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Wall Street Journal: Community Colleges Try to Revamp Image to Keep Students

9/20/2013 12:00 AM

​Community colleges, which offer everything from certificates in welding to associate degrees in computer science, are increasingly building student centers and developing housing options to keep students more connected to their schools. They are offering services like mental-health counseling to help students navigate life outside the classroom…

Some colleges have centralized new perks in "wellness centers" that offer services such as mental-health counseling, physical-fitness programs and financial advice. At City Colleges of Chicago, one of the largest community-college systems in the U.S., administrators opened wellness centers at all seven schools last year. The Chicago system's graduation rate climbed to 12% in the 2012-13 school year, up from 7% in 2008-09.

"Students at a four-year campus will have a roof over their heads, a dormitory and a meal plan," said Michael Russell, who directs wellness centers for the system. "We have students who do not necessarily have that."

Officials at Indiana's statewide Ivy Tech Community College recently finished a $4.5 million addition to its South Bend campus, which now offers on-campus dining, a larger bookstore and a student center. A $17 million, state-funded facility in Gary, Ind., is in the works to provide students there with a fitness and wellness center, as well as academic offices.

Thomas Coley, Ivy Tech chancellor for the state's north central and northwest region, said his school is in "catch-up mode" to offer services like other community colleges.​ ...

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