Student-run podcast explores what makes a ‘good school’

Students at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) have created a podcast called Good School to highlight different perspectives on higher education—and challenge assumptions about community college, Inside Higher Ed reports. The new podcast comes at a time when community colleges are still struggling to recruit and retain students amid the strains of the pandemic.

The podcast project began when Beth Baunoch, an assistant professor of communications and media studies at CCBC, secured a $40,000 grant last year from the Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship program to lead students in creating a new virtual podcast production house. In discussing potential topics, the 12-student team landed on a theme that hit home for many: the perceived stigma about attending a community college.

“We all had our stories,” sophomore Kathleen Roberts told Inside Higher Ed. “And we all felt like we were the people who should be telling this story.”

What makes a ‘good school’?

Sophomore Olivia Yates, a producer on the podcast team, recounted how she had little doubt about her choice to attend CCBC: tuition was inexpensive, and both of her parents attended the two-year school. However, hearing her high school classmates talk about acceptances to four-year universities made her feel bad. Upon reflecting, she realized that she, too, had internalized a negative mindset about two-year schools.

Through audio storytelling, Good School is exploring different beliefs about colleges and their prestige, and how those perceptions are formed. “I would say I go to a really good college, but I want to know … what does it mean to other people?” Yates said.

Since fall of 2020, students have been collecting various first-person accounts from students, guidance counselors, college instructors, and even parents. Several “promotional mini episodes” are available online, and Baunoch expects to fully launch the podcast in 2022.

The students behind the podcast also are researching how college rankings and various admissions criteria influence colleges’ reputations. Those factors play an outsized role in shaping the public’s perception, even as policy leaders and employers look to community colleges as an essential pipeline for talent, said Karen Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream, a nonprofit focused on student success at community colleges.

“From a societal values perspective, no matter what product it is … there’s less of a value on something that is easy to attain, so to speak, or easy to get into, nonselective and affordable,” she told Inside Higher Ed.

CCBC sophomore and producer Katlyn Drescher hopes the podcast will empower community college students to feel confident in their educational choices. “Labels and the term ‘good school’ is what you really make of it at the end of the day,” Drescher said.

Inside Higher Ed notes that several other institutions are similarly working to address the stigma associated with two-year colleges. Steve Robinson, the former president of Owens Community College, in Toledo, Ohio, started a social media campaign with the hashtag #EndCCStigma. At Cape Fear Community College in North Carolina, TikTok videos of students dancing and explaining the upside of going to community college have gone viral.

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