Participation in humanities coursework is vital, both for community college students pursuing credentials considered “academic” and for those in career and technical education fields who may not transfer to four-year colleges. Humanities courses help students develop foundational skills; they may also light students’ fire for learning as they experience opportunities to think critically and collaborate creatively with peers.
In this report, the authors present findings from research on humanities coursetaking at Michigan community colleges conducted as part of the Strengthening Michigan Humanities (MiHumanities) project. The authors analyze quantitative data, including term-over-term enrollment, coursetaking, and credential completion records for students entering Michigan community colleges between academic years 2009-10 and 2017-18, and qualitative data from interviews and focus groups with faculty, administrators, and students at a number of Michigan community colleges. They find that while community college students and faculty identify benefits they associate with participation in humanities coursework, most Michigan community college students take relatively few humanities courses outside of English Composition, and the number of students taking non-composition humanities courses has declined modestly in recent years.
The use of streamlined pathways to promote program completion at community colleges makes it challenging for colleges to simply increase the number of humanities courses students are able to take within a program of study. It therefore becomes important for community colleges to make the most of the opportunities that students do have to encounter the humanities. Colleges should implement strategies that position critical thinking, argumentation, and creativity as central to the student experience, regardless of intended course of study. The authors offer ideas on how states, intermediaries, and individual institutions can bolster humanities learning among community college students across all programs of study.