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Posted at 9:49 AM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Survey: Community college students prize Internet access over teachers

By Daniel de Vise

Community college students have come to view online education as key to their success above all else, according to a new report billed as the first national survey of students in two-year colleges.

Pearson Foundation hired Harris Interactive to survey 1,434 community college students last fall.

Here's the finding that stands out:

More than than 70 percent of students surveyed "believe that it is important to have access to high speed Internet in order to succeed at community college," the report states. "In fact, students tend to believe that high speed Internet access is more important for success than having access to advisors or relationships with professors."

In other words, today's community college student considers an Internet hookup more important than any human on campus.

More than 40 percent of community college students reported they were currently taking at least one course online, and 60 percent said they had taken at least one online course in their community college career.

Students tend to believe they can benefit from online homework and tutorials. And those who have considered dropping out are "particularly likely to think they could do better in their courses if they spent more time using these online materials," the report states.

Students at risk of dropping out are more likely to have taken online courses, and also more likely to believe online education is "highly important" for them to succeed. This is presumably because online education is a flexible learning model, available to students almost anywhere and at most any time.

Among newly enrolled students, the survey found "nearly one in six students had already either dropped out or had seriously considered dropping out of community college during the first three months of the semester"

Those students tend to be male, parents of school-age children, employed full-time, attending college part-time and enrolled in remedial courses, and to have lower grade-point averages.

One-third of students said they had "difficulty enrolling in courses that they needed for the fall 2010 semester or that they weren't able to enroll in certain classes because they were full," the report states.

Only a third of students surveyed said they had enrolled in community college straight out of high school. Another third were returning from the workforce, and the final third was pursuing self-improvement "or enjoyment".

A 60-percent majority of students said they hope to transfer to a four-year college -- although actual transfer rates are far lower than that -- while one-third said they were only interested in an associate degree.

Half of students surveyed were 26 or older.

One-third of students said they were unable to enroll in one or more classes in fall because they were full. The economic downturn has increased enrollment at community colleges even as it has sapped their budgets, leading some schools to effectively cap enrollment.

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By Daniel de Vise  | February 9, 2011; 9:49 AM ET
Categories:  Access, Attainment, Community Colleges, Finance, Online, Research, Students  | Tags:  college access, community college, community college survey, online education college  
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