In April 2015, the college plans of some 16,000 students were upended by the closure of Corinthian Colleges-affiliated schools. Campuses in Canada closed earlier this year; U.S. campuses closed in April after the Department of Education fined the company $30 million for publicizing falsified data (mostly related to employment) that misled current and prospective students. Corinthian Colleges Inc. operated institutions in California, Hawaii, and Oregon including Heald College, Everest College, and WyoTech. Heald College focused, in part, on training for careers in business and health care; WyoTech on automotive and other technical careers; and Everest offered associate and bachelor degrees in business, medical assisting, and criminal justice. These colleges may have filled a need for practical training for many adults but at a very high price – $480 million in private student loans, which will be forgiven as part of a deal between federal agencies and a company buying some Corinthian campuses.
We have seen public libraries step up to support the community in times of natural disaster. When Hurricane Sandy lashed the eastern seaboard devastating the Jersey shore, several public libraries in the area opened for business as usual providing a warm place for residents to access the Internet, charge laptops and cell phones, play games, and watch movies. Some library branches in New York served as gathering places for Red Cross and FEMA workers. Recently, Sara Zettervall wrote about public libraries hiring social workers and partnering with social work students to provide much needed services and information to patrons. I believe this principle of “whole person librarianship” certainly extends to the educational needs of our patrons. As educational institutions serving the intellectual, creative, and now social service needs of the community, public libraries can certainly do more to meet the needs of college bound patrons, particularly adults such as those impacted by sudden college closures.
Host a college information literacy session. The technical and job-related programs offered by Corinthian Colleges are attractive to many patrons. These programs may have easy admissions procedures, classes offered at reasonable times for working adults, and the guarantee of ready-to-use workplace skills. Prospective students need to know about other educational opportunities are available in their community that meet these same needs. During an information literacy session, librarians can help patrons make informed decision through the use of online tools such as College Navigator, created by the National Center for Education Statistics. The database of accredited institutions is another valuable tool; however patrons should limit their options to regionally accredited institutions. If and when a student decides to transfer to another institution, credits earned at regionally accredited institutions are more likely to transfer than those earned at non-regionally accredited schools. Patrons also will benefit from a special session on financial planning for education-related expenses; representatives from state-level educational assistance agencies can provide this information.
Reserve computers for college-planning. Many students affected by Corinthian’s closure will need to apply to transfer to another institution. Unless able to travel to each institution to complete an admissions application, students will need to apply online. Depending on one’s computer skills, completing an online admissions application may take several minutes to an hour. Libraries can help by reserving computers during certain hours for the specific use of completing admissions and financial aid applications. Staff can be available to assist with basic online searching and using the Internet to find college websites.
Host a college fair. It helps if students have at least one friendly contact at a college or university who can answer questions and direct them to relevant resources. Use library meeting space for a pop-up college fair for college representatives to meet with prospective students and provide information on the admissions process, degrees offered, financial aid, and campus resources. If representatives are unable to attend, offer a no-host information table with catalogs and other materials. Library staff can create a display with books on general college-planning, test preparation, financial planning, and writing. Bookmarks with call numbers of resources related to college-planning will be helpful for patrons who wish to explore options on their own.
Bring in career development facilitators. Career development facilitators (CDF) and career counselors can be invited to present on job transition, training, and career options. Librarians and CDFs can work together to train patrons on the use of online job and career information resources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook and O*Net Online, sponsored by the Department of Labor. Through these resources, patrons may find other interesting career paths and additional ways to use their current skills and training.
Public libraries needn’t shoulder the responsibility of staffing all college-planning programs. Local colleges and universities are natural partners in this effort. Other potential partners include local workforce and economic development agencies and chambers of commerce. Offering library meeting space for local organizations to present on college-planning options, services, and resources is a great way to serve college-bound patrons. Additionally, making college-planning resources available and easily accessible within the library and on the library’s website will be especially helpful for adult and nontraditional students who may be reticent to inquire about college options. It’s in public libraries’ DNA to support the educational needs of the community, and an opportunity to proactively meet patrons’ college-planning needs has presented itself in a major way.
Africa Hands is a higher education professional turned librarian in Louisville, KY. She is the author of Successfully Serving the College Bound (ALA Editions, 2015) and chair of the ALSC committee Library Services to Special Population Children and Their Caregivers. You can find her sharing news and resources related to youth services and higher education on Twitter @africahands.