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JENKINS: State colleges provide second chances for university 'drop-outs' too

One of the best things about our American higher education system is that it routinely offers students second chances — and sometimes third and fourth.

A lot of developed countries steer students onto either the college or the vocational track while they’re still in elementary school. In many cases, the choice is made for them, and there’s not much mobility between tracks.

U.S. students, on the other hand, can decide at any point that they want to attend college, even if they weren’t exactly studious in high school (not that I’m recommending that). They can even take a few years off to work — or not work, as the case may be — and start (or restart) college later.

In Georgia’s university system, the designated “second chance” institutions are the state colleges, including Georgia Perimeter College (where I teach), with campuses in Clarkston, Decatur, Covington, Dunwoody, and Alpharetta. Some state colleges, like GPC, are primarily two-year institutions whose students ultimately transfer to universities, while others offer bachelor’s degrees (although many of their students still transfer).

Increasingly, state colleges are becoming a “first choice” for many Georgia families, due to their relatively low tuition and high quality instruction. But they also specialize in helping students who might have made some poor decisions get back on track, academically.

When I say “get back on track,” you probably picture kids who fooled around in high school. Or maybe people who initially skipped college in favor of a paycheck, only to figure out later that they were in dead-end jobs and needed more education. And it’s certainly true that state colleges welcome students from both categories.

But there’s another type of student that state colleges are seeing these days with increasing frequency: those who did make good grades in high school, who were accepted into one of the state’s regional universities or maybe even one of the big flagships and went off to college feeling like they had the world by the horns.

But then a funny thing happened: they discovered that mom and dad weren’t there to get them up for class every morning — or make them go to bed at night. They started partying not just on Friday night but every night. They also figured out that their professors didn’t much care whether they showed up for class or not, and it was much easier, given the hangover, not.

Then came the end of the semester and they found themselves on academic suspension — what we used to call “flunking out.”

The good news is that Georgia’s state colleges are there for those students, too, providing the personalized attention and learning environment they need (read: no fraternities) to help them pull their grades up so they can transition back to the university.

Because high school kids aren’t the only ones who can make poor decisions — and they’re not the only ones who sometimes need second chances.

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of “Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility,” available at Books for Less in Buford and on Amazon. Email Rob at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com or visit familymanthebook.com.