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ERIC Number: EJ999550
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1067-1803
She's Come Undone
Allman, Leah; Valentine, Ann; Valentine, Ethan
Community College Journal, v83 n1 p42-47 Aug-Sep 2012
Jane walks your hallways and those of many colleges and universities across the country. Angry, defiant, and frustrated, she is deeply in debt with college loans and without a single college credit to her name. "She's come undone," as the song says, and there is concern among the staff that she may well hurt someone. According to the authors, Jane (not her real name, of course) came to their college using federal job retraining funds, Perkins, and Pell grants sewn together in a patchwork of student financial aid. She took out loans for living expenses left uncovered by other aid. In concert with campus procedures, Jane took a placement exam that showed a very clear need for some developmental coursework. She was not academically ready for college and didn't fare well in her developmental courses. For an entire academic year, Jane was enrolled in pre-college courses that used up financial aid and started a cycle of dependence, frustration, and repetition. What her experience did not do was provide a pathway to a successful career. Placement tests and high school equivalency marks are the standard measures by which colleges gauge academic readiness for students such as Jane. Such marks often also determine whether Jane and students such as her meet the "ability to benefit" standard. On its face, the "ability to benefit" standard is intended to protect students such as Jane from going unnecessarily into debt. Simply put, if a student does not show a cognitive ability to benefit from higher education, the college is precluded from offering federal financial aid. Though Jane may have demonstrated a cognitive ability to benefit from college, she might present other noncognitive factors, such as prior emotional or psychological distress, that would cause the college to reconsider her eligibility. Though cognitive "ability to benefit" standards help in many cases, they fall short for students such as Jane. Research into links between emotional or social disturbances and learning, and how these links could be applied in the field alongside cognitive measures, leaves room for improvement. Better understanding the issues at play will allow community colleges to better serve their students and communities.
American Association of Community Colleges. One Dupont Circle NW Suite 410, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-728-0200; Fax: 202-833-2467; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Two Year Colleges
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Pell Grant Program