Unless California helps low-income parents learn basic skills, train for jobs and pursue higher education, the state’s prosperity is at risk, concludes Working Hard, Left Behind. The Campaign for College Opportunity, the Women’s Foundation of California and Working Poor Families project collaborated on the report.
California leads the nation in low-income working adults and in poorly educated adults. More than 1 out of 10 adults over 24 years of age have less than a ninth-grade education; nearly 1 in 5 adults didn’t complete high school.
The state will be 2.3 million vocational certificate, two-year and four-year degree graduates short of meeting the needs of the state economy by 2025, the report estimates.
“This is an alarming gap,” said Michele Siqueiros, the campaign’s executive director. “On one hand, we have millions of hard-working, low-income adults who have limited chances of upward mobility because of obstacles to higher education access and completion. On the other hand, thousands of companies are seeking well-skilled and highly trained workers.”
California needs to create a “public agenda for higher education that sets clear goals for preparing high school students for college, transitioning adult students into postsecondary education and the workforce, increasing the number of certificate and degree completions, while monitoring progress toward those goals, and aligning policies and budgets needed to reach them,” the report recommends.
It calls for improving coordination between high schools, adult education, community colleges and four-year universities and tracking low-income students’ progress as they move from one education system to another.
Non-traditional students need better access to financial aid and access to counseling and child care, Working Hard, Left Behind concludes. In 2009-10, only a third of the state’s community college students applied for a Pell Grant, leaving an estimated $500 million in aid unclaimed.
Gov. Jerry Brown wants to community colleges to take over adult education, but his plan is on hold in the Legislature, reports EdSource. Currently, K-12 districts spend less than $300 million on adult schools, down from $634 million before the recession. Courses include literacy, English as a Second Language, citizenship, parenting, vocational education and GED and high school diploma courses. Brown proposes $300 million in state funding for adult ed at community colleges.
California Gov. Jerry Brown wants to shift adult education from K-12 districts to community colleges, but the Legislature may not go alone, reports the Oakland Tribune.
The plan would give community colleges an additional $300 million to set up similar adult education programs, including high school diploma or equivalency courses, vocational education and citizenship classes. College leaders note the amount is less than half of what the state spent on adult schools five years ago, and that colleges have no experience running some of these programs.
“We’ve never been in the business of doing GED (the high school diploma equivalent), nor have we done anything with citizenship,” said Ron Galatolo, chancellor of the San Mateo County Community College District.
Under the governor’s proposal, school districts would continue to get the same funding, but could shift the money to other uses. In Oakland, which has a 27 percent dropout rate, the district plans to close its GED programs if it isn’t required to serve adult students.
. . . the nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office cites “major problems” with the plan and urges the Legislature to instead invest the money in a special fund for adult education, managed by K-12 school districts.
. . . For years, community colleges have also offered remedial courses, including English as a second language, but have generally targeted higher-skilled students, while adult schools — often in courses set up at a school or community center — have worked with school dropouts and recent immigrants and refugees, including those unable to read or write.
Proponents argue adult education students could move more easily to job training and college classes, if they started at community colleges. Colleges could contract with existing adult ed programs rather than design their own classes.
After years of higher education cuts, California Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal gives the state’s colleges and universities “good news for the first time in years,” reports the San Jose Mercury News.
The CSU and UC systems would each receive an additional $125 million, thanks to the passage of two tax initiatives. Community colleges would receive $197 million more in general-purpose funds next year. That means “community colleges can begin to make room for some of the hundreds of thousands of students who have been shut out of our system due to recent funding cuts,” Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris said in a news release.
The governor’s plan also calls for expanding online education, transferring adult education from K-12 districts to community colleges and funding community colleges based on student enrollment at the end of the term, not the beginning.
The California Community College Online Initiative plans to create a centralized “virtual campus” to provide online courses. In addition, the chancellor’s office will expand options for students to earn college credit by passing a “challenge” exam.
Students would be held accountable too, writes Kathy Baron on EdSource.
A significant, and likely controversial, piece of the budget proposal would cap state subsidized community college classes at 90 units. Beyond that, students would have to pay full freight – from $127 to $190 per credit based on a quarter or semester calendar.
The latest figures, from the 2009-10 academic year, show that 4.7 percent, or more than 117,000 students, exceeded 90 units.
Student leaders oppose the idea. There’s also controversy about shifting control of adult education.
Community colleges will get an additional $300 million to fund the adult education takeover plus $15.7 million for an apprenticeship program. Adult ed would provide basic skills, English as a Second Language, citizenship classes and vocational training, but no enrichment classes for older adults or parent education.
“Any moving or shifting of adult ed to community colleges is a serious concern,” said Dawn Koepke, a lobbyist for the California Council for Adult Education. “It doesn’t make sense at all. Adult ed is tied to K-12 because we’re talking about basic skills and access. The infrastructure is already in K-12.”
Funding community colleges based on end-of-term enrollment would be phased in over five years. Lost funding would be used to fund student support services.
Community colleges will get $500 million in federal grants to fund job training. The Labor and Education departments will work together on the program, which will focus on ”skills development and employment opportunities in fields such as advanced manufacturing, transportation and health care, as well as science, technology, engineering and math careers through partnerships between training providers and local employers.”
“Many employers are currently unable to fill well-paying jobs because applicants lack the skills,” says JFF President and CEO Marlene B. Seltzer. “Today’s good jobs require education beyond high school and training that prepares workers with practical skills that employers need. Accelerating Opportunity focuses on educational programs that lead to the credentials workers need to secure a family-sustaining job and long-lasting career opportunities.”
Accelerating Opportunity hopes to create career pathways leading to “marketable, stackable, credit-bearing credentials” in at least 40 community colleges by 2014.
Tying faculty pay to student performance is controversial in K-12, unknown at the college level. However, part-time adult education instructors at City Colleges of Chicago have agreed to link bonuses to student achievement, reports Inside Higher Ed. Senior administrators also will be paid based on performance.
The adult education instructors are represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Most faculty members are affiliated with other unions.
State government in Illinois has established targets for student progress in adult basic education, GED programs and English as a Second Language (ESL), the three areas taught by instructors in the AFSCME union. Students across the seven-college system are tested at every level of those programs, yielding annual results that will be used to determine the amount annual bonus pay for union members. The bonus will be a uniform amount for each broad class of instructor – who teach in each of those three areas – based on systemwide student progress, according to college officials.
The performance-linked bonuses, which replace a 3 percent annual “retention pay” raise, could equal 5 to 7 percent of instructors’ annual pay.
Expand financial aid to part-time, non-credit students seeking job skills faculty and students told U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a town hall meeting at Tallahassee Community College last week, reports Community College Times.
President Obama wants two-year colleges to help train an additional two million Americans for jobs.
”I can’t overstate how important the role community colleges are going to play, helping our country get back to where we want to go,” Duncan said.
Many students in adult education and non-credit training programs don’t qualify for financial aid and scholarships, despite their need, said Kristina Pereira, an adult education specialist at TCC.
People seeking short-term job training should be eligible for aid, TCC President Jim Murdaugh told Community College Times. For example, a TCC student was enable to enroll in a certificate course that would have lead to a good job because he didn’t have the $500 fee and didn’t qualify for student aid, Murdaugh said.
“There is no mechanism to provide any help to these folks,” Murdaugh said, noting that current rules on federal student aid eligibility “disadvantage” part-time and non-credit students enrolled in courses that can usually be completed in 90 days with jobs waiting for them. Eligibility requirement should factor in programs that successfully lead to employment.
“That should be the litmus test for success,” Murdaugh said.
Many laid-off workers seek short-term training to get back into the job market quickly.
State universities are pushing remedial classes to community colleges, and some community colleges are pushing low-level remediation to adult ed programs, I write in U.S. News.
Over 26 million adults lack a high school diploma, but less than 10 percent are enrolled in adult basic education programs. Many who try adult ed quit after a semester or two without earning any credential.
“The number of adults without skills and credentials beyond high school is a national crisis threatening our economic recovery,” says Marlene B. Seltzer, president of JFF. “At the same time, employers are having difficulty finding qualified workers to fill skilled positions that command a higher salary.”
Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, and Wisconsin will receive $200,000 grants to support the redesign effort. In the second phase, five states will receive implementation grants of $1.6 million.
The initiative, which will involve nearly 40 community colleges and 18,000 adult learners, builds on JFF’s Breaking Through, as well as Washington State’s I-BEST program.
Funders include the Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations. The National Council on Workforce Education, National College Transition Network, and the Washington State Board of Community & Technical Colleges will partner with JFF on the project.
In Leaving No Worker Behind, Jobs for the Future analyzes how five community colleges implemented Michigan’s program to train unemployed workers and other low-skilled adults for high-demand jobs. No Worker Left Behind encourages adults to sign up for two years of education and training, usually at a community college. The state covers up to $5,000 a year for tuition, fees and books and provides child-care subsidies and transportation allowances.
From its start in 2007 through 2010, more than 150,000 adults enrolled in NWLB-financed training; more were steered to Pell Grants. Some 59 percent of participants found a new job after completing their training.
The five colleges in the study developed programs for older workers, strengthened basic literacy and numeracy, updated computer skills and instilled confidence in adults who doubted their ability to succeed in college.
Most dislocated workers lacked literacy and numeracy skills. Colleges tried to integrate basic-skills instruction with preparation for college-level vocational training, but “rarely redesigned an entire program” to meet the needs of dislocated workers.
For the future, the study recommends:
>>Reward collaborative relationships between community colleges and Workforce Investment Boards.
>>Target benefits to adults with low basic skills.
>>Support a shift in the Adult Basic Education system to support postsecondary transitions.
>>Develop a common understanding of college readiness among workforce and higher education systems.
Due to the limitations of Michigan’s data systems, it’s impossible to say whether NWLB substantially increased college access or employment, the study concluded.
When adult education classes aren’t available, employers are stepping in to teach reading, basic math and English fluency to low-skilled workers, writes Sarah Butrymowicz on the Hechinger Post.
Mya Maw, a 52-year-old Burmese immigrant, longs for a stable office job in Boston, where she’s raising twin teenage daughters and washing dishes at a hotel. To help reach her goal, she spends most mornings sitting through two hours of English or computer instruction, taking advantage of free basic-skills classes that are a small but significant part of a fractured U.S. adult-education system.
Hospitals, hotels and the food-service industry often offer classes on company space and sometimes company time. Maw’s classes are offered by her union.
Despite the recession, some employers can’t find entry-level workers with academic skills. They hire for “a rudimentary grasp of English and a good work ethic,” then provide training.
At the hotel training center, workers in basic-skills classes hope to qualify for a “coveted banquet-server position, which can pay up to $70,000 a year.” (Why so lucrative?) Others go on to community college and beyond.
In 2004, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston began training employees to fill dozens of vacancies for lab or surgical technicians. Many needed remedial coursework in basic reading, English, math and science. Then the center added GED preparation and English classes for immigrants.
Jobs for the Future, a Boston-based nonprofit that helps health care companies train their workers, reports that 60 percent of its participants earned certification or a degree and 47 percent received raises.
Some of these workers are immigrants, but others went through U.S. schools without acquiring basic reading, writing and math skills.
Years ago, my grandfather figured out why shipments were going astray in his factory. Some of the forklift drivers couldn’t read; they usually guessed correctly about what went where, but not always. He offered free reading classes after work to anyone who wanted help. The turnout was huge. These were native-born, U.S.-educated Americans.