- Cooling Out
Cooling Out is a technique composed of an informal set of practices used by colleges, especially two-year, junior, and community colleges, to handle students whose lack of academic ability prevents them from achieving the educational goals they have developed for themselves, such as attaining a bachelor’s degree.
The term cooling out was first used in reference to higher education by Burton R. Clark in the article “The Cooling-Out Function in Higher Education” published in 1960 in The American Journal of Sociology . Although Clark credits Erving Goffman for first using the term in the 1952 article “Cooling the Mark Out: Some Aspects of Adaptation to Failure” , Clark was the first to apply the term in the context of higher education. Since then, the term cooling out has appeared often in educational discourse, even appearing as a topic in many recent articles. The idea, in essence, is that one of the functions of the junior or community college is to cool out students whose educational and academic goals reach beyond their personal scholastic boundaries. This concept has long been a point of contentious debate among academics and literary theorists.
In “The Cooling-Out Function in Higher Education” Burton Clark notes that, “The wide gap found in many democratic institutions between culturally encouraged aspiration and institutionally provided means of achievement leads to the failure of many participants. Such a situation exists in American higher education. Certain social units ameliorate the consequent stress by redefining failure and providing for a ‘soft’ denial; they perform a ‘cooling-out’ function. The junior college especially plays this role. The cooling-out process observed in one college includes features likely to be found in other settings: substitute achievement, gradual disengagement, denial, consolation, and avoidance of standards.” He also writes that, “Certain components of American higher education perform what may be called the cooling-out function…”
Theorists Deil-Amen and Rosenbaum define cooling out as “the process by which community colleges urge students to recognize their academic deficiencies and lower their aspirations.” They also note that “cooling out may also be used to describe the ways in which community colleges get students to lower their unrealistically high expectations for obtaining bachelor’s degrees and to aim for one- or two-year degrees in vocational or applied programs.”  It should be noted, however, that no community colleges actively employ an official cooling out policy as they would most likely be sued if such a system were to be acknowledged by the institution. Instead, a set of seemingly normal practices and policies form the cooling out process.
Cooling Out Today
Modern examples of cooling out are not very apparent in the websites of most Junior College programs in the state of Illinois. As Deil-Amen and Rosenbaum point out, a “college for all” idea is presented through each Junior college’s description of their program and mission statement. But prospective students need to be able to develop an understanding that most vocational and degree programs require a minimum SAT or ACT score, plus a grade of a “C” or higher in some degree classes in order for that class to count toward that degree. For example, Joliet Junior College in Illinois lists all requirements for an Associate in Arts degree. The website provides an asterisk next to some of the communication courses to alert a prospective student that a grade of a “C” or higher is required. If a student does not achieve the required grade, there is no written description of what happens next, or what remediation is available. However, Joliet Junior College does offer a wealth of assistance to students, namely programs like “New Start” and Student Assistance Programs (SAP).
Overall, the cooling out period should be initiated during the student’s junior or senior year of high school by someone that student trusts for honest feedback, like a guidance counselor or a teacher. It is the high school teacher or counselor’s job to endorse the proper path for that student based upon that student’s skill and interest, combined with an open and honest dialogue. “Colleges must manage information if feeder institutions allow students to have unrealistic college plans and do not provide key information about the demands of college”
Attending a junior college and taking remedial classes for some students may be a terrific option to acclimate that student into a college setting and assimilate them to a more rigorous workload before they move on to a two-year degree, and perhaps, eventually, a four-year college. But the correct and accurate feeder information needs to be presented to the student ahead of time so that student can begin to establish realistic short-term educational goals to examine whether they truly want to invest in and pursue a long-term educational goal. If the first line of student guidance at the high school level somehow fails to show an at-risk prospective college student a logical educational pursuit choice, Deil-Amen and Rosenbaum point out, “By the end of the first term of college, when they get their first college grades, students have come to a full recognition of their situation.” 
Types and Usages
An initial move in the cooling out process at some educational institutions is pre-entrance testing. Low scores on placement or achievement tests lead basic writing students into remedial classes. Many schools have large departments devoted solely to placement testing.
Remedial courses form a sort of subcollege within the aforementioned educational institutions. Their goals are typically to remediate a student or remedy a supposed problem within the student’s literacy biography. These students are moved out of their intended or transfer majors to a one to two year program of vocational, business, or semiprofessional training. At this point a process is well underway—the next step being a counseling interview.
The counseling interview is conducted to determine the educational path or subcurriculum to which the student will be remediated. The first counseling interview occurs before the first semester of the student’s enrollment. Follow-up interviews are conducted prior to each semester to further establish the student’s potential educational options. Often, counselors use the interviewing process to gradually bring the student to the conclusion that remediation is the best solution for them. Also, they often use the poor grades of the new student to encourage a specific educational schema. A central claim of Clark’s description of the cooling out process is that the academic counselor’s job is, in fact, to dissuade underprepared students from goals believed to be overzealous and to gently ease the students into more remedial and supposedly better fitting academic plans.
The reorienting process is the next step after the initial counseling interview. Classes such as “University Success” and “College 101” are used to reorient each student to function within the college. According to the counselors at these institutions one of the main purposes of this step is to assist students in evaluating their own abilities, interests, and aptitudes; in assaying their vocational choices in light of the evaluation; and in making educational plans to implement their choices—thereby involving the student in their own remediation. A large portion of each of these reorienting courses focuses solely on vocational planning. The plans and tests utilized in these courses are then used during each subsequent counseling interview.
Another step, though not always applied, is that of probation. Students are placed on probationary status if they fail to achieve the appropriate goals set out by each course they take, further encouraging the student to accept the remedial academic plans put forth by their counselors.
- ^ Clark, Burton R. “The ‘Cooling-Out Function in Higher Education.” The American Journal of Sociology Vol. 65, No. 6 (1960): 569-76. Print. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2773649
- ^ Goffman, Erving. “Cooling the Mark Out: Some Aspects of Adaptation to Failure.”Psychiatry Vol. XV (1952): 451-63. Print. http://adultupgrading.net/On_Cooling_the_Mark_Out.pdf
- ^ Bahr, Peter R. "Cooling Out in the Community College." Web. http://www.airweb.org/images/Bahr-Final_NPEC_06-528.pdf
- ^ Regina Deil-Amen and James E. Rosenbaum. “The Unintended Consequences of Stigma-free Remediation.” Sociology of Education Vol.75 (2002): 249-268. Print.http://www.jstor.org/stable/3090268
- ^ a b c Regina Deil-Amen and James E. Rosenbaum. “The Unintended Consequences of Stigma-free Remediation.” Sociology of Education 2002, Vol.75 (July): 249-268.
- ^ a b c d e Clark, Burton R. “The ‘Cooling-Out Function in Higher Education.” The American Journal of Sociology Vol. 65, No. 6 (1960): 569-76. Print.http://www.jstor.org/stable/2773649
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.