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Minors on campus may present challenges

By Leah Thomas
On October 18, 2017

Minors on college campuses may have a bad rap, but the young students at MCCC seem to be some of the best students.

There are 707 students under 18 enrolled in MCCC classes; that means about one out of every four students is a minor.

Minors attend college for a variety of reasons. Some find high school lacking advanced courses, some are home schooled, and others are in a middle college.

Community colleges in California found their campuses full of students under age, and they thought the rules for minors were a little blurry.

They adopted policies listed in the article, “Minors on Campus: Underage Students at Community Colleges,” which outlined concerns with minors and ways to handle them.

“Given that students under the age of 18 are legally considered minors, community college faculty and staff are often uncertain about their roles and responsibilities for these students,” the article stated.

Faculty in California said the presence of minors in the classroom sometimes changed the dynamic of class.

Faculty felt like they needed to censor lectures, and older students in the class felt uncomfortable discussing adult topics.

“At one point in the semester, what was typically a lively discourse about historical methods of dealing with child birth was hampered by the discomfort of the other students in candidly and graphically discussing labor and birth in front of a child.”

This issue is relevant in any community college.

Several MCCC professors declined to share any challenging experiences with minors in the classroom, saying that most reports are positive.

Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology Martin Dubois said the minors in his classroom are the best students.

“They show up religiously, submit assignments on time, and their work is typically above average,” he said.
Tom Ryder, Student Activities coordinator, said young students are ambitious and excited to learn.

“I think our Middle College students are a little more mature. I found a real common thread with them that they don’t like the drama. They are more about studying and moving ahead quicker than most normal high school students,” he said.

The principal of Monroe County Middle College, Robert Krueger, said professors should never feel pressured to tailor their lectures for a younger audience.

“We don’t expect them to change their instructional practice, their content that is discussed or anything because of the students that are in there,” he said.

“We want our students to be in a traditional college class.”

Each Middle College student is paired with an advisor. Advisors inform students of the content of each class.

Students then read the course description and decide whether or not they want to take the course.

Krueger said 15 or 16-year-olds focus on completing the general education courses, which do not usually contain mature content.

Ryder has advised many Middle College students in Student Government and Student Ambassadors.

“I don’t care if they are a Middle College student taking a college course or one of my college students. I look at them all the same,” he said.

“If you are joining Student Government or you’re joining Student Ambassadors, you are a college student to me, and I am going to treat you the same whether you are 16 or whether you are 20.”

Not only did California community colleges report immature students, they also had problems with the parents of minors.

The article said some parents expected to be involved with their child’s coursework.

“Some parents want to accompany their child to class. Others want to be able to review course assignments and their child’s work for the course. Most want to be apprised of the child’s progress and the grades he/she receives for assignments and the course.”

Krueger said they have not had much trouble with parents in the Middle College.

He said he is transparent with parents. They have an information night that outlines the guidelines for first-time parents, so they know they cannot accompany their child in class, contact professors, or look at grades.

If a problem arises, parents and students should come to him.

“We really, really really push it on the student that’s in that situation to resolve it the best they can,” he said.

If the student is not able to resolve the issue, he is the middleman who speaks to the college for the student or parent.

Krueger said a few parents have tried to go directly to the professor, but they are always redirected back to him.

Krueger said he has not heard of any overtly bad behavior, but young students do some goofy things.

“They are still young and so there are still some of those immature behaviors that we have to address. I try to do it really quickly and be very consistent,” he said. “I tell them a lot of times jokingly, “Don’t be an idiot.”

When parents have to let their children go, some do it better than others.

“I think as a parent, you always watch over your kids,” Ryder said. “I am pretty strict with my kids. I stress education to them and how important it is. So, if they are not getting good grades, I kind of want to know about it.”

Both his children took classes at MCCC.

“I certainly don’t want to make any waves with my colleagues, so I do resist the temptation to jump in if there is a problem,” Ryder said.

Ana Meyers, a mother of minors at MCCC, was not as fortunate.

Her daughter, Jackie, took a political science class her first semester, and it turned into a big life lesson.

At the beginning of the semester, Jackie had trouble accessing the online assignments.

She asked her professor to help her, but he said he was too busy and she needed to use her resources.

After trying a few more times, Jackie gave up and decided not to do the assignments because she thought they were optional.

Two weeks before the semester ended, Jackie found out she was failing the class.

Jackie tried emailing the professor to ask if she could get credit for late work. He did not respond.

After class, Jackie came home furious because the professor had blown her off.

Meyers told Jackie she was not giving up.

“Jackie, I know you. You weren’t bold enough. You have to get right in his face and say, ‘I need to talk to you,’” Meyers told her daughter.

Meyers said the professor gave Jackie the opportunity to do harder assignments for credit. She did all of them plus the ones missed.

“It was a long haul, but I didn’t contact him. I just made her do those things,” Meyers said.

“It was a really good life lesson, and I think I wouldn’t have traded it. I really was glad she went through that. It woke her up early.”

Meyers said she only gives guidance.

“I figure they are in college; they need to help themselves.”

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