Dr. David Levinson
Dr. Levinson stated that higher education is in crisis. Students and past students carry an aggregate of 1.2 trillion dollars of debt, which is more than is owed all the credit card companies, or any other debt category. On average a U.S. student graduates college with $27,000 of debt with many owing many times that amount. But to add insult to injury, when students do graduate many cannot find a job as they are not prepared for the modern work force.
In contrast, Norwalk Community College (“NCC”) students only pay $4,200 in tuition. They get the benefit of a very diverse student make-up with students from 80 nations that are native speakers of 50 different languages. The average class size is in the twenties. Many transfer to four year colleges after two years at NCC although statistically those who graduate from NCC do better at finding meaningful career starting positions because they have received the training that employers seek.
NCC also provides one million dollars in private scholarship money annually. It has an endowment of 28 million, which is the third largest of the 18 public colleges and universities in the state.
All students at UCC take a basic course curriculum, which includes English, mathematics and oral communications. The students also engage in project based learning rather than the older “chalk and talk” lecture method so they learn how to do things in a hands-on manner. This leads to employable skills. NCC has a number of specialized learning programs including genomics, lab schools for early childhood education, middle school programs and a program for high school students where they come to NCC for college credit courses in software development. Such programs address the remedial needs of many students so they are prepared when they eventually enter college as a regular student.
Q. What is your reaction to the idea of free community college?
A. Free community college would relieve pressure on students living expenses and other expenses like those associated with books. It would allow for more students to attend college when some college is a modern necessity in this technological age. On the downside, it would place the burden for community college funding on the state when the state may not be able to afford it. I doubt that the concept would pass.
Q. Is it possible for students to get exposure to the arts in a community college?
A. NCC has a performing arts program. And I do believe that it is important for a student to have a balanced education. We do have a liberal arts program as part of our basic curriculum.
Q. Can you move to UConn after NCC?
A. There is a program for that, which we set up in conjunction with UConn where UConn recognizes all your credits, but the reality is that a student can get a more robust student life at NCC if they stay until they graduate.
Q. What is the breakdown of your student body?
A. Most of our students are part time. Only 37% are full time. I wish there were more full timers. We do have some flexibility for workloads, but the typical full time load is 15 credits a semester. About 40% of our students are night students.
Q. What percentage of your graduates donate to the school?
A. A small number—maybe 5%-10%. We have not done much to cultivate our alums. We have to do much more.
Q. How do today’s students learn?
A. They are very visual. We need to do more with technology to conform to this reality.