A majority of two-year and four-year college graduates would choose a different major or school or both, if they had a second chance, reports Voice of the Graduate, a McKinsey survey of recent graduates. Health majors were the most satisfied with their choice. Students who had majored in visual and performing arts, language, literature, and the social sciences were the least satisfied.
Forty percent of two-year graduates and 30 percent of four-year graduates said they were unprepared for the workforce. One third of community college graduates said their quantitative reasoning skills were inadequate.
Nearly half of four-year graduates were in jobs that did not require a four-year degree, notes Gadfly’s Amber Winkler. Many ended up in retail and restaurant work. However, most science and engineering graduates found professional work.
Liberal-arts graduates of four-year colleges . . . tend to be lower paid, less likely to be employed full time, and less prepared for the workplace.
Fifty-one percent of underemployed young Americans wish they’d chosen a different educational path, according to Underemployed in America, a survey by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). The survey included people 21 to 35 years old. Sixty percent with only a high school diploma, 53 percent with an associate degree and 48 percent with a bachelor’s degree regret their choices.
Employers said job seekers should acquire a broad education providing a “diverse knowledge base.” The underemployed said it’s better to learn specific job skills.
The underemployed overestimate their skills – especially writing and problem solving – and problem-solving skills – compared with employers’ views.
Both groups believe for-profit colleges and trade schools do about as well in preparing students for the workforce as four-year public or private nonprofit colleges and universities. However, both have less faith in community colleges.
First Generation Student, a new web site, provides sensible advice for students who will be the first in their families to go to college. Jaimie Krause writes about developing academic resiliency. In another post, Mark Kantrowitz offers financial aid tips, starting with finding a mentor.
It’s also important to connect with other students on sites such as First Generation Student and I’m First, writes Kantrowitz. For example, Garret Juliano, who’s studying business and accounting at Western Piedmont Community College in North Carolina, can serve as a role model.
However, Kantrowitz warns first-generation students to start at a four-year college or university if their goal is a bachelor’s degree.
A community college program is an inexpensive way to obtain a certificate or an associate degree. However, if your goal is to obtain a bachelor’s degree, taking a detour through a community college to save money may mean that you never reach your destination. Half of first-generation students who begin their higher education at a four-year college intending to obtain a bachelor’s degree earn that degree within six years of enrollment, compared with a quarter of those who start their studies at a community college.
Parents who aren’t college educated have trouble understanding how much college will cost, write Susan Dynarski Judith Scott-Clayton in The Future of Children.
Calculating the net price of college for a given family requires understanding their finances as well as the rules of the Pell Grant, student loans, the tuition tax credits, state grant programs, and aid offered by individual colleges.
Students “are quite poor at estimating net prices,” they write. Some don’t apply for financial aid because they don’t realize they’re eligible.
While elite and semi-elite college costs have soared, community colleges haven’t raised spending in the last 10 years, writes Matthew Yglesias, reprinting a chart from the Century Foundation’s new report on the higher education divide. “These institutions started off spending less to begin with” while serving students with the greatest needs.
“Not everyone should go to college,” writes Matt Reed. But “everyone should have the option — really have the option — so we don’t miss talent based on prejudice masquerading as toughness.”
Given real options, people will find the paths that are right for them. Some will choose paths far away from college, and that’s their right. But some will show up shaggy and unkempt, and shock the hell out of us. That’s why we’re here. It’s a valuable and worthy mission, and one that would be easy to violate in the name of a superficial rigor. The real rigor comes in creating, sustaining, and improving an audaciously egalitarian institution in a political culture in which the winds blow cold. It’s cold outside. Open the door and let people in.
Predictors of academic success often fail at the individual level, Reed concludes. “We don’t know who is worthy and who isn’t, so we’re better off treating everyone as potentially worthy.”
Community colleges “are asked to educate those students with the greatest needs, using the least funds, and in increasingly separate and unequal institutions,” concludes Bridging the Higher Education Divide, a report by a Century Foundation task force. “Racial and economic stratification is connected to unequal financial resources as well as to unequal curricula, expectations, and school cultures.”
Forty-four percent of U.S. college students attend community colleges. Most fail to earn a certificate or degree in six years. While more than 81 percent of entering students say they want to transfer and earn at least a bachelor’s degree, only 11 percent will succeed within six years.
Worse enrolling in community college appears to lower the odds of success for the best-qualified students. Among low-income students who’ve completed trigonometry, a mark of college readiness, 69 percent who start at a four-year college or university will earn a bachelor’s degree, compared to 19 percent who start at a community college.
Funding should go to colleges that serve students with the greatest needs and produce the best outcomes, such as job placements, degrees and transfers to four- year institutions, the report argues.
In order to promote equity and avoid incentives for “creaming” the most well prepared students, funding should be tied to distance traveled and progress made—that is to say, consideration of where students start as well as where they end up. In addition, the number of nontraditional, minority and low-income students who achieve each of these outcomes should be monitored.
Higher education subsidies should be transparent, ”including public tax expenditures in the form of tax breaks for private donations, tax exemptions for endowment-derived income, and the like,” to show how little funding is going to colleges that serve less-advantaged Americans.
Creating clear transfer pathways would help community college students reach their goals, the report suggests. Two- and four-year institutions need to work together, perhaps creating joint bachelor’s degree programs. States should adopt “guaranteed transfer” policies.
Four-year colleges and universities should receive financial incentives for accepting low-income community college transfer students, the report recommends. Highly selective institutions should commit to accepting community college transfers for 5 percent of their junior class.
To attract middle-class achievers to community colleges, the report suggests creating “honors colleges” and using “early college” options on campus. At the same time, selective four-year colleges and universities should focus affirmative action programs on disadvantaged students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Community colleges “can become America’s quintessential ‘middle-class’ institutions — serving both those already in the middle-class and those aspiring to become part of it,” Bridging the Higher Education Divide concludes. But, right now, higher education is increasingly stratified. The most selective institutions primarily serve students from educated, well-to-do families, while open access institutions enroll, but usually don’t graduate, lower-income and working-class students.
Here’s the New York Times‘ take on the report.
Colleges and universities awarded 5.1 percent more degrees in 2011-12, despite a 1.6 percent dip in enrollment, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Community colleges lost 250,000 students, but granted 8 percent more associate degrees. The number of bachelor’s degrees rose by 4.3 percent.
California community colleges could add courses in short summer and winter sessions — if students pay more, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. A bill that passed the Assembly this week would let colleges charge non-resident rates — $200 per unit — for new classes instead of the usual fee of $46 per unit.
Students who pay more for a high-demand class would free up spaces for other students during the regular semester, Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, said. ”We must recognize the reality that the existing system is not meeting students’ needs,” he said.
The Faculty Association of California Community Colleges and several community college districts opposed the bill, saying it’s unfair to low-income students.
“If you fear a two-tiered system, I’ve got to wake you up: It’s already here,” Williams said. “There’s one tier that can get in and one tier that is locked out.”
After years of cutbacks, two-thirds of community colleges are offering more courses this summer, according to the chancellor’s office. Last summer, enrollment and course offerings hit the lowest level in 15 years, but the passage of a state sales tax increase provided an extra $210 million to community colleges.
In recent years, the state’s community colleges have been hit by $1.5 billion in funding cuts and turned away 600,000 students, according to a report published in March.
The shortage of community college seats “could keep 2.5 million Californians out of the system over the next 10 years,” reports KPBS. Latinos, who are the most likely to attend community colleges, will be hit hard, said Deborah Santiago, who heads research for Excelencia in Education. “Community colleges are, from a sticker price perspective, more affordable and, because they are in the communities where these students live, therefore accessible,” she said.
With the help of Labor Department grants, community colleges are accelerating job training programs aimed at adults and “stacking” workforce credentials, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Working with employers, Massachusetts’ 15 community colleges have accelerated training for jobs in health care, advanced manufacturing, information technology, biotechnology, green energy and financial services.
In addition to prior-learning assessment and competency-based education, colleges are creating stackable credentials. Students can earn a short-term certificate, find a job and return later to add a higher credential.
For advanced manufacturing, the final product was a pyramid of competencies employees should ideally master to work at various job levels. The colleges worked with manufacturers statewide to develop those standards.
For example, in the precision machining field, entry-level jobs like assemblers or warehouse workers should have skills in five major areas: shop math, blueprint reading, metrology, problem solving and workplace readiness. But further up the pyramid, supervisors and managers should hold certificates and degrees in manufacturing technology, as well as more learned skills, such as programming, and a minimum number of hours working in the industry.
Stacking also works well for health-care credentials, said Ana Sanchez, the “career and college navigator” at Springfield Technical Community College. “Everybody wants to be a nurse,” but not everyone has the math and science skills needed. In one or two semesters, students can earn a certificate as a patient care technician or medical admin. It can be a quick route to the workforce and, for some, the first step on the path to a nursing degree.
The community college Completion Agenda aims to double the number of students who complete a one-year certificate or an associate degree or who transfer to complete a credential, writes Terry O’Banion in Community College Times. College leaders have focused on orientation, advising, placement, financial aid — everything but teaching and learning.
Key leaders involved in the Completion Agenda recognize the need to focus more attention on teaching and learning and classroom instruction. Jamie Merisotis, president of Lumina Foundation has noted: “Oddly enough, the concept of learning—a subject that seems critical to every discussion about higher education—is often overlooked in the modern era. For us, learning doesn’t just matter. It matters most of all. It’s the learning, stupid.”
. . . Kay McClenney and her colleagues at the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) also weigh in on this conversation: “Student success matters. College completion matters. And teaching and learning—the heart of student success—matter.”
When students are “actively engaged,” they’re more likely to learn, persist and reach their goals, according to CCCSE research.
Improving classroom success in the first year is critical, especially for low-income students, says Vincent Tinto.
Community colleges and other broad-access institutions are under pressure to graduate more students while cutting costs, write Community College Research Center researchers Davis Jenkins and Olga Rodríguez in Access and Success with Less: Improving Productivity in Broad-Access Postsecondary Institutions. But completion-boosting strategies may not be cost effective and the most commonly used cost-cutting strategies, such as hiring adjuncts and raising class sizes, may raise the cost per completion.
Some believe that redesigning courses to make use of instructional technologies will lead to better outcomes at lower cost, although the evidence is mixed. Recently, a growing number of institutions are going beyond redesigning courses and instead changing the way they organize programs and supports along the student’s “pathway” through college. These efforts are promising, but their effects on cost per completion are not yet certain. Meager funding has so far hampered efforts by policy makers to fund colleges based on outcomes rather than how many students they enroll, but some states are beginning to increase the share of appropriations tied to outcomes.
The push to lower the cost per graduate could provide incentives to lower academic standards, warn Jenkins and Rodríguez. They urge colleges and universities to “redouble efforts to define learning outcomes and measure student mastery.”