For Community Colleges, 'Seduction' in Marketing?

By Jay Mathews
Thursday, May 3, 2007

Dear Extra Credit:

I am writing to tell you about what I call the Montgomery College Seduction.

I hope that you'll examine how Montgomery College's promotional campaigns steer high school graduates to that two-year college, even though many of them are qualified to attend four-year colleges.

A few weeks ago, my daughter, a sophomore at Magruder High School, shocked my wife and me by announcing (rather prematurely) that she was planning to attend Montgomery College instead of going directly to a four-year college.

Before I continue, I must mention that my son, a senior at Magruder, will enter a four-year university in the fall, so I thought that my other children would have a similar mind-set. And all of my children certainly have heard me talk about "going away to college" enough to know that it's practically a foregone conclusion that they will all attend four-year colleges right after high school.

So, when I heard my daughter's plans, I thought, "What's going on here?"

After talking with other students at Magruder and doing a bit of research, I think I have determined why my daughter thinks that entering Montgomery College after high school is a good decision: It's because of Montgomery College's extensive marketing.

Looking through the records of the daily announcements at my kids' school, Montgomery College is mentioned nearly every week, often several times. They get marketing brochures. We get promotional material in the mail. The counselors talk about MC. My kids just keep hearing MC, MC, MC.

At Magruder, the students even say that "MC" stands for "Magruder Continued" because so many students go to the college.

I am not happy with the Montgomery College Seduction. I think that there are many Montgomery County high school students who are qualified to attend four-year colleges but who end up at MC because it's a well-marketed, easy path to take. Every taxpayer dollar used to subsidize an MC education is a dollar that could have helped a student attend a four-year college. And while the University of Maryland has no shortage of applicants, other Maryland state colleges and universities could certainly grow and prosper if they had a larger pool of applicants.

Montgomery College might be the best path for some students. But to steer so many students to a two-year college is just plain wrong for the students, wrong for society and wrong for taxpayers.

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