Students can't graduate if they can't get to class

Lack of transportation affects community college retention

Community colleges in both urban and rural settings often lack public transportation, making it difficult for students to get to and from class, Ashley Smith writes for Inside Higher Ed. 

 

For example, at North Shore Community College, located north of the Boston metropolitan area, Boston's public transportation lines stop a full four miles short of one of the school's three primary campuses. At North Shore, students say they arrange their class schedules based on this transportation shortage, only selecting courses they know they'll be able to access.

 

In an effort to get the local bus route extended, North Shore has been working alongside transportation consultants to study the demographics in the area. Unfortunately, there is a road block to the extension plans: The college must inform the bus line of its potential ridership, a number they currently do not have.

 

In the hopes of pinpointing ridership numbers, North Shore recently partnered with the ride sharing app Uber. The college is currently subsidizing Uber rides for students who use the app to travel between the last bus stop and campus. The cost of subsidizing Uber trips—$40,000—is far less than the $100,000 it would have cost for the college to establish shuttles to and from the nearest bus stop. Uber plans to collect data on how many students use the service to estimate potential bus ridership.

 

In rural areas, transportation is an even bigger issue for community colleges. According to Randy Smith, president of the Rural Community College Alliance, students on average travel 52 miles round trip to attend school. Because public transportation is often non-existent, students may rely on shared family vehicles or carpools. "Changes in who gets to drive a family vehicle to work may determine whether or not a student drops out," says Smith.

 

How one institution identified where to focus their advising efforts—and retained 400 additional students

New Jersey's Brookdale Community College has successfully lobbied New Jersey Transit for three bus routes with flexible service. Other community colleges such as Mt. Hood Community College in Portland, Oregon, however, have had no such luck.

 

Like North Shore in Boston, Mt. Hood must prove its ridership in order to establish its proposed rapid-bus route to the campus. Mt. Hood's demographics include many low-income, first-generation students, who often don't own a car and rely on mass transit. But the route proposal is currently on the chopping block because of limited funding (Smith, Inside Higher Ed, 9/15).

There is a way to scale support for disadvantaged students


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