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?


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.


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) 

Feds miscount online students

How many students are learning online? The federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS,  is unreliable, concludes a study by the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies and consultant Paul Hill.

“After billions of dollars spent on administrative computer systems and billions of dollars invested in ed-tech companies, the U.S. higher education system is woefully out of date and unable to cope with major education trends such as online and hybrid education, flexible terms and the expansion of continuing and extended education,” Hill and Russ Poulin, deputy director of research and analysis for WCET, write in a summary of their findings.

. . . “It’s shocking when you think about two things,” Hill said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. “We’re moving more and more in this country to talking about data, scorecards, holding colleges accountable. It’s this whole culture of data-driven accountability, but we’re not ready.”

While the most recent Babson Group survey estimated 7.2 million online students in fall 2012, IPEDS counted only 5.5 million, notes Inside Higher Ed. 

IPEDS is notorious for miscounting community college students, writes Matt Reed, the Community College Dean. The federal data system is designed for 18- to 22-year-old full-time, dorm-dwelling students supported by their parents. It doesn’t do well with adults.

It shouldn’t matter whether a student makes progress in a regular semester, an accelerated semester, or even an intersession. With competency-based programs starting to catch on, the entire ‘semester’ edifice is making less sense anyway.

We shouldn’t conflate stopping out with dropping out, as the current system does. Students who need to work full-time while going to school often have to take time off along the way . . . The trend towards “stackable” credentials is based on an overdue recognition that students move in and out of college for economic reasons, and it’s better to give them something useful before they go. But in the current data, those stopouts count as attrition, and are held against us.

Community colleges should be judged on how they help students learn something useful in the time — and aid — they’ve got, writes Reed.  If IPEDS can’t adapt, perhaps it should go the way of the dinosaurs and be replaced by a better system.

In MIT’s MOOC, everyone learned

MOOCs — massive open online courses — work only for the well-educated, many believe. But a new study finds that MOOC participants learned as much or more than traditional students in a MIT physics class. There was no evidence that less-capable students learned less, wrote researchers in a paper published in the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning

. . . researchers from MIT, Harvard and Tsinghua University, completed a before-and-after test on students taking “Mechanics ReView,” an introductory mechanics course offered on massive open online learning platform edX.

Compared to students taking the same course in a face-to-face setting, the MOOC participants learned as much or more.

And that goes for even the least prepared, as reflected by their scores on pretests. (Co-author David) Pritchard said improvement levels increased across the board, explaining that, even if a student with a lower initial score ends the online course with what would be equivalent to a failing grade, “that person would nevertheless have made substantial gains in understanding.”

“This certainly should allay concerns that less-well-prepared students cannot learn in MOOCs,”  researchers wrote.

In either setting, students will do better if they interact in small groups and participate in peer-to-peer learning, Pritchard told MIT News.

Pritchard hopes to track online students — “how long they spend watching lectures, how often they pause or repeat sections, how much of the textbook they read and when, and so on” — to figure out which online learning designs work best.

Many MOOCs have very high sign-up rates — after all, they’re free — but most students never start the course or quit after a few sessions. The study looked at those who stayed with the course to the end.

ATD names ‘leader colleges’

Achieving the Dream has named a new group of “leader colleges” that are improving student success and closing achievement gaps, reports Community College Daily.

  • Amarillo College (Texas)
  • East Los Angeles College (California)
  • Eastern Maine Community College
  • Everett Community College (Washington)
  • Jackson College (Michigan)
  • Jefferson Community and Technical College (Kentucky)
  • Lane Community College (Oregon)
  • Los Angeles Harbor College (California)
  • Lower Columbia College (Washington)
  • Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
  • Oklahoma City Community College
  • Passaic County Community College (New Jersey)
  • Pierce College (California)
  • Pierce College (Wyoming)
  • Richland College (Texas)
  • Rose State College (Oklahoma)

Achieving the Dream colleges work to improve college readiness programs, orientation, student-success courses and remediation.

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