Providing a quality education isn’t enough to keep students in classrooms

Career colleges are generally known for meeting the needs of students. They increase access to higher education. They provide hands-on training in programs that traditional schools usually ignore – even though these programs are geared toward jobs in the fastest-growing career fields. They’re affordable, they’re flexible and they’re online.

But what happens when that’s not enough to keep students from dropping out?

“There’s not time in the day for me to go to work, school, take care of my child, study and sleep,” said Angela Gagliano, a student at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Like many single parents, she is doing a dangerous balancing act – one that might result in having to drop out of the school she attends as a marketing and communications major.

Gagliano was originally drawn to the career college in her hometown for several reasons. It was the most economical option and it offered her the opportunity to earn a degree in two years. It sounded like the perfect way to prepare for her future, and for her daughter’s future. However, two years passed quickly while she worked a full-time night job in order to support her child.

“It’s going to take me more like five or six years to earn my degree,” she said. “I’ve had to take two or three classes (a semester) instead of four or five. Right now I can only attend part-time, and even that’s getting more difficult.”

Single parenthood isn’t the only barrier in the path to higher education. The U.S. Department of Education also cites insufficient academic preparation, financial constraints, inadequate childcare, and lack of connection to the college community as reasons students leave school prematurely. The figures only get more daunting with research showing that more than 40 percent of community college students drop out within three years of enrolling.

As Director of Admissions for National American University, Markita McKamie is familiar with the obstacles students are forced to overcome in the name of attaining an education. Besides financial factors, she lists transportation, unsupportive family, poor work schedules and discrimination as common hindrances to education.

National American University has taken numerous steps to help students stay enrolled in their programs. By offering both day and night classes, the University is able to help students schedule around work and family commitments, and online courses eliminate the issue of inadequate transportation.

In addition, students who face discrimination in their daily lives actually find respite while on campus. The student body at the University covers every gender, race and age, making it more likely for those enrolled to feel connected to the experience.

“We have a very diverse student body that makes it easier for everyone to fit in around here,” McKamie said.

National American University is not the only school that is taking a proactive response to the nation’s staggering dropout rate. Career colleges are opening their doors to more students, and keeping more students enrolled, by increasing the range of offered programs.

Students who build relationships with faculty and other members of the student body are more likely to remain in school. As a result, schools are providing one-on-one counseling sessions, tutoring, and courses geared toward helping students improve study skills.

It only takes a moment for a student to make the decision to drop out of school. Career colleges across America are proving that they’re willing to put years into keeping the students there.

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