Through standardized measures such as ongoing accreditation, job placement rates, and pass rates on nationally normed exams, Edison is able to clearly measure and communicate its commitment to academic rigor and quality. In community colleges, the mission of open access is complimented by a commitment to teaching and learning above all other academic pursuits (such as research and publishing). Teaching and learning, however, extend outside the realm of the classroom and into the daily lives of students as well. Among other goals it establishes for the student experience, Edison aims to educate the whole student – in and out of the classroom.
So much of the academic journey is about discovery, and yet often, students have not discovered enough about themselves to help ensure the best choice in academic program and ultimately, career path. New Edison students are engaged in this discovery early and frequently in the enrollment process. Some engagement is informal, such as the selection of a major on an application or the mention of preferred job title after graduation when meeting with an enrollment advisor. For many students, the engagement of discovery becomes formalized through the use of two distinct career assessment tools that are given sometimes before enrollment, and sometimes during the student’s first semester of work. Sometimes, it’s not even necessary to identify a specific career, but rather an array of careers with a consistent theme (the ‘helping’ careers of social work, criminal justice, and nursing, for example).
Once the broad theme is identified, students can assess their choices more deeply with course work, catalog research, and partner pathways (post-graduation from Edison). Every time a student meets with an advisor that goal is revisited and either confirmed or amended. Students often change their plans based on new experience in the classroom or changing life circumstances. Regardless of what path they choose, Edison students complete this portion of out-of-classroom education as they near graduation, and receive coaching in identifying job prospects, assembling application packets, and interview techniques.
Students undergo terrific amounts of change when beginning (or returning) to college. Not all of them are equipped to address the allocation of time, money, and family demands early on. Some students who are strong in academic ability lack the executive skills to navigate course demands. These are all gap areas that are filled through the First Year Experience course available for students. Though the instructional part of the course takes place in the classroom, all of the assignments are practical, applicable, and externally focused to help students identify their potential barriers and place the appropriate remedies in front of them. Teaching students what they don’t know, especially early in their experience, helps ensure the maximum likelihood of persistence and success.
Learning about their emotional needs is accompanied by a focus on self-care and overall student health. Students are supported with messaging, resources, and interactive experiences throughout the academic year in an effort to help them learn or confirm what their bodies and minds need by way of nutrition, exercise, and good habits. Edison’s walk-in health services office meets needs ranging from crises to everyday aches and illnesses. Referrals are made to outside agencies and providers when appropriate. For students who may struggle with cognitive or developmental learning barriers, Edison provides and coordinates services to help address those barriers, through an established partnership between the classroom faculty and the success advisors.
It is being said that today’s traditional age student is consumer-minded when it comes to demanding quality services and instruction, but their level of consumerism does not always reach beyond into assuring that they take advantage of all that is due them as a matter of course. Edison’s focus on our quality is complimented by the value inherent in our low cost, convenience, and accessibility, but if there is not dividend placed on value, the argument is lost on students.
Consumerism in higher education is the cause for much debate and speculation and is often seen as the enemy to quality. Edison teaches students that value and quality can (and do) go together. For example, when students apply for financial aid at Edison, they are not automatically packaged with a student loan to help cover any costs. Instead, students have to request a loan separately to help ensure that multiple opportunities exist and are used to ensure the necessity of the loan and educate about the true cost of loans, now and down the road. We also offer financial literacy modules to students as they near program completion, and require loan exit counseling as students prepare to leave. After all, any financial lessons learned early in life have a longer benefit to the student.
Edison understands that while college is ultimately about academics and attaining a degree or certificate, it is also about learning to navigate life – in all of its facets, with all of its demands, and ultimately, with all of its benefits. When our students graduate, we want to them to say that we’ve treated them like customers, while also understanding that they are also our most important product.