September 29, 2010
Community colleges have recently experienced a surge in enrollment. Due to the recession, students are looking for more affordable ways to go to college and older workers are returning to the classroom to pick up new skills. As a result, community colleges are experimenting with new ways to keep up with student demands, including offering midnight classes.
"The idea of midnight classes was something of a novelty, but it's turned into a necessity," said Mary Fifield, President of Bunker Hill Community College, to Reuters. According to a press release, BHCC was first in the nation to offer midnight classes in fall 2009. At the time, just two classes--College Writing I and Introductory Psychology--were offered. This fall, however, the school is offering five midnight classes--College Writing I, College Algebra, Introductory and Advanced Psychology and Introductory Sociology--to accommodate students. According to The Baltimore Sun, students receive unlimited free coffee, donuts and taxi vouchers to get home after late night classes.
Reuters reported that the national community college enrollment has gone up 16.9 percent from two years earlier. BHCC alone had more than 12,000 students enroll for the fall semester--an increase of 12 percent from last year noted Fifield.
The Baltimore Sun stated that the late night classes have been particularly popular among students with unusual schedules such as police officers, baggage handlers from the airport and single mothers. People with irregular schedules often find that community colleges are the best bet when it comes to finding classes that fit into their schedules. "I think a hallmark of community colleges is our flexibility. We'll try any new, creative idea as long as it serves some group of students. The basic belief is that everyone should have an opportunity to go to college, and we'll do everything necessary to make that possible," explained Fifield.
Although the new trend seems a bit odd, a handful of other colleges are following suit. Anne Arundel Community College, for instance, began offering a psychology class, informally called "Midnight Madness", from midnight to 3 a.m. this fall. "This is honestly one of the most unique applications I've seen at a brick-and-mortar institution," said Paul Vinette, professor of the late night class.
While some students simply appreciate the accessibility, others are just natural night owls. Wick Sloane, who has taught midnight writing classes at BHCC, told The Baltimore Sun, "What pleasantly surprised us is that the students have as much energy as they do at any other time of the day. I'll look at my watch, and it's 2:30 a.m. and we're still talking." Peter Bonna, a veteran cop who will retire soon and intends to retrain as a nurse, told Reuters, "I think it's awesome. I wish they had a whole program like this."
Likewise, most professors do not mind the late hours. Kathleen O'Neill, who teaches a midnight "Principles of Psychology" class at BHCC, told Reuters that the students' dedication helps keep her motivated. Sloane echoed O'Neill's sentiments: "These are people of tremendous motivation. And as long as they show up, we'll show up," he said to The Baltimore Sun.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"Anne Arundel Community College to offer midnight class," baltimoresun.com, April 26, 2010, Childs Walker
"Bunker Hill Community College Fall Enrollment Breaks Another Record," PRNewsire.com, September 17, 2010
"Hard times spur midnight classes at college," reuters.com, September 28, 2010, Ros Krasny