas that support Latino communities.
About international students:
This is the fifth largest city in the United States. We need to leverage that to bring international students to the college, many of whom would do great going to one of the four-year tier institutions but they need the general education, acculturation, as well as the language development, and that’s what we do well. The opportunity to serve as a transfer vehicle for those coming from abroad is a great opportunity to leverage in the city.
The current structure that we and the entire sector uses needs to be more innovative and a lot more conducive to students’ strengths as opposed to their weaknesses. Right now you have to go through ESL before you go to business or IT or whatever it is you want to do. I hope to do it concurrently so that if you have some level of language that you need to acquire you can do it at the same time and you can begin moving forward in your preferred discipline. We need to find creative ways whereby we are not assigning students to levels of instruction based on a single indicator.