40% of transfers lose all credits

Nearly 40 percent of transfer students get no credit for the courses they’ve already completed, according to a new federal study by the National Center for Education Statistics. On average, they lost 27 credits, nearly a full year of college. The average transfer student lost 13 credits.

Transfer is common. Of more than 18,000 students who began in the 2003-2004 academic year, 35 percent changed schools at least once.

Only a third of students were able to transfer all their credits, notes Jon Marcus on the Hechinger Report. Students with high grades were the most likely to have their coursework counted.

As many as 31 percent of transfer students who lost credits didn’t report their previous courses to their new college or university.

The federal government now requires institutions to post the criteria they use for determining whether to accept transfer credits, and several states—fed up with the additional cost of students churning through the public higher-education system without getting degrees—have enacted policies to make credit transfer easier, including common course numbering systems and standardized general-education requirements.

In Kansas and Missouri, community colleges have worked with universities on detailed transfer agreements and transferable course lists, writes Mara Rose Williams in the Kansas City Star.

The Kansas Board of Regents lists 46 general education courses accepted by every four-year school in the state system. The University of Missouri has a list of agreements with each of 16 schools.

Counselors make sure students take the right courses. “A student knows if they take a course at KCKCC it will transfer to any Kansas four-year” school, said Michael Vitale, a vice president at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

Holder talks to Ferguson college students

Attorney General Eric Holder shakes hands with Bri Ehsan, 25, after meeting with students at St. Louis Community College Florissant Valley. Reuters

“Change is coming,” Attorney General Eric Holder told students at the Ferguson, Missouri campus of St. Louis Community College. The St. Louis suburb has been wracked with protests and violence since a white police officer shot and killed an 18-year-old black man.

Holder told the mostly African-American students he understands mistrust of the police. “I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man.”

Holder told students how “humiliating” it felt when New Jersey cops searched his car after accusing him of speeding.

 He recalled how he and his cousin were stopped by a cop in Washington while walking to a movie in the upscale Georgetown section — and how he had to tell his relative to stop “mouthing off.”

“At the time that he stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor,” Holder told the students. “I wasn’t a kid. I was a federal prosecutor. I worked at the United States Department of Justice. So I’ve confronted this myself.”

That racist “history simmers beneath the surface in more communities than just Ferguson,” he said.

Senior Bradley Rayford, 22, a student government leader, said Holder wanted to know “how we feel about the police department.”

“I really felt he was listening to us and took heed of what we were saying,” he said.

Holder met for about 20 minutes with a group of black and white students to ask questions, share his experiences and listen.

“We want to be part of change,” said Bri Ehsan, 25, a criminal justice student  “This kind of thing should not be happening here.”

Trained, jobless and in debt

Joe DeGrella of Louisville trained as a cardiology technician but works at AutoZone. Credit: Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

Millions of laid-off Americans have used federal aid to train for new jobs, reports the New York Times. Yet many end up jobless and in debt.

It’s not clear the $3.1 billion Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which was reauthorized last month, improves trainees’ odds of finding a job or their improving their earnings.  The feds don’t keep track.

When Joe DeGrella’s construction company failed, he met with a federally funded counselor, who “provided him with a list of job titles the Labor Department determined to be in high demand,” reports the Times. He chose a college certified to offer job training and received a federal retraining grant.

Two years studying to be a cardiology technician at Daymar College, a for-profit in Louisville, left him with $20,000 in debt and no job. Now 57, he moved into his sister’s basement and works at an AutoZone.

About 21 million jobless people entered retraining at community colleges, vocational and business schools, and four-year universities in 2012.

“The jobs they are being trained for really aren’t better paying,” said Carolyn Heinrich, director of the Center for Health and Social Policy at the University of Texas.

Laid-off workers spend less to take classes at community colleges. However, completion rates low. Defaults are a growing problem.

At Florida Keys Community College, the default rate is 19.4 percent, reports the Times.

The college charges nearly $11,000 for a two-year degree to get a job as a nursing assistant. Median — not starting pay — for a nursing assistant in Florida is less than $26,000 a year.

The updated WIA requires states to “track former students to determine if training helped them find work with sustainable wages,” reports the Times.

. . . In some states, data and academic studies have suggested that a vast majority of the unemployed may have found work without the help of the Workforce Investment Act.

In South Carolina, for example, 75 percent of dislocated workers found jobs without training, compared with 77 percent who found jobs after entering the program, according to state figures.

The Times confuses the student loan program with workforce development,writes Mary Alice McCarthy on EdCentral. Job trainees get grants though many also borrow to pay for college programs.

WIA spends $3 billion a year, the Higher Education Act provide over $150 billion a year in federal grants, loans, and tax credits. “A large share of that money goes to support students earning associate’s degree and occupational certificates,” writes McCarthy.

The government is “a terrible prophet for labor needs down the road,” writes Ed Morrissey on Hot Air.  The WIA should subsidize “employer-based training for jobs that need filling now or in the near future,” ensuring that people are trained for “real jobs.” Even then, taxpayers will end up paying for training that would have occurred anyhow.

Morrissey recalls the classic Tennessee Ernie Ford song:

You pass 16 classes and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don’t you call me, it wouldn’t be cool.
I owe my soul to the vocational school.

Amid turmoil, classes start at Ferguson college campus

Teargas is deployed after police were fired upon Monday in Ferguson, Mo.
Ferguson, Mo. police responded to gunfire with tear gas Monday night.

Police came under “heavy gunfire” last night in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, which has been rocked by riots since a white police killed a black 18-year-old, Michael Brown. So far, National Guard troops haven’t calmed the situation.

Despite the unrest, St. Louis Community College started its new semester yesterday, including classes at the Florissant Valley campus located in Ferguson.

“The college police departments, and local authorities have worked diligently and effectively to put into place steps, procedures, and actions to ensure safety at STLCC,” Interim Chancellor Dennis Michaelise said in a statement.

The college plans small group discussions on Thursday and a town hall-style meeting next week to discuss the shooting and the aftermath.

Brown was shot and killed days before he was to start classes at Vatterott College, a for-profit career college. He’d hoped to train as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician.

Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who’s coordinating the law enforcement effort, grew up in Ferguson and earned a criminal justice degree at the Florissant Valley campus.

First steps in college

Points of Contact initiative helps students make a smooth transition to college
Student tutor Oliver Perrett, left, helps pharmacy technician student Fred Smith in San Jacinto College’s student success center. Photo credit: Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College

To prevent “summer melt,” San Jacinto College in Texas is helping students navigate application, registration and enrollment through Points of Contact (POC). Points of Contact presenters introduce new students to financial aid, tutoring services, student life programs and activities, First Year Experience services, career assessment, and guided registration into future courses.

High school graduates are less likely to “melt” over the summer if enrollment and registration is “de-mystified,” says Clare Iannelli, dean of student development at the San Jacinto College North Campus.

The college will track retention and success rates for students exposed to POC.

Shared educational planners at feeder high schools also help students prepare for enrollment, placement testing, course  registration and financial aid application.

CC, for-profit grads look the same to employers

Job seekers are as attractive to employers with a for-profit certificate or degree as with a community college credential, concludes a Calder working paper by five economists.  The study tracked callbacks by employers in response to fictitious resumes.

Applicants with “some college” did little better than those with just a high school diploma. Again, employer responses were similar whether  resumes cited a for-profit or community college.

Resumes were submitted for jobs in administrative assisting, customer service, information technology, sales, medical assisting (excluding nursing) and medical billing, and office work.

Community colleges provide a much better labor market payoff, the study concluded. “It is more expensive to attend for-profit colleges,” Cory Koedel, a University of Missouri economist and one of the co-authors, told Inside Higher Ed. Earning a community college credential provides a better return on investment.

Given the image of for-profit colleges as “greedy diploma mills,” it’s surprising their graduates did so well, responded Stephen R. Porter, a professor of higher education at North Carolina State University. “I was astounded that there was no difference between the groups.”

Job seekers must be prepared for a lot of rejection.

Employers’ overall response rate — meaning a positive, non-perfunctory reply via phone or e-mail – was 11.6 percent for applications that listed community colleges compared to 11.3 percent for those that listed for-profits. Likewise, the split for interview requests was tilted slightly in community colleges’ favor, at 5.3 percent versus 4.7 percent. Those splits fell well within the study’s margin of error.

Employers were even less interested in applicants with “some college.” Given low completion rates, that’s a very large group of people.

White House plans new college summit

The White House will host a second College Opportunity Summit on Dec 4.  The meeting will focus on encouraging first-generation, low-income and minority students to enroll in college, persist and earn degrees.

Community colleges, which received little attention in the first summit in January, have been the focus of attention by the Obama administration.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz hosted a discussion last week with community college and nonprofit leaders on effective ways to help poorly prepared college students.

Fourteen community colleges made commitments to improve remedial education. For example, Macomb Community College will mandate a college skills course for all remedial students, reports Inside Higher Ed.

In July, the White House and the Harvard Graduate School of Education convened K-12 and higher education leaders to explore strategies to improve the effectiveness of college advising and support school counselors.  Another working session focused on college readiness and enrollment.

Education Department funding will support a new Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR) led by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia and the social policy research organization MDRC. The center will focus on college readiness research.

In addition, Khan Academy will work on technology-based solutions to improve student success in developmental math.

What will I earn with a degree?

North Carolina is making it easier for students to predict the dollar value of college degrees, reports AP. A new state web site will provide median earnings, employment and post-degree education by major, degree and campus.

Five years after earning an associate degree in cardiovascular technology, community college graduates average $60,869. Other top-earning degrees are radiation therapy technology, fire protection technology, nuclear medicine technology and clinical trials research associate.

The median income for associate degree graduates in all subjects was $30,345 after five years. (The search function isn’t fully operational for associate degrees and doesn’t work at all for certificates.)

Nuclear engineering graduates average $89,537 a year five years after earning a bachelor’s degree. Theater graduates average $10,400.

“Of course, there are many paths to success. So this is not a recommendation, it’s just a way to arm students and families with good, useful information,” said Peter Hans, who pushed for the project when he was chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, said North Carolina’s program, inaugurated last week, is one of the best at showing the value of a degree. He expects college instructors to hate it. “They don’t get up every day and think about getting somebody a job. They’re teaching history or something, so this is news to them,” Carnevale said.

All the top-paying degrees are in engineering and technology. assocdegreechart

Maine also has launched a site with earnings information by degree for community college and state university graduates.

From immigrants to citizens

To pass the U.S. citizenship test immigrants must answer questions confidently in English, says instructor Irene O’Brien at Community College of Aurora in Colorado. Students come from Ethiopia, Ukraine, Iraq, Lebanon, Mexico and elsewhere, reports the Aurora Sentinel.
Citizenship ClassStudents who take the naturalization test are asked 10 questions about the United States out of a list of 100. They must answer orally so they can be graded on their English skills as well as their knowledge.  They also take a brief reading and writing exam.

Possible questions include the number of amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the names of the president, vice president and speaker of the House, and one author of the Federalist Papers.

About 91 percent of immigrants pass the citizenship test, according to USCIS. About a third of U.S. citizens would fail if they had to take the test, according to a Xavier University survey.

The immigrant students are motivated to earn citizenship and a U.S. passport.

“If you’re not the religion they want in my country, you have a hard time getting the job you want,” said Sondang Liberatore, a student who immigrated to Aurora from Indonesia in 2001.

“I want human right, for the freedom for my whole life,” said Nai Mon Htow, a refugee from Burma. “That’s why I come to the United States.”

Core requirements can be gatekeepers

General education requirements, meant to ensure students get a broad education, can result in them getting no education at all, writes Watson Scott Swail, president of the Educational Policy Institute, on The College Puzzle. A majority of community college students are placed in remedial courses because they’re not prepared for the core curriculum, he writes. Less than a quarter will complete any credential.

Eliminating unnecessary gatekeeper courses could enable more students to reach their goals, Swail writes.

At Tidewater Community College in Norfolk/Virginia Beach, course requirements in diagnostic medical sonography include anatomy and physiology, mathematics, physics, English Composition, a social science elective, a humanities elective, and basic computer literacy.

. . . you understand the focus on anatomy and related technical courses. But the question remains why is it necessary to require non-related courses for graduation that, for many students, may become gatekeepers to completion?

Community college students struggle the most with math. But not everyone needs to master college algebra, writes Swail. Why make it a barrier to vocationally minded students?

“I’m not suggesting we don’t have a general core,” he writes. “I am suggesting we think very carefully about what the core is and what the benefit is to the student as well as the institution.”

Virginia community colleges have lowered math requirements for students pursuing non-STEM majors. Success rates are up.

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