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Women In Community Colleges report out

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POTSDAM - The American Association of American University (AAUW) released a new report, Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success, highlighting the importance of community college as a primary educational option for student mothers.

The AAUW report calls for increasing on-campus child care funding to help parents stay in school and graduate and outlines steps community colleges can take to increase women’s participation and success in nontraditional and high-demand science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“It’s clear that community colleges are critical pathways to higher learning. And women make up a majority of the total student population at these institutions,” said AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman, CAE. “While we celebrate the affordability and accessibility of community colleges, access is not enough; too many students enroll but don’t actually complete their coursework.”

Student mothers are especially likely to choose a community college, yet many of these schools don’t have child care facilities or programs. While more than a million moms go to community college and moms say that child care is important to their success there less than half of community colleges provide on-campus child care.

Federal funds available to help schools provide these services have decreased, even though child care could help mothers stay in school. Increasing the number of college graduates is a top priority of the Obama administration, and more child care can help achieve this goal sooner.

But efforts to understand how to help student mothers will, unfortunately, remain incomplete until data collection methods are improved. “Community colleges educate 40 percent of all U.S. undergraduate students, yet our main federal data system does not adequately report outcomes for community college students,” said Catherine Hill, AAUW director of research.

Hill went on, “If we expect community colleges to do more in the next decades, our current data collection system just won’t work. Data may not be a sexy topic, but without good information, we’ll never know if our educational investments are paying off.”

The report also discusses how community college can play a role in increasing women’s participation in STEM. Women are more likely than men to attend community college on the way to earning a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field, which makes active recruitment of women all the more important to our country’s economic success. The AAUW report calls for improved outreach to and recruitment and support of women in these nontraditional fields.

The report singles out the Career Pathways Initiative (CPI), a program for low-income parents offered at all of Arkansas’ community colleges, for praise. CPI offers assistance to low-income parents through a combination of tutoring, academic advising and career services. “More schools and states need to follow this example,” report co-author Andresse St. Rose said.

AAUW is putting its resources behind efforts to improve women’s achievement at community colleges. As part of a larger initiative on community colleges, AAUW will host and live-stream a May 21 town hall event at the Northern Virginia Community College, Alexandria campus, and announce the availability of grants for campus-based projects on the issues raised in the report.

Locally, AAUW-St. Lawrence County has strong and close ties to all four colleges, including SUNY Canton, which fills the role of a community college in this area. AAUW gives an annual Memorial Scholarship to a woman transitioning her two-year degree to a four year degree. The 2013 AAUW scholarship will be given in memory of AAUW member Mary Bucher, a long-time Librarian at SUNY Canton.

Membership in the St. Lawrence County Branch is open to anyone who supports the mission of AAUW. AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, and research.

AAUW, with its nationwide network of more than 100,000 members, more than 1,000 branches conducting programs in communities across the country, and 500 college and university partners, has been a leading advocate for equity and education for women and their families since 1881.

For more information about AAUW in St. Lawrence County, contact President Jennifer Ball at 268- 4208 or jball@clarkson.edu or Public Policy Chair Kathleen Stein at 386-3812, kstein1@twcny.rr.com, or visit the branch website, http://www.northnet.org/stlawrenceaauw/index.html.

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