Remediation rates plummet in Florida

Remedial enrollment has dropped by half this year at Florida’s Broward College,  but that doesn’t mean students are better prepared, reports the Orlando Sun-Sentinel.  Under a new state law, Florida high school graduates can choose to skip remedial courses and start at the college level.

At Palm Beach State College, remedial enrollment dropped by 41 percent; it’s down 30 percent at Miami Dade College.

Broward College officials said they’ve beefed up tutoring and advising to assist these students and have taken other steps to help them succeed. For example, the college offers a new statistics math class where students can get elective credit. About 1,200 students are enrolled in 40 sections, most of whom would have been in remedial classes before. The class is designed for students who are not planning on going into the fields of math or science.

And the college has changed its remedial classes as well.

The semester-long classroom lectures have been replaced with accelerated “boot camps” and computer programs that allow students work at their own pace and focus on their deficiencies. The school also developed a “Massive Open Online Course” or MOOC, where students can learn skills on their own time.

While placement tests are optional, counselors look at new students’ high school transcripts and recommend remedial classes if their grades or test scores are low, said Broward Provost Linda Howdyshell. She believes making remediation optional will enable more students to earn a credential.

But some are skeptical, reports the Sun-Sentinel. “Unfortunately, if they don’t know the basics, they probably won’t have a lot of success, and that makes me nervous,” said Juliet Carl, a math professor at Broward.


Speedier ways to get students up to speed

Speedier ways to get students up to speed are being tried at community colleges across the nation, reports Community College Daily.

Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) in Ohio is adopting the Accelerated Learning program developed by educators at the Community College of Baltimore County in Maryland. As part of that model, EGCC English students who score near the top of the developmental range are granted admission into a for-credit English 101 course. As a condition of admission, students must agree to meet with educators once a week for an additional hour of help.

At Gateway Community College (GCC) in Connecticut,  educators are working with local high school teachers to offer remedial coursework in 12th grade.  A three-week summer “boot camp” gave 400 local high school graduates a chance to qualify for college-level math and English courses this fall.

Casper College in Wyoming is condensing multiple levels of English and developmental reading courses into just two levels. The college also has lowered the ACT score needed to qualify for college-level English from 21 to 18.


Who needs algebra?

Who Needs Algebra? asks NPR.

Sixty percent of the nation’s 12.8 million community college students are required to take at least one course in subject X. Eighty percent of that 60 percent never move on past that requirement.

Let Y = the total percentage of community college students prevented from graduating simply by failing that one subject, X. What is Y?

The answer: Y = 48.

. . . What is X?

The answer: Subject X equals the course sequence known as developmental or remedial math, and especially its final course, algebra.

Algebra is “the single most-failed course” at every community college, says Gail Mellow, the president of LaGuardia Community College in Queens, N.Y. Algebra is less a gateway than an impassable barrier.

Ashjame Pendarvis, 20, hopes to major in infant and early childhood education at the University of the District of Columbia Community College. But she’s placed into the lowest level of math. She’ll need to pass “two semesters of remedial math out of the way before she can start on courses relevant to her major, and two more of college-level math before she can graduate,” reports NPR.

Ashjames Pendervis works on her math homework.

Ashjame Pendarvis works on her remedial math homework at UDC Community College.

“I feel like, if math isn’t important in your career, then there is no need for it in college,” Pendarvis says. “What’s the purpose of wasting your time and your money?”

Mellow agrees. She’s involved with Carnegie’s Pathways, which offer alternatives to the traditional algebra-heavy math sequence. Some students study statistics (Statway), while others take “Quantitative Reasoning” (Quantway).

Success rates are high for Quantway and Statway students at LaGuardia and elsewhere since the program started three years ago.

Half complete remedial and college-level math in one year. “In the traditional sequence, just 15 percent do the same — and that’s in two years,” notes NPR. “We’ve tripled our success rate in half the time,” says Mellow.

Pathways students score as well or better in college-level math and statistics exams as other students, says Karen Klipple, who directs the Pathways Project.


Chicago: Free tuition for college-ready students

College-ready students will get a free ride to the City Colleges of Chicago‘s seven campuses, reports the Chicago Tribune. To qualify for a Chicago Star Scholarship, which covers tuition, books and fees, students must graduate from a public high school with a 3.0 grade-point average or better and be prepared for college-level math and English.

The Star Scholarship will cover costs for up to three years above any state or federal aid the student receives.

Chancellor Cheryl Hyman said the scholarships’ $2 million cost will be covered by “greater efficiencies in the system, such as establishing a single nursing at Malcolm X College instead of funding several separate nursing programs,” reports the Tribune.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel predicted City Colleges could save money if more students are prepared for college classes, cutting the $40 million spent each year on remedial classes.


Instead of victims’ advocates, hire guards

To protect students from sexual assault, California community colleges should hire counselors to help victims, urged Chancellor Brice W. Harris last month.

California Sen. Barbara Boxer had asked the state’s college and university leaders to “voluntarily implement” her proposed S.O.S. Campus Act, which would require colleges that get federal funds to provide advocates to sexual assault victims.

Dormless Community Colleges to Get Government-Imposed Rape-Survivor ‘Advocates’ Instead of Goddamned Security Guards, responds Matt Welch on Reason’s Hit & Run blog.

California’s 112 community colleges, serving an estimated 2 million students, don’t have “thousands of straight-oughtta high school kids learning haphazardly how to be grown-ups while sleeping in close proximity to their fellow experience-seekers,” he writes. There are no dorms, no frat parties, no “rape culture.”

The campus mood tends to be sober and adult, not binge-drinky and experimental. You don’t go to Long Beach City College (one of three CCs I have attended over the years) to meet people and blow your mind, you go there to get what you need and move on.

Harris wants to do “everything he can to help protect…students,” he writes.

Well, then, protect them from the real danger, writes Welch. Many students, including women, attend night classes alone.

We’re not talking about a petri dish of intoxicants and STDs here, but adults walking solo to their cars through darkened quads at 9 p.m. Let’s see, how would you protect students from sexual assault in such an atmosphere?

YOU WOULD HIRE SECURITY GUARDS AND INSTALL BRIGHT LIGHTS AND SECURITY CAMERAS, THAT’S HOW.

Doing so would discourage attackers. That makes more sense than skimping on security and hiring counselors for victims.


Second time isn’t the charm

Nearly all college completion data looks at first-time students. Completion rates are low for non-first-time students, reports Inside Track. Only 33.7 percent of returning students completed their degree, compared with 54.1 percent of first-time students.

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Only 27 percent of non-first-time community college students completed a certificate or degree in eight years, compared to 36 percent of first-timers, the study estimates.

At two-year for-profit colleges, where most students are seeking certificates, completion rates were 40 percent for adult learners and 62 percent for first-time students.

“If our nation expects the more than 30 million adults with some college but no degree to complete a credential, we need to do a much better job supporting them once they’ve made the decision to re-enroll,” says Dave Jarrat, vice president of marketing at InsideTrack, which organized the study.


Why graduation rates are misleading

Federal college graduation rates don’t distinguish between certificates and associate degrees, presenting a misleading picture of community colleges and for-profit institutions, writes Ben Miller on EdCentral.
10 08 14 CC vs For Profit 2 The College Graduation Rate Flaw That No Ones Talking AboutAccording to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), three-year graduation rates are much higher at for-profit colleges than at community colleges: 63 percent compared to 21 percent.

However, 86 percent of for-profit graduates have finished less-than-two-year programs, “almost certainly certificates,” while three-quarters of community college graduates were in programs that were two years or longer, likely associate degrees. It’s a lot easier to finish a short program than a longer program.

In 2012-13, 58 percent of credentials awarded by community colleges were associate degrees; at for-profit colleges, 27 of graduates earned associate degrees.
10 08 14 CC vs For Profit 4 The College Graduation Rate Flaw That No Ones Talking About“About 47 percent of students at for-profit colleges who started out seeking an associate degree or certificate earned something,” writes Miller. “That’s higher than the attainment rate at public colleges (37 percent).” However, more public college students were still pursuing a credential.

The analysis includes public four-year institutions that award associate degrees. Not surprisingly, public students are far more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than for-profit students.

I’d like to see a comparison of completion rates at public technical colleges, which do not offer associate degrees for transfer. For students pursuing vocational credentials, are community colleges as effective as for-profit career colleges?


CC transfers serve poor as doctors


Community college transfers who become medical students are more likely to plan to work in low-income, minority communities.

Medical schools could improve care for underserved patients by admitting more students who started in community college, say researchers from UCLA, UC San Francisco and San Jose City College.  Medical students who previously attended community colleges are more likely to intend working in low-income, minority communities, according to the recent study published in Academic Medicine.

Thirty-four percent of Latino medical students in the study had attended community colleges, (538 of 1,566 matriculants), compared with 28 percent of black students (311 of 1,109), 27 percent of white students (2,715 of 9,905), 27 percent of Asian students (963 of 3,628) and 30 percent of students identifying themselves as mixed-race or other race (393 of 1,310).

Medical schools discriminate against applicants who start at community college, the study found.  Applicants who’d started at community college  were 30 percent less likely to be admitted, after adjusting for age, gender, race and ethnicity, parental education, grade point average and MCAT score.


High hopes, long odds


Vladimir de Jesus hopes to teach art, but has flunked remedial math three times.

Community College Students Face a Very Long Road to Graduation writes Gina Bellafante in a New York Times profile of a student at New York City’s La Guardia Community College. Vladimir de Jesus enrolled in September 2008, left after the first semester to work full time, then returned in 2012. In six semesters, he’s earned only 27 credits of the 60 he needs to transfer — and he’s flunked remedial math three times.

A fine arts major, he hopes to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees and teach studio art and art history.

De Jesus went to a low-performing high school, cut classes and dropped out, but earned a GED. He fathered a child when he was 17. He helps care for his six-year-old and uses some of his earnings as a freelance tattoo artist to help pay her Catholic school tuition. He suffers from ulcers.

More than 70 percent of LaGuardia students come from families with incomes of less than $25,000 a year, writes Bellafante. Many are working, raising children and facing personal and  health issues. Community colleges offer far less counseling than better-funded colleges and universities. The neediest students are on their own.

Toward the end of last semester, Mr. de Jesus had fallen behind on his math homework. There were domestic complications: the death of his grandfather, and the stresses of a college student’s typically strained romantic life. At one point he lost the lab work that he had done in class, which would make up 5 percent of his total grade. Not having a computer of his own, he had been checking laptops in and out of the library. In the process of returning one, he had left the lab work behind. When he went back to retrieve the papers, they were gone.

The final exam for Math 96 would make up 35 percent of the total grade, and as the day of the test approached, Mr. de Jesus knew that with the demerits he would face for his poor attendance and his unfinished homework, there was little chance he would pass. On the morning of the exam, he didn’t show up, and he failed the class for the third time. As it happened, more than 40 percent of the students in the class also failed.

“This whole thing with math just hits your spirit in the wrong way,” he said. “It demolishes your spirit. You become lazy.”

Gail Mellow, LaGuardia’s president, believes students shouldn’t have to master algebra if they’re not planning to pursue a math- or science-intensive field. La Guardia is experimenting with Carnegie’s statistics and “quantitative reasoning” alternatives to traditional developmental math.

De Jesus is postponing a fourth try at remedial math and considering applying for a job with the Sanitation Department, reports Bellafante. Given his long odds of completing a bachelor’s degree and low earnings for fine arts graduates, that’s not a bad plan. He could take art classes, do art and forget about trying to pass math.


Major decisions: What graduates earn

The average college graduate with a bachelor’s degree will earn $1.19 million over a lifetime, compared to $855,000 for an associate degree holder and $580,000 for a worker with only a high school degree, estimates The Hamilton Project.  But the choice of a college major makes a huge difference in earnings.

Overall, more-educated people earn more.  But graduates in engineering, computer science and other quantitative fields will earn a lot more than people who major in early childhood education, family sciences (home economics), theology, fine arts, social work, and elementary education.

In the lowest-paying fields, four-year graduates can expect to earn less than the average worker with an associate degree.

For the median bachelor’s graduate, cumulative lifetime earnings across majors range from just under $800,000 (early childhood education) to just over $2 million (chemical engineering).

Figure 2: Median Lifetime Earnings for Select Majors (In Millions of Dollars) 


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