Disinvited Students: Social Work, Community Colleges, and the Process of Mandatory Withdrawal
Shute, Tanya Gaye
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Persistence is a serious concern for colleges, typically accepting a higher share of marginalized students than their university counterparts. Unfortunately, many students are expelled from their professional programs for poor performance in a process called mandatory withdrawal. The experiences and knowledge that community college students hold are vital to social justice-oriented professions such as social services work. Large numbers of mandatory withdrawals in social services programs means that the social work profession suffers for their lack of ability to complete their programs and enter the field. This mixed methods study explores the process of failure and mandatory withdrawal of Social Services Work community college students, implications for social work education, and the social justice orientation of social work. Students reported significant personal and emotional burdens at the time of college-going that interfered with their ability to make the crucial social and academic integration necessary for success in post-secondary education. Students reported having very little faculty or support services interaction, and often left their programs without much intervention from the institution at all. Involuntarily withdrawn from their programs, most had very poor recall of their academic life, which speaks to poor academic integration. The failure process is examined and implicated in that most of the withdrawn students did not access help once the failure process began, symbolic of a kind of auto-pilot the students experienced once they began to fail classes. A lack of personal agency was found in several dimensions of the student experience as students seemed to follow the failure trajectory out of the program but are surprised by the withdrawal. Implications for transformative vocational education in community college social services programs and the social work profession are discussed.