On Teaching Fashion: Students and the Economy

We all know it:  the worldwide economy is down.  For an American community college instructor like me, that means both good and bad changes for my campus.  My state’s budget is facing a huge deficit, which in turn impacts my college’s budget.  However, on the bright side, as happens in an economic downturn, enrollment has increased. 

One of the hallmarks of community college is its accessibility.  The tuition is relatively low and just about everyone who applies is accepted, regardless of ability.  When the economy cycles down, enrollments increase when, after months of unsuccessful job hunting, unemployed workers step in a new direction and come to community college to learn new skills, perhaps earn a certificate or  two-year associate’s degree, or transfer to a university to complete a baccalaureate degree.  When those unemployed workers learn new skills and find new career paths, this helps stimulate economic recovery. 

 

What about those students who are recent high school graduates, or are new college students in another phase of their lives?  Take a moment to imagine the impact of the economic downturn on college and university students.  For those of you teachers out there, think of your own new students who struggle through school.  For those of you former students, recall for a moment what it was like to be a new student going through the process of learning how to navigate college and university life.  Now picture yourself losing your job because your employer went out of business, or losing your home or apartment because your landlord was in foreclosure (and having law enforcement tell you that you and your family have 10 days to vacate the premises).  Then try finding a new job, or a new place to live, in today’s economic climate.  And maintain your grade point average at the same time.

Now that you have that picture of life for students these days, imagine what their instructors’ responses should be if their students need to miss or reschedule exams, turn in homework late, or miss classes.  Should we tell them they need to learn to work around their off-campus life and make no accommodations for them?  Or do we provide them with reasonable extra help?  Often, students are too shy to ask for help, or if they do, their instructors are not sympathetic.  What often makes the difference in whether a student is persistent in pursuing their education and succeeding is one professor taking a few small moments to have a little empathy for them.  It only takes a small portion of our time.  It really is so small, and makes such a difference.  We can do it.   

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