It’s not a bargain education if you drop out

California’s community colleges are accessible and affordable, reports KCRA-TV. But completion and transfer rates are low. Are California’s community colleges a bargain?


Adjunct faculty consider unionization

Andrew Nelson earns $22,000 a year — with no benefits — teaching three courses per semester at East Central College near St. Louis and Lindenwood University, reports AP. He drives as much as 100 miles a day and works 50 hours a week during the nine-month school year.

Tired of low wages and no job security, adjunct faculty in the St. Louis area are exploring unionization, reports AP.

Colleges and universities are relying more heavily on poorly paid adjuncts.

 Nelson gets paid about $2,500 a semester for every three-credit course he teaches. So he picks up as many courses as he can, splitting his time between two universities to make ends meet.

But, he said, it’s not just about money.

“The most important thing is that we have no input into the departments we work in. We have no say on textbooks, either,” he said. “So other people determine what we are going to teach and how we are going to teach it.”

Nelson also said adjuncts miss out on holding office hours to better connect with students, plus paid faculty development days which help instructors become better at their jobs.

The Service Employees International Union is organizing at several colleges and universities, including  St. Louis Community College.

Adjuncts are talking union at Cayuga Community College in Auburn, New York.  Seventy percent of the college’s 200 adjunct faculty want to organize, said Greg Sevik, who read a prepared statement at the board of trustees meeting.

“The college and its lawyers have decided to delay, arguing that, instead, we should join the existing union for full-time faculty members,” he said.

. . . full-time and adjunct professors “by no means work under the same conditions; unlike full-time faculty, adjuncts have no health benefits, few opportunities for professional advancement, no required office hours or member on college committees, and little assurance that they will have a job after the end of each semester.”

“I have no problem, this board has no problem, with an adjunct union,” responded Gregory DeCinque, the college’s interim president.


Relentless mentoring keeps students ‘On Point’

On Point for College is helping New Yorkers get into college, reports the Syracuse Post-Standard. A personal touch and “relentless” mentoring has helped thousands of first-generation students.

It all started, Ginny Donohue says, when a friend of her daughter sought advice on how to get into college.

He was chronically homeless, living from couch to couch. She pointed him in the right direction and helped him through the bureaucratic hoops to get into Cayuga Community College.

Then she helped a few more people, and a few more after that, and her reputation began to grow.

“People started stopping me in the grocery store to say, ‘Are you the lady that got Jack in?’ ” she said.

Eventually, Donahue quit her finance job and started the nonprofit, which has expanded from Syracuse to Utica and now New York City.

Program employees and volunteers take On Point’s clients on college visits, help them with their applications and financial aid forms and keep in close contact with them throughout their college careers, transporting them back and forth and visiting frequently to make sure they’re able to stay on track.

Eighty-four percent of On Point clients who went to two-year colleges went on to earn bachelor’s degrees or were in the process of doing so, a Syracuse University study found.  Those who began in four-year colleges all completed their degrees within 4½ years.

On Point workers visit students twice a semester at four-year schools, every month at two-year schools, every week at Mohawk Valley Community College and New York City community colleges, and twice a week at Onondaga Community College.


Structure leads to success

Community colleges are improving pass rates and persistence by integrating “high-impact practices” into coherent academic and career pathways reports the Center for Community College Student Engagement. A Matter of Degrees: Practices to Pathways links a clear class attendance policy, participation in a student success course and on-time registration to completion of remedial and gatekeeper courses and persistence.

Guttman Community College students working  in the Information Commons.

Guttman Community College students use Mediascape technology to collaborate in the Information Commons.

Structured group learning experiences — orientation, accelerated or fast-track developmental education, first-year experience, student success course and learning community — increased the odds of success significantly.

“Attending college should not be a series of disconnected classes and experiences, but instead, it should be a complete-and completed-educational journey,” says Kay McClenney, center director emeritus.

Among the colleges placing students in structured pathways are: Alamo Colleges (Texas), Miami Dade College, Guttman Community College (New York City) and Long Beach City College (California).

Klamath Community College (Oregon) has designed career pathways leading to certificates.

Lake Washington Institute of Technology (Washington) has increased success rates by integrating basic skills instruction with vocational instruction through the states I-BEST approach.


College doesn’t pay for everyone

20140908.COCBottomQuarterCollegeGrads1

 This chart explains why college isn’t for everyone, writes Chris Matthews on Forbes. “The bottom quarter of earners with a college degree don’t make more money than the average high school graduate.”

Over the past 40 years, the cost of a degree has increased 12-fold, while graduates’ inflation-adjusted earnings have stayed the same.

It’s possible those lower-quartile workers would have earned even less without a degree, he writes. Some may have chosen fulfilling but low-paying jobs. Still, it’s sobering. And it doesn’t include the many people who dropped out before earning a degree.

Via Cost of College.

 


College is the new high school

A college degree is becoming the new high school diploma, the minimum credential required to get even the most basic, entry-level job, writes Catherine Rampell in the New York Times. It takes a BA to get a job as a file clerk.

“Upcredentialing,” also known as “degree inflation,” is affecting a wide range of jobs in administration, sales and other fields, reports Burning Glass, a labor market analytics company. For example,  just 25 percent of  insurance clerks have a four-year degree, but “twice that percentage of insurance-clerk job ads require one,” reports Rampell. ” Among executive secretaries and executive assistants, 19 percent of job-holders have degrees, but 65 percent of job postings mandate them.”

Employers prefer college graduates even for jobs that don’t require advanced skills, reports Burning Glass. A third of 25- to 29-year-olds have a four-year degree, notes Rampell. “Bachelor’s degrees are probably seen less as a gold star for those who have them than as a red flag for those who don’t. If you couldn’t be bothered to get a degree in this day and age, you must be lazy, unreliable or dumb.”

Employers are clearly skeptical that an associate degree really meets their needs,” says Burning Glass CEO Matt Sigelman.

However, “jobs resist credential inflation when there are good alternatives for identifying skill proficiency,” the company reports. Health care jobs, such as nursing and respiratory therapy, and engineering technician jobs  “are governed by strict licensing or certification standards, well-developed training programs, or by measurable skill standards such that employers do not need to look at a college degree as a proxy for capability.”


89% of students use a laptop

Eighty-nine percent of college students use a laptop, note book or Chromebook for their school work, according to the Pearson Mobile Device Survey. Fifty-six percent use a smart phone and 33 percent a tablet.

Smart phone ownership is rising: 84 percent of college students now own one.

The vast majority agree that tablets will encourage students to buy digital textbooks instead of print.

Nearly all college students have wireless Internet access at home (96 percent) or at school (91 percent), the survey found.


Colleges go after aid-stealing ‘Pell runners”

Police are investigating a $200,000 financial aid scam at the San Francisco Bay Area’s College of Marin, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Twenty-three people are suspected of posing as online students to collect Pell Grants.

Two faculty members noticed that “several students in their online classes shared the same address and phone number, weren’t participating in online discussions and withdrew soon after financial aid had been disbursed,” reports the Chronicle.

California community colleges give fee waivers to Pell-eligible students and send the entire grant — up to $5,730 — to the student to cover books, living expenses and commuting. “Pell runners” disappear as soon as the check clears. It’s especially easy to scam online classes.

Three men posing as students pleaded guilty in February to stealing more than $1 million in financial aid received through City College of San Francisco, Chabot College in Hayward and Ohlone College in Fremont from 2007 and 2011.

. . .  A ringleader often recruits fake students who allow their Social Security numbers and other personal information to be used to enroll in courses and to apply for federal aid in exchange for a cut of the cash.

Colleges don’t have to repay the stolen money, but loans to scammers — which aren’t going to be repaid — will increase their student default rate.

Fraud rings steal as much as $1 billion a year, estimates the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General.

In the case involving City College of San Francisco, Chabot and Ohlone, the three men created 104 financial aid accounts for fake students, according to a federal indictment filed in the U.S. District Court in Oakland in August 2013.


Tech training is gateway to middle class

College should not be the only gateway to the middle class, writes Robert Reich, who was Bill Clinton’s secretary of Labor, in Salon.  Obsessed with bachelor’s degrees, “we’ve allowed vocational and technical education to be downgraded and denigrated,” he writes. But our economy needs skilled technicians.

As digital equipment replaces the jobs of routine workers and lower-level professionals, technicians are needed to install, monitor, repair, test, and upgrade all the equipment.

Hospital technicians are needed to monitor ever more complex equipment that now fills medical centers; office technicians, to fix the hardware and software responsible for much of the work that used to be done by secretaries and clerks.

Automobile technicians are in demand to repair the software that now powers our cars; manufacturing technicians, to upgrade the numerically controlled machines and 3-D printers that have replaced assembly lines; laboratory technicians, to install and test complex equipment for measuring results; telecommunications technicians, to install, upgrade, and repair the digital systems linking us to one another.

Community colleges train technicians at “bargain” prices, but they’re “systematically starved of funds,” writes Reich.  State legislators “direct most higher-education funding to four-year colleges and universities because that’s what their middle-class constituents want for their kids.”

Business “executives are usually the products of four-year liberal arts institutions and don’t know the value of community colleges,” he adds.

By contrast, Germany provides its students the alternative of a world-class technical education that’s kept the German economy at the forefront of precision manufacturing and applied technology.

The skills taught are based on industry standards, and courses are designed by businesses that need the graduates. So when young Germans get their degrees, jobs are waiting for them.

Young Germans choose a technical or academic track by age 14, writes Reich. Americans wouldn’t go for that.

But we could “combine the last year of high school with the first year of community college” to train technicians, writes Reich.  Employers “would help design the courses and promise jobs” to graduates. Late bloomers could pursue associate or bachelor’s degrees, if they choose.

North Carolina is adding five-year “early college” high schools, such as Wake Early College of Health and Sciences.  Students can graduate with a two-year degree or health science certificate.

IBM helped design New York City’s P-TECH, which adds two years of college-level job training to four years of high school.  IBM will hire graduates who want to go directly to the workforce.


P-TECH in Brooklyn fields a robotics team.


Educationally, U.S. men are downwardly mobile

Almost 30 percent of U.S. men 25 to 34 years old are less educated than their parents, according to OECD data. Only 17 percent of U.S. women are less educated. Together, almost 1 in 4 American adults age 25 to 34 has less education than his or her parents. In most developed countries, each generation is more educated, notes Vox.

South Korea has the most educational upward mobility: 61 percent of Koreans are more educated than their parents. Ireland and Italy come next at 45 percent.

educational mobility by gender


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