VERSAILLES, Ky. (WTVQ) – Rural community colleges and their students face a significant number of barriers, according to a new report from the American Association of Community College Trustees.
The most frequently cited challenges were access to high-speed internet, funding inequalities and meeting basic student needs, especially in the area of mental health.
To better understand the role community colleges play in supporting rural communities, from October 2019 to December 2020, ACCT visited rural campuses and conducted virtual and in-person interviews with more than 500 people in five states: California, Kentucky, Iowa, North Carolina and Texas. .
This included Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC), which is one of 16 colleges in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS).
Two-thirds of residents of Perry County, one of the counties in which HCTC has a campus, did not complete their education after high school, but Jennifer Lindon, president of HCTC, sees an opportunity.
The Tuesday Night Live (TNL) program, which begins in 2018, is an opportunity for engagement created by the college.
Tuesday Night Live offers flexible hybrid classes, activities for kids, free meals, private lessons and extended hours for student services. Students enrolled at TNL take online classes that meet in person once a week on Tuesday evenings.
The program is designed to allow students to take a full 12-credit course load over two eight-week sessions. On Tuesdays, when students come to campus for class, they are encouraged to bring their children with them. While parents are in class, children help prepare healthy meals.
During meals, faculty or volunteers make soft skills presentations and share information about student resources. After lunch while parents continue with class, receive tutoring or meet with student services, their children participate in activities and receive homework help.
In spring 2018, 88 students were enrolled in at least one TNL class. Seventy-two percent (72%) of full-time students who enrolled in at least one TNL class passed all of their courses.
In addition to highlighting successful programs across the country, the report shows:
- Without internet access at home, many students struggle to complete homework or access online learning materials – and lack of high-speed internet access is as much of a problem for faculty as it is for students. .
- Rural community colleges are currently tasked with spending limited amounts on ever-increasing needs. Their demonstrated ability to do so has given them labels such as “agile”, “innovative” and “unreasonable”.
- Mental health disparities between rural and non-rural communities predate the pandemic and are expected to survive it as well. The pandemic has significantly worsened the situation.
“The faculty and staff who work at our rural community colleges understand these and other challenges, such as lack of transportation and access to child care,” said KCTCS Acting President, Paul Czarapata. “We appreciate that ACCT shines the spotlight on these issues and helps the public understand what rural communities face on a daily basis.
The Kentucky Community and Technical College System is the largest post-secondary institution in the Commonwealth with 16 colleges and over 70 campuses.