State explores ways to lower first-year dropout costs

By Katie Blaser
Managing Editor

According to a report, Wyoming spends $4.3 million a year on first-year community college students who end up dropping out of school.

The American Institutes for Research has reported from 2004 to 2009, nearly $21 million in state appropriations and grants were spent on community college students.

Dr. Jim Rose, executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, does not believe any college is immune to this issue.

Rose said students have many challenges not only at school but also in their personal lives. He said he believed, in part, those challenges have a weighing impact on students’ decisions to continue college.

Community colleges are largely made up of part-time students, Rose said. He added because of students’ needs to keep full-time jobs and carry other responsibilities in their personal lives, many students decide college is the easiest to quit.

“Life can intervene,” Rose said.

Along with daily life and responsibilities, those may not be the only aspects keeping dropout rates high. Rose said prospects are lower for part-time students, and it obviously takes much longer for a part-time student to earn a degree and enter the workforce.

Whether students become discouraged or are too busy, their partial education is costing the state more than desired.

“A college’s principle being is to educate,” Rose said. He said he believed because of this issue, overall, the biggest loss for the college is falling short of meeting its goal to educate.

According to Rose, a proposal to the governor has been made to help alleviate this problem. This proposal involved creating a new program that will provide attention and assistance for students who have other challenges in their lives and may need more support than other students. The program will also help students find tutors and the help they might need to get through difficulties they face while struggling to balance life as a student.

Another issue that concerns the WCCC is some students fresh out of high school may have not been adequately prepared for taking college level courses.

To help with this problem, Rose said the WCCC has begun to work with its K-12 counterparts to become better aligned.