Last year, I was fortunate to speak with faculty at Maryland’s Howard Community College about OPEN ADMISSIONS and the mission of teaching nontraditional students.

HCC President Kate Hetherington’s praise for the book meant a lot to me, as did her invitation to address the faculty then to work with a small faculty group. I was very impressed by the faculty and their leadership, so am not surprised to see HCC win the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

As Matthew Dembicki explains in Community College Daily,

“HCC is only the third community college institution to receive the award…(which) honors HCC’s shared commitment, which has resulted in improvements in closing the achievement gap, increasing completion and preparing students for the workforce, HCC President Kate Hetherington said in a press release. For example, the college has increased its graduation rate by 168 percent within two years of entry, from the 2008 to the 2017 entering cohorts of first-time-to-college students. It also tripled the graduation rates for first-time-to-college black/African-American and Hispanic/Latino students within two years of entry.”

When colleges are evaluated, student persistence always matters. Persistence for nontraditional students means navigating life challenges that traditional college students are less likely to face. HCC’s “persistence rate — which is the number of students who graduated, transferred, earned at least 30 credits with a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 or above, or were still enrolled at HCC four years after entry — has increased significantly over the past three fiscal years (FY), from just over 75 percent in FY 2016, to over 80 percent in FY 2018.”

Commencement at Howard CC 2019 (HCC photo from CC Daily)

Also rising at HCC are the numbers for attainment of degrees and job placement. “HCC noted that part of its success is due to its student support programs, including financial aid, counseling, advisory and tutoring services, 280 flexible format courses and information technology support services.”

The hands-on support that characterizes community colleges and similar institutions (like University of Maine at Augusta Rockland Center, where I live in Maine) is part of who these schools are. It’s a defining part of their organization and culture. Because of that, these wonderful schools continue to provide turning points for first generation students.


So glad to see a CC recognized for high achievement. Great work by the teachers (like the folks pictured with me above) and staff at Howard Community College! Well done!


Here’s what Kate Hetherington of HCC said about OPEN ADMISSIONS                            “With humor and compassion, Bachus reveals the transformational work that occurs in community colleges in helping students reach their educational goals. He intertwines his own mishaps in a foreign land with the challenges that students face as they enter the new world of academic. Teaching and learning occurs by both faculty and students in this must-read book for anyone employed at a community college.”


Ned Bachus is the author of Open Admissions: What Teaching at Community College Taught Me About Learning (Wild River Books, 2017) and of the “Turning Points” weekly blog on City of Brotherly Love (Fleur-de-Lis Books), his book of stories, was awarded the 2013 IPPY Gold Medal for Literary Fiction. Bachus’s article, “Learning From Turning Points in Our Teaching Lives,” was featured in the May issue of NEA Higher Education Advocate, which reaches over 150,000 college faculty in the U.S.