AACC’s wish list for higher ed act

Community college leaders must speak out on revisions to the Higher Education Act before it’s too late, said Belle S. Wheelan at the annual convention of the American Association of Community Colleges in Washington, D.C.

Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, said a reauthorized HEA could hurt open-access colleges, reports Community College Week.

It could include provisions tying the receipt of federal money to minimum completion rates. It might create new penalties for colleges with high student loan default rates. And it’s up to community college leaders to tell Congress how unpalatable measures like that are, before they become law, Wheelan said.

“If you look at the policies coming out of Washington, they are still focused on that 18-21 year old cohort, which is only 13 percent of out students,” she said. “We are trying to get the folks in Washington to understand that. Help us help the powers that be understand that.”

The AACC and the the Association of Community College Trustees have a wish list for the reauthorized Higher Education Act reports Community College Week.

Protecting Pell Grant funding, reinstating the year-round grant and increasing Pell flexibility top the list. Community colleges attract many Pell-eligible students from low- and moderate-income families.

Measuring student success accurately also is a priority. 

Current metrics used by the federal government exclude significant numbers of community college completers, causing distortions in public perceptions of institutional outcomes.

. . . The federal government must ensure that students are tracked throughout their course in postsecondary education. There are different routes to achieving this end, but the lack of national framework for monitoring student progress, such as a federal unit record database, must be addressed.

Community college leaders also want to see a redesigned index to track student loan defaults, simplification of student aid and income-based repayment schemes and the authority to discourage “overborrowing” by part-time students.

Colleges start remediation in high school

When William Penn High graduates go on to Harrisburg Area Community College‘s York (Pennsylvania) campus, 92 percent place into remedial reading and 100 percent require remedial math. “These kids are scoring in the lowest developmental levels that we have,” said Dean Marjorie A. Mattis at the American Association of Community College convention. So, this year, 12th graders are taking HACC’s developmental courses in English and math, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. The program was piloted last year for a smaller number of students.

Students take placement tests at the end of their junior year, and in the fall they report to a “HACC hallway,” painted in the college’s colors, with classroom tables instead of desks. Teachers must meet the criteria for instructors at the college, which at least one already is. Summer sessions familiarize them with the college’s textbooks, syllabi, and method of assignment review, and during the year the teachers work with college-faculty liaisons.

At the end of the pilot year, tests—offered on the York campus, so students might take them more seriously—showed significant improvement. In English 37 percent of students placed one level higher than they had initially, and in math 39 percent did.

Students who start at a higher level of remediation improve their odds of success, said Mattis.

Anne Arundel Community College, in eastern Maryland, is offering the college’s developmental-math courses in two high schools.

Starting last academic year, seniors shifted to a model called Math Firs3t, an abbreviation for “focused individualized resources to support student success with technology.” The computer-based approach involves mastery testing, in which students retake tests until they score at least 70, said Alycia Marshall, a professor and interim chair of mathematics at Anne Arundel, describing the program during a session here.

Of 134 seniors last spring, 107 passed both of the developmental courses, she said. And of those students, 34 enrolled at Anne Arundel and registered for a credit-level math course, which is often a stumbling block for students coming out of remediation. But 30 of them passed.

One of AACC’s long-term goals is to decrease by half the number of students who come to college unprepared.

AACC guide outlines how to meet lofty goals

Empowering Community Colleges To Build the Nation’s Future is an implementation guide to achieving the ambitious goals set in 2012 by the American Association of Community Colleges. By 2020, AACC wants “to reduce by half the number of students who come to college unprepared, to double the number who finish remedial courses and make it through introductory college-level courses, and to close achievement gaps across diverse populations of students,” reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“It is time for community colleges to reimagine and redesign their students’ experiences,” Walter G. Bumphus, the association’s president, said in a written statement. Students need “a clear pathway to college completion and success in the work force.”

Increase completion rates by 50 percent by 2020. Publicly commit to aggressive, explicit goals, the guide advises, with time frames for completion numbers and smaller gaps in the achievement of low-income and minority students relative to the overall enrollment.

Significantly improve college readiness. Establish strong connections with local public-school systems, using clear metrics and assessments to define what it means to be prepared for college. Collect baseline data, and track students’ progress.

Close the American skills gap. Understand labor-market trends and local employers’ needs, and communicate them to students. Establish clear pathways for students to build up industry-recognized credentials in high-demand fields.

Refocus the community-college mission and redefine institutional roles. Become “brokers of educational opportunities,” the guide advises, not just “direct providers of instruction.” By creating a consortium, for instance, colleges could share a curriculum, letting students draw from several campuses and delivery models.

Invest in collaborative support structures. Build alliances with other colleges and community-based or national nonprofit groups to pool resources and streamline operations. Small rural colleges, for instance, could create a purchasing cooperative. A national consortium could provide more-affordable access to tools for tracking students across sectors and states, from kindergarten to their first job.

Pursue public and private investment strategically. Keep seeking creative ways to diversify revenue streams. Meanwhile, join national groups advocating for expanded support for Pell Grants and clearer systems for transfer between two- and four-year colleges.

Introduce policies and practices that promote rigor and accountability. Adopt the Voluntary Framework for Accountability, a national tool developed by and for community colleges to broaden criteria for measuring success.

“We’re not going to achieve our mission unless we all decide we’re ready to lose our jobs over this,” said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, superintendent and president of Long Beach City College, at the AACC convention. 

CC accountability framework launches

The first national accountability system designed for two-year colleges launched last week, reports Community College Times. The Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) uses “measures that encompass the full breadth of the community college mission and the diversity of students’ goals and educational experiences,” according to the American Association of Community Colleges(AACC).

“Many traditional measures of institutional effectiveness produce an incomplete or inaccurate picture of community college performance,” said AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus. “For example, most national assessments are pegged to full-time students, but the majority of community college students attend part-time.”

Community colleges will be able to compare their data to similar colleges to analyze areas of strengths and weaknesses.

The VFA measures gauge student progress and outcomes, including pre-collegiate preparation (such as developmental education and adult basic education), academic progress and momentum points, completion and transfer measures, and workforce outcomes for career and technical education.

Pennsylvania was the first state to adopt the VFA. Michigan and Nebraska are reviewing statewide implementation. Arizona, Texas,  Louisiana and Ohio are using VFA measures in some way.

AACC has “rolled the VFA’s measures into the Student Achievement Measure (SAM) initiative,” a joint project of six national higher education associations, reports Community College Times.

VFA will help colleges tell their story, writes Karen Stout, president of Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania.

A few weeks ago, a local reporter called to ask me if I had seen my college’s metrics in the recently released White House scorecard. I had and the metrics were not flattering. But, I also had my college’s data from the Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) because we were one of the 40 original pilot colleges to test the American Association of Community Colleges’ VFA metrics and data definitions. I was able to use our VFA data on student progression to paint a much more comprehensive and inclusive picture of student progression and attainment.

All 14 Pennsylvania community colleges now use VFA metrics. The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges was able to show student progress and outcomes during budget testimony, “rebutting invalid comparisons of community college outcomes to selective and four-year college and university outcomes,” writes Stout.

In addition, individual colleges are using the VFA to critically look at student pathways and to identify points where intervention of practice might lead to improvement. At my institution, too many students are transferring before degree completion. As a result, we are working to simplify and tighten (keep credits to 60 to 62) our associate degree pathways and to incentivize students with associate-degree completion in our transfer agreements.

Stout is a member of the VFA Planning Advisory Committee and serves as co-chair of the 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges Implementation Team 8, which is focusing on accountability.

Khan offers self-paced, online remedial help

Self-paced online courses backed by data analytics could help community colleges get students up to speed, said Khan Academy founder Salman Khan at the San Francisco convention of the American Association of Community Colleges. “About six million people around the world watch Khan’s free online tutorials each month, writes Paul Fain on Inside Higher Ed.

Khan thinks his nonprofit website can help community colleges, which he said are in the academy’s “sweet spot.” And he views community colleges as potential allies rather than competition.

“We’d love to work with any of you,” said Khan, apparently broaching the suggestion for the first time.

Free online courseware could help remedial students advance at their own pace, Khan said.

AACC leaders talked with Khan about collaborations, said Walter G. Bumphus, the association’s president. “It’s going to be good for community colleges and good for AACC,” Bumphus said.

Many conference sessions focused on using online courses — massive and otherwise — to serve more students, Fain writes. Some community colleges are creating their own online tutorials, often geared to remedial students.

In Louisiana, Bossier Parish Community College offers free, online study guides that teach grammar, skill by skill. Students can prepare for placement tests or brush up on the basics while taking college-level courses.

North Carolina’s Wake Tech Community College is using a Gates Foundation grant to create a massive open online course (MOOC) in remedial math. College instructors create the tutorials; Udacity provides the platform.

Prior-learning credits help vets graduate

Helping veterans get college credit for skills learned in the military – speeding their way to a degree or credential — is the aim of the Maps to Credentials project, reports Community College Times. The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), the American Council on Education and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) are working with three community colleges to develop a prior learning assessment model.

Inver Hills Community College (IHCC) in Minnesota evaluated the most common military occupations for Minnesota National Guard members and “cross-walked them to our coursework,” said Anne Johnson, dean of business and social sciences, at an AACC Workforce Development Institute in San Diego.

. . . a combat engineer might get three credits for the supervisory techniques in a business course at IHCC and three credits for construction management. A unit supply specialist could get three credits each for introduction to computers, introduction to business in society, and principles of management.

The average veteran or active military student is awarded 6.8 prior-learning credits, listed on the transcript by the community college course titles.

Miami Dade College (MDC) gives credits for military experience toward associate degrees in criminal justice, electronics engineering technologies and office administration, as well as certificates in medical assisting. More degrees will be added.

Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC), located near Fort Bragg, North Carolina, has mapped military occupational specialties to courses in general education, culinary arts, surgical technology, radiography and emergency medical science.

 Since FTCC started this program in fall 2010, veteran enrollment has increased 40 percent. The college awarded 214 degrees to veterans last spring, compared to just three in spring 2010.

Faculty are finding that “service members are great students,” said Bridget Petzold, program coordinator for business administration/operations management. “They participate in class. They are excited about learning, they bring a lot of experience to the classroom and they bring the discussion up a notch.”

AACC names 25 finalists for excellence awards

Twenty-five community colleges have been named finalists for the Awards of Excellence sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges. Awards will be given in five categories: Emerging Leadership, Student Success, Exemplary CEO or Board, Advancing Diversity and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership.

The finalists and winners will be honored April 23 during the closing brunch of the 2013 AACC Convention in San Francisco.

AACC: Community colleges pay off

Community colleges “launch” students, “relaunch” workers who need new skills and strengthen local economies, concludes a policy brief by the American Association of Community Colleges. Yet community colleges receive 20 percent of state funding for higher education, despite serving 43 percent of undergraduates.

In the  last decade, as states have cut higher education funding, community colleges have cut per-student operating budgets — the only higher ed sector to control costs, the policy brief notes.

Investing in community colleges pays off for students and society, Christopher Mullin, co-author of Community College Contributions, told Community College Times. Graduates with certificates and associate degrees earn more and pay more taxes. “Upskill” training helps workers move up and their employers stay competitive.

Columbus State Community College in Ohio trains workers to become supervisors, the brief notes.

Indian River State College in Florida trains workers for the growing high-tech and energy industries.

In South Carolina, Aiken Technical College trains nuclear technicians for nearby power plants.

A small business development center at Lansing Community College in Michigan provided counseling and job training that resulted in “38 new businesses and $16.5 million in total new capital,” according to AACC. Twenty percent of small business development centers are located on community college campuses.

Some community colleges are developing economic impact studies to show how their contributions to economic growth. Broward College in Florida produces a $1.40 return on every $1 invested by taxpayers, the college’s report claims.

Preventing pregnancy raises graduation odds

Preventing unplanned pregnancy can raise graduation rates, reports Community College Times. Sixty-one percent of women who have children after enrolling in a community college don’t graduate, according to the Make It Personal: College Completion (MIPCC) project.

American Association of Community Colleges and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy are educating students, faculty and staff at six community colleges about the impact of unplanned pregnancies.

The report calls for including discussions about pregnancy prevention and healthy relationships in courses such as English and sociology.

At Montgomery College in Maryland, information about postponing pregnancy was integrated into more than 20 different courses. A professor at Hennepin Technical College in Minnesota restructured her developmental psychology courses to include “multigenerational perspectives on the effects of unplanned pregnancy.”

And at Palo Alto College in Texas, a communications instructor had students write sample press releases promoting National Campaign resources.

The report also suggests including pregnancy prevention discussions in orientation and first-year experience courses and providing online resources about pregnancy prevention with other student services links.

Sociology students at Georgia’s Chattahoochee Technical College held two campus-wide events to distribute information and watch videos created by students.

At Mesa Community College in Arizona, student leaders in the Phi Theta Kappa chapter launched Project HOPE (Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Education).

Student leaders at Georgia Perimeter College held discussions on the topic while watching episodes of MTV’s “16 and Pregnant.”


CC presidents earn $167K — more for minorities

Community college presidents average $167,000 in base pay, but blacks and Hispanics earn more, according to an American Association of Community Colleges survey. The median total compensation, which includes base salary plus other pay for fulfilling presidential duties, was $177,462.

That compares to $421,395 for public four-year college presidents in 2010-11, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. For four-year private-college presidents, the median total compensation was $385,909 in 2009.

Hispanic presidents reported the highest median base salary of any ethnic group, at $201,553, the study found. Black presidents had a median base salary of $190,000, and white presidents had a median base salary of $167,200.

. . .  black and Hispanic presidents were more likely than their white counterparts to work at large colleges and in urban areas, and both factors are associated with institutions that pay higher salaries.

Female leaders of community colleges reported a median base salary of $170,000, slightly higher than male presidents, but men took a slight lead in total cash compensation.

Most presidents receive additional compensation.

Sixty-six percent said they received a college-provided car or car allowance, 58 percent said they received allowances for professional club dues, and 32 percent said they received college-provided housing or a housing allowance. Only 15 percent reported that their spouse or partner also received allowances.

Some 75 percent of community-college presidents plan to retire in the next 10 years.