Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The New Normal for “Night School”

I am in Boston which is of no consequence to any reader, but this reminds me of an attention grabbing story in The New York Times last week, page 1, above the fold, about a new meaning to “night school.” The focus of the story was on the huge influx of enrollment of students into community colleges and the resultant space capacity crunch and how some colleges were dealing with this by expanding hours of operation. As an illustration, Bunker Hill Community College in Boston is offering classes starting as late as 11:30 PM running until 2:30 AM. Other colleges are moving earliest class to 6:00 AM. So readers, how many of us were so committed to our own college experience that we would go at 11:30 at night or 6:00 AM in the morning to an academic event?!

So here I am in Boston where American higher education began in 1636 with the founding of Harvard, and where the ongoing refinement of higher education is taking still another new form. Given the low probability of increased government funding for higher education, this massive shift of students into the two-year sector will be the “new normal.”

This leads me to think of the resilience, the adaptability, the creativity, the necessity, of both our higher ed enterprise and our students. They need us more than ever. Our country needs them more than ever. Personally, I admire the kind of thinking that went into the decisions to make higher ed available, literally at all costs, in any legitimate way, and the remarkable determination and courage of those seeking what we have to offer.

We have a great responsibility to such students, all our students. What a privilege to work with such brave new beginners. And we all have students like these.

John N. Gardner

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