Community college transfers are just as likely to earn a bachelor’s degree as similar students who started at a four-year university, according to The Community College and Bachelor’s Degree Completion: Fact or Fiction? by the Illinois Education Research Council (IERC).
Eighty-four percent of Illinois high school graduates who transferred after completing two, full-time years at a community college earned a bachelor’s degree within five additional years, compared to 90 percent of rising juniors who’d enrolled in a four-year college directly after high school.
However, community college transfers had lower grades, ACT scores and family incomes, notes Community College Times. When researchers matched pre-college demographic and environmental factors, they found “community college transfer students were just as likely to complete a bachelor’s as four-year rising juniors.”
The authors then used a “post-treatment adjustment” to account for institutional differences that could affect students’ completion of a bachelor’s degree. Community college transfer students were matched to a four-year rising junior from the same high school with a similar likelihood of being a community college transfer student and who attended a similarly selective four-year college.
When the two groups were matched for “institutional selectivity,” there was just a 1 percentage-point difference favoring the rising four-year juniors, which lacked statistical significance.
“No community college penalty was evident,” the report said.
The IERC study used rigorous methods to create an “apples-to-apples comparison,” said Christopher Mullin, program director for policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). In Transfer: An Indispensable Part of the Community College Mission, published by AACC in October, Mullin concluded that whether a transfer student earns a bachelor’s degree has a lot to do with the extent to which the four-year institution accepts community college credits.
Credit creep is making it harder for community college students to complete an associate degree, according to a Complete College America survey. In theory, college students need 60 credits for an associate degree and 120 for a bachelor’s degree, but none of 104 associate degree tracks surveyed had a median requirement of 60 credits or less.
Many associate degrees now require 70 credits or more, notes Inside Higher Ed.
Nate Johnson, a higher education data expert who managed the survey, said he was surprised that half of the community colleges surveyed did not have a single program limited to 60 credits, including general education degrees and those aimed at students who transfer to four-year institutions.
. . . The likely reason for the credit inflation, he said, is a common one in higher education. “People tend to add things without taking anything away.”
Students who change majors often need to take extra courses. Some take more courses to earn credits that will transfer after realizing earlier credits aren’t useful. On average, students who earn an associate degree have racked up 80 credits, according to Complete College America. Many give up before they complete a degree.
Some states — Maryland, Indiana and South Dakota — are setting credit limits for associate degrees. California Gov. Jerry Brown wanted to limit community college students to 90 credits at the low in-state rate, but the Legislature rejected the idea.
Krista M. LeBrun dropped out of high school in ninth grade, earned a GED at 17 — and kept on going, she writes in a Community College Week commentary.
Tired of of being treated as a loser, LeBrun went to Meridian Community College (Mississippi), where Browning Rochefort, then director of adult education, “looked at me as though I was somebody, that I had potential.” Rochefort told LeBrun she was ready to take the GED, which she passed two weeks later.
LeBrun worked at casinos for awhile, but decided she wanted more than a “good enough diploma.”
. . . at 19, I moved back to Meridian and found myself back at Browning’s door. She encouraged me to take basic courses, to test the waters in multiple areas to see if I found an area that sparked my interested. Within two years, I graduated from MCC with an associate degree.
The two years I had spent at MCC made me realize that I loved school. I loved learning. I loved my teachers and I still wanted to be the teacher Robin Williams once inspired me to be. I enrolled at Mississippi State University-Meridian, where I went on to earn my BS in elementary education with certifications in English and social science. I was asked to give the keynote address at commencement.
As a third-grade teacher, she became her school’s technology specialist, using knowledge gained during a short internship. While working, she took online courses to earn a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in distance education.
She was hired by a university to develop an online education program. A dean told her she didn’t have to stop at a master’s degree. She earned a Ph.D. in instructional leadership with an emphasis in instructional technology from the University of Alabama and returned to MCC as director of eLearning.
More than 60 percent of Denver Public Schools graduates require remedial courses in college. Now Denver is providing free remedial math and English classes over the summer for collegebound graduates, reports the Denver Post.
The summer courses will cost DPS about $50,700. District officials said the program could save students and the state money in the long run.
KayLynn McAbee earned a 3.1 grade-point average in high school and was admitted to the University of Colorado-Pueblo. But she did poorly on placement tests. She signed up for summer remediation.
“I knew that if I took these classes that I would be better prepared for college, prepared to take on the workload and most likely finish college in four years, instead of the five years it would take if I had to take remedial classes,” McAbee said.
Students who get a C or higher during the summer won’t have the repeat the course at a Colorado university.
It’s sad that a B student isn’t prepared for college work.
Peace Studies is listed with mainstream disciplines such as biology, math and anthropology by California community colleges, writes David J. Smith, author of Peacebuilding in Community Colleges: A Teaching Resource. San Diego City College, the first California community college to offer an Associate Degree in Peace Studies, led the campaign.
Peace Studies students take courses in conflict resolution, environmental sustainability, justice and ethics. San Diego students in the program plan to pursue careers in international law, human rights advocacy, violence prevention and humanitarian aid.
More Americans are earning college degrees: 33.5 percent of Americans ages 25 to 29 had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2012, compared with 24.7 percent in 1995, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The number of two-year college degrees, master’s degrees and doctorates has also risen.
Enrollment and graduation rates are up, reports the New York Times. “The recent recession, which pushed more workers of all ages to take shelter on college campuses while the job market was poor, has also played a role.”
“Basically, I was just barely getting by, and I didn’t like my job, and I wanted to do something that wasn’t living dollar to dollar,” said Sarah O’Doherty, 24, a former nail salon receptionist who will graduate next month from the County College of Morris in New Jersey with a degree in respiratory therapy.
However, only about half of first-time college freshmen in 2006 had earned a degree by 2012, according to the National Student Clearinghouse.
Low-income students continue to lag bar behind. ”Only about 1 out of 10 Americans whose parents were in the lowest income quartile held four-year college degrees by age 24 in 2011, compared to 7 in 10 from the highest quartile.
“There are worrisome signs that the demand for high-skilled talent is increasing more rapidly than we’re actually educating people,” said Lumina Foundation CEO Jamie P. Merisotis.
Lumina’s new report, A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education 2013, estimates that 38.7 percent of working-age Americans (ages 25-64) held a two- or four-year college degree in 2011. That’s rising, but not fast enough to meet the foundation’s Goal 2025, which aims to increase the percentage of Americans with “high-quality degrees and credentials” to 60 percent in 12 years.
While 59.1 percent of working-age Asian-Americans and 43.3 percent of whites have earned a degree, that falls to 27.1 percent for blacks and 19.3 for Hispanics. The gap is even wider for young adults.
Lumina announced 10 achievement targets to raise the college attainment trend lines.
Not everyone’s ready for a four-year college at the age of 18, says Jeffrey Selingo, author of College (Un)Bound, in a conversation with David Leonhardt in the New York Times. Many “end up in college because we have few maturing alternatives after high school, whether it’s national service, apprenticeships or structured ‘gap year’ experiences.”
Some young people would do better to pursue an associate degree, says Selingo. “Recent studies of wage data of college graduates in Virginia, Tennessee and a few other states show that the wage returns of technical two-year degrees are greater than many bachelor’s degrees in the first year after college.”
Unready students tend to drop out of college, which means they’ve run up debt but have no degree, he says. We need “more constructive detours on the pathway to college for those who are not ready at 18.”
What should federal and state policy makers do to change colleges with low graduation rates? Leonhardt asks.
First, they need to measure graduation rates accurately, Selingo replies. Currently, only first-time students who enroll in the fall are tracked to see if they complete degrees in “150 percent of normal time,” which is six years for those seeking bachelor’s degrees. Transfers aren’t counted. Neither are part-time students.
A national student record database would allow policy makers to track students as they move among colleges. Once we have a better measure, then colleges that do well in actually graduating students should be rewarded, especially for those students who are not expected to complete college. For example, colleges that graduate Pell Grant recipients above the national average or students who are first in their family to go to college should get access to more federal aid for those students.
And all colleges need more skin in the student-loan game. Students are being saddled with higher amounts of debt, and the schools have little responsibility as they encourage more and more families to take on more debt. Right now, the only punishment is that colleges with high default rates are thrown out of the federal program. But that rarely happens. Colleges need to put some of their own dollars at risk if they are asking students and their parents to take on loans above certain amounts.
Students and parents should use tools such as College Reality Check and the Obama administration’s College Scorecard to analyze college costs and graduation rates, Selingo advises. Falling in love with a campus can lead to heartbreak — and debt.
Only 61 percent of Oregon high school graduates in the class of 2011 were enrolled in college by fall, 2012, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. That’s below the national average of 68 percent and far below Oregon’s goal, which calls for 40 percent of young people to earn a bachelor’s degree and 40 percent to earn an associate degree.
In some districts and high schools, students are doing much better than expected, reports the Oregonian.
For example, with 73 percent of students from low-income families, the David Douglas school district in east Portland sends 62 percent of graduates to college, far more than the average for districts with similar demographics. Counselors explain that college is almost always necessary to qualify for a career, said head counselor Miki Johnson.
Two thirds of David Douglas students take Mount Hood Community College courses, taught by high school teachers who hold Mount Hood credentials. The average graduate has earned 12 college credits. Most dual enrollment students go on to college, said Tifini Roberts, who coordinates the program. ”Being exposed to college, taking a college class and passing it, is a huge confidence booster.”
Jefferson High, a small school with primarily low-income, black students, is across the street from Portland Community College. The college hired a counselor to help Jefferson students get into the right college classes and reach their goals. The high school sends 79 percent of its students to college.
Students who’ve earned college credits in high school may not be prepared for college work, writes Ken Smith, a math professor at Sam Houston State, in The Dark Side of Dual Enrollment in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
One of his students needs to pass calculus for her science major, but she’s failed precalculus twice. She earned two years of community college credit in 11th and 12th grade by guessing the answers on multiple-choice tests. She never learned to solve math problems. (Her math SAT score was 380.)
These “college classes” were not college level. The student received a failing grade in one math class, but then, after her mother complained to the teacher, the student was allowed to rework some problems and pull her grade up to passing. This teacher continued to let her rework problems and pull up her failing grades in later classes. This apparently explains how she achieved a C in “College Algebra” in her high-school math class in her senior year.
Her math SAT score was in the 11th percentile nationally, far below college requirements. But here at Sam Houston, she was advised out of our developmental math classes and into precalculus because her high-school-senior math class (“College Algebra”) transferred in as our freshman College Algebra class.
In Texas, community colleges certify high school teachers as college instructors, Smith writes. “College is now high school.”
His student entered Sam Houston State as a junior at the age of 18. But how far will she get?
Dual enrollment is growing very rapidly. But if students are getting college credit for high school work (or less), they won’t succeed in college. Do we need a way to certify that these are real credits? Advanced Placement students need to pass a tough exam to get college credit — and not all colleges will grant it.
While Massachusetts colleges and universities say they’re trying to hold down costs, they’ve increased the number of administrators three times faster than enrollment growth according to an analysis of federal data by Jon Marcus for the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.
Over the last 25 years, enrollments have grown by 26 percent, on average, while the ranks of full-time administrators have risen 75 percent. Nationwide, four-year university tuition went by 85 percent in real dollars in the same period.
“Where is that money going? It’s going to fund these bureaucratic empires,” said Andrew Gillen, research director at Education Sector.
University officials said administrators are needed to deal with government regulation and greater requirements from students for support services, such as remediation and mental health counseling.
Even community colleges added administrators, though at a slower rate than four-year institutions.