Google’s Inclusion of Community Colleges in Its College Search Tool is a Step in the Right Direction
By Patrick Q. Bourke, ECMC Foundation
Image original source: Student Research Foundation
Last month, Google added community colleges to a search tool they originally launched in 2018 in an effort to make it easier for prospective students to learn about various postsecondary education options.
The original feature included information from the College Scorecard and federally collected data from four-year colleges and universities to inform prospective students about their college options. This tool pulled an institution’s selectivity, tuition, graduation rates, student loan repayment rates and expected earnings right to the first page of Google search results.
While this was progress towards greater transparency for prospective students, the absence of similar information through the tool for community colleges was glaring. Organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute called out this “blind spot” stating “Google’s search-display magic is reserved for students interested in just one part of our higher education sector — the one that mostly caters to traditional, full-time students seeking academic credentials who are often from upper-income households.”
The deficiency in the feature held true until last month when Google announced that two-year colleges had been included in this “Search” function.
ECMC Foundation applauds the addition of community colleges, especially during a time when such institutions are more relevant than ever in our economy. Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) uncovered the millions of “good jobs” currently unfilled that require more than a high school diploma and less than a bachelor’s degree. Certain jobs in the skilled trades and health care fields are among the many program offerings at community colleges that CEW termed “good jobs that pay without a BA.”
Community colleges are well-positioned to place students on a pathway to attain these types of jobs and earn an associate degree and beyond. In addition to providing a path towards a family-sustaining wage, community colleges also serve some of the most diverse students in higher education and make college accessible for students who find traditional four-year institutions overly rigid.
It is important to acknowledge college students who enroll directly in college after completing high school are no longer the majority of the college going population. Instead, independent students, such as single mothers, formerly incarcerated individuals, and veterans comprise the majority of undergraduates with the plurality of these students attending two-year institutions. Consequently, it is imperative that information about various college options is made readily available to students with numerous responsibilities competing for their attention. This new, enhanced feature should make learning about the range of educational opportunities easier than ever before on a search engine.
Lastly, we must remember that Google’s feature alone will not awaken the general public to the potential of diverse educational pathways, but making this information easily accessible through the search bar on a prospective student’s phone will go a long way to elevating the integral role these institutions play in educating America’s workforce.