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Graveyard Shift Courses Grow in Popularity at Community Colleges

December 9, 2009

by Agnes Jasinski

You've already heard about rising enrollment rates at community colleges as many across the country look to make themselves more desirable job candidates in a tough economy by returning to school. But you may not know how some of the two-year schools have been accommodating the large numbers of students flooding their campuses: courses offered at midnight.

Typically offering classes between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., some community colleges have found modest success by offering midnight course offerings to those who were shut out during an overcrowded registration process or whose day jobs and lifestyles conflict with sessions within more traditional time frames. An article in Inside Higher Ed today takes a look at Clackamas Community College's "graveyard welding classes," courses that run from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. in both introductory and specialized welding. The classes made their debut last spring with two classes offered, but their popularity caused administrators to offer them four times a week this fall. The classes were the idea of an adjunct welding instructor who compared the classes to early welding jobs where he would stay at manufacturing shops until 2:30 in the morning, often later (or earlier, depending on how you look at it).

The College of Southern Nevada will offer six classes from midnight through 1:30 a.m. next semester. The Community College of Allegheny County will offer welding classes similar to those at Clackamas this spring. Bunker Hill Community College started offering two graveyard shift classes this fall that start just before midnight and go until 2:30 a.m. Administrators say that the classes, introductory courses in English and psychology, were successful enough that they will both be offered next semester, along with an introductory sociology course.

An opinion piece in Inside Higher Ed last fall from one of the instructors at Bunker Hill criticizes the need for courses at such an unorthodox hour. Courses there were already being offered through 10 p.m., which wasn't enough. Two thirds of the writer's class enrolled in the late course because all of the day, evening, and weekend classes were full, making it difficult for students to move forward in their programs and meet course requirements. The writer went so far as to call it a "national nightmare."

"Actually give these institutions enough money so that there are professors and classroom space before midnight? No one is really talking about that – and students are being denied sections in massive numbers, nationwide this year," the Bunker Hill instructor Wick Sloane wrote.

As even President Obama continues to urge more students back to college, and with more of an emphasis on community colleges to absorb those rising enrollment numbers, midnight courses may be here to stay.


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