Massachusetts is betting that funding community colleges based on performance will close the job skills gap, reports Governing. Most states with performance funding link less than 10 percent of higher education to results. Massachusetts will tie half of its community college funds to results. Only Tennessee goes that far.
Massachusetts also increased its community college funding by $20 million after years of cutbacks. It dropped a funding formula that gave some campuses nearly $6,000 per full-time student while others received only $2,500.
In addition to Massachusetts and Tennessee, 11 states have added performance criteria to community college (and sometimes university) budgets. Four other states are moving in that direction.
Demands for accountability are rising, says Richard Kazis, vice president of Jobs for the Future, which promotes workforce development. “There’s a sense that we shouldn’t just fund institutions for getting people to sit in seats briefly; we should fund them for succeeding and moving people forward. How do you make the most out of each dollar?”
Massachusetts will tie funding to each community college’s ability to improve graduation rates, contribute to the state’s workforce needs and help more minority students succeed. Within three years, half of each college’s funding will hinge on these benchmarks. The other half will be determined by course credits completed.
Community college presidents accepted performance funding “as the price of getting a rational funding formula,” says Bill Messner, president of Holyoke Community College.
South Carolina jumped to 100 percent performance funding for colleges and universities in 1996. The system used dozen of metrics.
“They built a system they couldn’t deliver,” says Kazis of Jobs for the Future. The funding formula was never embraced by university faculty and administrators, who were not included in the process of designing it. Administrators who tried to implement the program were overloaded with unfamiliar demands. After seven years, the program was abandoned.
Massachusetts and Tennessee going slow and collaborating with the higher education community, notes Governing.
To prevent colleges from boost success rates by limiting access, both states award points for outcomes achieved by low-income, adult or minority students.
During the first two years of the new performance funding system, all but one of Tennessee’s 13 community colleges increased the number of associate degrees awarded to low-income students. At the state’s nine universities, all succeeded in increasing the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to low-income students.
Rewarding enrollment growth and ignoring results sends the wrong message, says Richard Freeland, higher education commissioner in Massachusetts. “It leads to too many students coming in the door and dropping by the wayside.”
A federal college ratings system could penalize open-access institutions and hurt disadvantaged students, said participants in a public forum in southern California. The U.S. Education Department plans three more forums to solicit feedback on President Obama’s ratings plan, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Community colleges can’t be rated fairly, several speakers said. State performance models make more sense than developing a new federal metric, said Thomas Fallo, the superintendent/president of El Camino Community College District in the Los Angeles area.
Audrey Dow, community affairs director at Campaign for College Opportunity, . . . expressed concern that underprivileged students would be denied access to education if they were to live in a community where local colleges performed poorly in the ratings system and they therefore received less federal aid. The administration plans to ultimately persuade Congress to link its rating system to federal funding starting in 2018.
David Levitus, the California deputy director of Young Invincibles , a student advocacy group, cautioned against ratings metrics that reduce incentives for institutions to enroll disadvantaged students. He said a recent move to performance-based funding in Ohio largely punished institutions that enroll low-income students.
The ratings will compare colleges with similar missions that serve similar students, said Deputy Under Secretary Jamienne Studley. “We take very seriously” the concerns about access for low-income students, she said.
The department plans to release a draft proposal in the spring.
Without better data, a ratings system could do more harm than good, warns Matthew M. Chingos on Brookings’ Chalkboard blog.
Clare McCann of the New American Foundation has described the significant limitations of existing data on colleges, such as the omission of part-time students from graduation rate data and the federal ban on linking student-level data across different sources, as the “elephant in the room” of the White House plan.
The best measure of whether a college is adding value is to look at the quality of entering students, Chingos writes. SAT and ACT scores are an imperfect measure. And students at community colleges don’t take the SAT or ACT.
A high-quality ratings system will require high-quality data, he writes. That will include “a radical overhaul of IPEDS, measures of college readiness, data that drill down from the campus level to the program level, and a creative strategy to link college graduates to their labor market outcomes.” It won’t happen in 2014.
California Latinos are completing high school and enrolling in college in record numbers, but college graduation rates remain low, according to a new report, The State of Latinos in Higher Education in California.
Expectations are high: 83 percent of Latino parents want their children to earn at least a bachelor’s degree. But only 11 percent of Latino adults have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 39 percent of whites.
Latinos are expected to reach majority status in California by 2050, notes the Campaign for College Opportunity, which produced the report. “The math is clear,” said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign. “If the California economy is to have the college-educated workforce it needs, we must find ways to significantly improve college completion rates among Latinos.”
“The good news is that this report confirms the incredible willingness and desire among Latino youth to go to college,” said Siqueiros. “Enrollment is high and growing. But too few Latino college students are completing a certificate or college degree. We are falling into a pattern of improved college access, without success.”
Compared to their white and Asian-American classmates, Latinos are less likely to enroll in a selective college or four-year university. They’re also less likely to enroll full-time and much less likely to earn a credential.
Seventy percent of first-time Latino college-goers in the state enrolled at a community college in 2012. Of degree-seeking Latinos who complete six units and attempt an English or math course, 40 percent earn a certificate or associate degree or transfer within six years, estimates a scorecard created by the California Community Colleges. That includes nearly 65 percent of “prepared” Latinos and 35 percent of “unprepared” Latinos. However, only 20 percent Latinos earned a credential or transferred, according to the Campaign’s 2010 study. Researchers looked at students who’d earned six units, regardless of math or English attempts.
To close the college gap, the Campaign for College Opportunity recommends creating a statewide higher education plan with benchmarks for increasing Latino enrollment and completion rates, and for decreasing time spent in remedial education. “We’ve looked at Texas, which is very aggressive at articulating goals, college by college,” said Siqueiros in an online press conference.
Fund colleges for both enrollment and success — Establish a new funding mechanism that creates incentives for increasing graduation and completion rates.
Get everyone on the same page — Improve coordination between high schools and colleges on college preparation and assessment.
Invest in services students need to succeed — Prioritize resources that support student success and completion, including orientation, counseling and services to close information gaps for low-income, first-generation Latino students.
Strengthen financial support options for students — Ensure that all eligible students apply and receive federal and California student aid for which they qualify.
“Access is not enough,” said Siqueiros.
Late enrollment sets students up to fail, writes an anonymous community college administrator in Inside Higher Ed.
In the name of access, many community colleges set no deadlines to enroll or apply for financial aid, Anonymous writes. Students can self-select into the classes they want, even if they’ve failed the placement test. They can start a week late, missing two or three classes.
We worry over our rising student loan default numbers. We struggle to improve our retention and completion rates and yet we have created a system that makes it OK for college to be a last-minute decision, where our most at-risk students start out behind and many never catch up. We force our professors to take students who will be seriously behind on their first day in class, and who will either sidetrack the instructor or fall more behind. Instructors, especially in our core classes, must balance trying to meet the course objectives while also providing in-class remediation for underprepared students.
Late enrollment often leads to academic failure, the administrator writes. Dropouts often have student loans that they won’t be able to pay.
Application and enrollment deadlines that ensure a student has enough time to get financial aid and payment plans in place before the semester begins. We need to have deadlines in place so a student knows that being successful requires planning and some time getting his or her life organized to be a student. A student who misses the deadline for enrollment isn’t told “no,” they are told “next semester.”
Mandatory orientation for all new students. We have a moral obligation to ensure that students have been informed of the institutions’ expectations, policies and practices before students try to begin navigating our increasingly large bureaucracies.
Required placement and advising prior to the first semester of enrollment. Students should start knowing what they’ll need to graduate, what classes they are truly ready for and what their academic plan will be.
Some community colleges have ended late enrollment to raise student success rates. In a 2002 study, 80 percent of on-time students made it to the next semester, compared to 35 percent of late registrants.
California will require community colleges to offer transfer degrees in all majors, reports the Ventura Star. Students who earn a transfer degree will be admitted to a California State University campus as juniors. They also would get priority admission to their local CSU campus.
The bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will make transfers “efficient, cost effective and achievable,” said the Campaign for College Opportunity.
Gov. Brown also signed a bill letting six community colleges charge higher tuition for winter or summer “intersession” classes. A typical three-unit class that costs $138 during the regular academic year would cost $600 during the special sessions.
Colleges that decide to participate would have to use one-third of the money they collect on financial aid for low-income students.
Brown said the pilot program “seems like a reasonable experiment” that would let campuses “offer students access and financial assistance to courses not otherwise available.”
On Education Nation, MSNBC’s Tamron Hall hosts a panel exploring strategies to make college more accessible and affordable.
Changing financial aid to promote college completion could limit access, warns Do No Harm, a report by the U.S. Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance. Several proposals under discussion could make it harder for low-income students to attend college, the panel advises.
The report lists 10 financial aid “fallacies.”
For example, redirecting need-based grants to higher achievers and colleges with higher graduation rates would not improve completion, the report argues. The loss in access and completion for unfunded students will offset completion gains, it predicts.
To increase completion, financial aid proposals must address barriers for low-income students, the panel recommends. These include: high net prices for low-income students; excessive borrowing; decoupling of federal, state and institutional aid; complex forms and eligibility determination; inadequate early information and intervention, and insufficient in-college support services.
To increase access and completion, the panel proposes: Using federal aid to spur state and institutional aid; doubling the maximum Pell Grant; converting higher education tax credits to Pell Grants, and redesigning income-based loan repayment.
California will experiment with much higher fees for high-demand community college classes, if Gov. Jerry Brown signs a bill on his desk. Long Beach City College officials have been pushing two-tier tuition to cut wait lists, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Legislation that has passed both the state Senate and Assembly would create a pilot project allowing colleges to charge all students non-resident tuition — as much as $200 per unit — for high-demand classes during summer and winter terms. Those classes include transfer-level English, algebra and history, which typically have long waiting lists.
“This gives our college one more tool to use to open up access to courses in high demand and will materially impact the ability of students to transfer and get a higher degree,” said Long Beach City College President Eloy Oakley.
However, there’s plenty of opposition. ”This bill will create two classes of students, those who can pay and finish and those who can’t,” said Andrea Donado, the student trustee in the Long Beach Community College District. “It’s not the mission of a community college to be like a private college.”
The controversy is a replay in many respects of an attempt by Santa Monica City College last year to offer high-priced core classes in a summer extension program alongside regular state-funded courses. The effort was abandoned after the statewide community college chancellor said it violated education codes. The proposal roiled the campus; student protesters were pepper-sprayed at a college board meeting.
Gov. Brown has pledged not to raise community college fees, but hasn’t said whether he’ll sign or veto the bill.
With new funding this year, California’s community colleges are offering more courses and enrolling more students, but most still have wait lists for popular courses.
The cost of Pell Grants has “risen dramatically” in recent years, reports the Congressional Budget Office. From 2006–2007 to 2010–2011, inflation-adjusted spending on Pell grants increased by 158 percent. The number of recipients increased by 80 percent and the average grant amount increased by 43 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. The maximum grant for 2013–2014 is $5,645.
The CBO report analyzes proposed money-saving options, such as shrinking the size of grants or reducing the number of recipients by tightening eligibility criteria.
However, some believe grants should be increased to cover a higher percentage of college costs, the report notes. Legislators “could increase the size of grants for all low-income students . . . or offer greater amounts to students who make particular educational choices.”
A set of options that would tighten means-testing, impose more rigorous academic requirements, and reduce the grant amounts could cut the program’s costs in half, saving an average of about $20 billion per year, but would reduce the number of recipients by 40 percent.
Options for simplifying Pell including asking for less financial information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or linking eligibility to federal poverty guidelines.
There are other ways to broaden access postsecondary education, the report points out. Possibilities include forgivable loans, grant commitments to young teenagers, federal support of state grant programs and funding job training.
President Obama’s higher education plan praises performance funding in Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee, but two new Community College Research Center (CCRC) studies find “little evidence that performance funding improves student success,” says researcher Kevin Dougherty. “It remains very much in the experimental stage.”
Envisioning Performance Funding Impacts and Performance Funding for Higher Education look at Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee, which have tied substantial higher education funding to student success measures, such as retention and graduation rates.
. . . in states where funding for public colleges and universities is tied to student performance, colleges struggle to pinpoint the causes of poor student outcomes, develop and implement meaningful solutions, and track whether the solutions are improving student success. Additionally, performance funding has the potential to produce strong negative side effects, such as lowered standards, decreased access for at-risk students, and a weakened faculty voice.
“State policymakers tend to assume that if there is enough money on the table, schools will figure out how to get retention and graduation numbers up,” Dougherty says.
But colleges need help to research their problems and find solutions. Without that, there’s a risk they’ll improve their numbers by restricting access and lowering expectations. Performance funding plans should include “financial incentives for enrolling at-risk students and systems to track whether colleges are keeping up academic standards,” Dougherty advises.