Most states will spend more on higher ed

Thirty states will spend more on high er education in the current fiscal year, but overall state spending is down 0.4 percent, according to an annual survey by Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers. Since fiscal 2008, state higher education spending has declined nearly 11 percent.

New Mexico will spend a measly 0.1 percent percent more: energy-rich Wyoming will boost spending by nearly 14 percent. But Florida will cut higher ed spending by 8 percent.

In California, where state money for colleges fell nearly 6 percent from the year before, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has proposed increasing state funds for the public-college systems by 4 percent to 6 percent in the coming fiscal year. As in many other states, that proposal came with the expectation that state colleges will keep tuition flat and increase their efficiency in producing graduates.

During the past five years, more than a dozen states have cut college funding by more than 20 percent. Arizona (37 percent) and New Hampshire (36 percent) have cut the most.

“Barring a further downturn in the economy, the relatively small overall change … suggests that higher education may be at the beginning stages of a climb out of the fiscal trough caused by the last recession,” says a news release accompanying the survey data.

However, a new report from Moody’s Investors Services predicts tough times for higher education with stagnant state funding, student resistance to tuition increases and a declining number of high school graduates.

U of Phoenix partners with community colleges

“The University Of Phoenix plans to roll out more than 100 new partnerships with community colleges in the coming year,” reports the Huffington Post. The nation’s largest for-profit university will offer bachelor’s degree programs to two-year graduates, gaining students who are more likely to graduate and repay their student loans.

Partnerships with community colleges in Virginia and Arizona have been announced. More are coming, said spokesman Ryan Rauzon, including several in California.

Under increasing regulatory scrutiny, the University of Phoenix has seen enrollment drop precipitously from a peak near 500,000 to 320,000.

Community colleges and for-profit schools typically serve the same working, non-traditional student demographic. They “divide up the market,” explained Dr. Anthony Carnevale, an education expert from Georgetown University.

And as increased demand for bachelor’s degrees is driving many four-year public and non-profit private institutions to become more selective, it is unsurprising that community colleges seeking to build new programs would find an eager partner in for-profits like the University of Phoenix, Carnevale pointed out.

“It’s a fairly obvious deal,” he said. “It’s kind of a wide open market space at the moment.”

The new partnerships will expand on articulation agreements already in place that help community college graduates transfer their credits to a bachelor’s degree program, say executives at Apollo Group, which owns the University of Phoenix.

When community colleges in Arizona wanted to offer their own bachelor’s degrees, the University of Phoenix lobbied against the low-cost degrees. The for-profit giant “provided research and political muscle for a multi-year lobbying campaign,” reports Sarah Pavlus in the American Independent.

Phoenix blocks community college degrees

The for-profit “University of Phoenix played a key role in defeating legislation that would have allowed community colleges in Arizona to offer low-priced bachelor’s degree programs,” reports Sarah Pavlus in The American Independent.

That allowed the for-profit chain to continue to advertise that it offers more degrees than community colleges.

University of Phoenix is one of Arizona’s  biggest employers. The company “provided research and political muscle for a multi-year lobbying campaign,”  Pavlus writes.

For-profit schools and community colleges generally serve the same working, non-traditional student demographic, but tuition rates at community colleges are often much lower.

Historically, community colleges have offered two-year associate’s degrees, with students then transferring to other schools to earn a bachelor’s degree – also known as a baccalaureate degree. Recent efforts by community colleges to offer their own baccalaureate degree programs have been controversial, in part because they dramatically expand the traditional mission of these schools.

But advocates say these programs – which typically require approval from state lawmakers – better respond to student and employer needs by providing affordable, career-oriented, four-year degrees.

Beginning in 2005, the University of Phoenix lobbied Arizona state lawmakers against the community college baccalaureate option. In a 2006 meeting with Wall Street analysts, University of Phoenix founder John Sperling credited one of his top executives with “killing the community colleges’ four-year degree program in Arizona.”

Community colleges in 21 states now offer bachelor’s degrees, usually in occupational fields. Florida is the leader: Its 22 community colleges have added bachelor’s degrees in nursing, elementary education, business management and other majors that meet local workforce needs. In some states, public universities have lobbied to block community colleges from expanding into baccalaureate programs. It’s competition.

Planning for success at crowded colleges

Already crowded community colleges are drawing more budget-minded students who plan to go on to a bachelor’s degree, reports Reuters, which offers tips on how to “maximize your community college experience.”

If enrollment for required classes opens at 9 a.m. on a Monday, then that is when you sign up. Delaying even by a day can lead to a domino effect of negative outcomes: You miss out, those classes are not offered again until the following year, and you subsequently have to put off transferring to your target four-year college.

If your hometown community college is “at the breaking point,” out-of-state community colleges may have access to classes. Californians are paying more — but not too much more — at Arizona community colleges that can provide the classes they need.

Get in touch with your transfer college early “to determine which courses and credits will be transferable and which will not.” While states are trying to make it easier for community college students to transfer credits, there are plenty of snags in the system.

Arizona college to require 7th-grade skills

Pima Community College in Tucson will restrict admission to high school graduates or GED holders with at least seventh-grade proficiency in reading, writing and math, starting in 2012. The new admissions standards will encourage success, writes Roy Flores, the college president, the Arizona Star.

“Students who test below this level have little chance of succeeding in a college environment,” Flores writes. Only 5 percent of students in remedial classes advance to college-level work.

Pathways to Pima will replace PCC’s lowest-level developmental education classes with counseling, diagnostic testing and “self-paced, computer-based or face-to-face learning modules” that will prepare low-skilled students to meet the seventh-grade standard and start college. Students in Pathways programs will not earn college credit or be eligible for federal aid.

Of 35,000 students at PCC, about 2,300 students — 6.3 percent — test below the seventh-grade level.

Pima is abandoning its mission to save money, argues Pamela Powers in the Tucson Citizen.

With the new entrance procedures and the elimination of remedial classes, Pima will cut approximately 200 adjunct professor positions.

PCC has done little to help low-skilled students, writes Greg Hart, a former adult education dean at the college. A 2000 task force recommended replacing remedial classes with a “skill-mastery model,” but nothing was done.


Arizona eyes change in higher ed funding

Arizona’s community colleges should be funded based on state-level performance goals in addition to enrollment, urges a report by a consulting group. A group of state higher-education leaders worked with MGT of America to produce the proposal, reports the Arizona Star.

Pima Community College Chancellor Roy Flores said the proposed model is “preferable to the current system, which earlier this year resulted in a 55 percent reduction in funding to Pima by the Arizona Legislature.”

The report also calls for university funding to be linked to the number of classes students take, the number of students who graduate and the amount of research funding a university attracts.

State funding per student has been cut in half since 2008.

The regents are set to approve the proposed funding model in September and the Legislature could OK the final proposal in October. If approved, the new funding model would be used in the next fiscal year.

CC will shelter endangered frogs

Rescued from an Arizona wildfire, 50 endangered Chiricahua leopard frogs and 62 tadpoles have found a new home at Glendale Community College, reports the Arizona Republic.

School biologists began building a riparian refuge in 2003 as part of its new Life Sciences Building. They moved in boulders, created a waterfall and slowly introduced native algae into the glass-walled refuge.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department had planned to move some Chiricahua leopard frogs from northern Arizona to the refuge, but then learned that the frogs of Beatty Ranch in Hereford might be in trouble from the Monument Fire south of Sierra Vista.

Biologists caught about half of the pond’s population and recently released them into the refuge, treating them to meals of crickets and other insects.

The frogs will live with some longfin dace fish that were rescued from Seven Springs, north of Cave Creek.

Visitors will be able to view the frogs in their new habitat.


States cut higher ed funding

Nearly half of states have cut higher education funding or plan to do so. That’s forced  community colleges to cut spending and raise tuition, reports Community College Times, excerpting the Community College Journal.

Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) planned for a 5 percent reduction in state funding in 2010-11 but was hit by a cut of $13 million, more than 7.5 percent.

Leaders reportedly are bracing for an additional $18.2 million cut this fall, leaving critics to wonder just how much more the district can take.

“At some point, you can’t throw another cup of water in the gumbo and expect to feed everyone at the table,” says Ed DesPlas, executive vice chancellor of business affairs.

Nationwide, states fund a third of community college budgets, but that’s slipping. DCCCD used to get 32 percent of its budget from Texas state funds; now it’s 25 percent.

In Arizona, a paltry 10 percent of community college funding is derived from the state—and administrators project that number might shrink even further this year.

“It looks like we will be down to about 1 percent of our total budget,” says Clint Ewell, vice president for finance and administrative services at Yavapai College (YC).

Community college leaders aren’t expecting things to improve any time soon.

“Whatever hand you’re dealt, you don’t go into a fetal position and complain,” says Robert Breuder, president of the College of DuPage (COD), outside of Chicago. “You deal with it.”

Breuder’s solvency plan includes raising tuition, growing enrollment and cutting expenses   by replacing full-time faculty with part-time adjuncts. In addition, the college has saved more than $1 million by increasing faculty workloads and eliminating faculty release time for special assignments. Next up: getting staff to pay more for health insurance.

Funding cuts? It could be worse

Facing a possible $800 million funding cut, California’s community colleges could turn away 400,000 students in the fall, warns Chancellor Jack Scott.

Republicans have blocked Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to let voters decide whether to extend and increase taxes. Scott said he expects a 10 percent cut in the community college system’s total budget.

“This is a tremendous tragedy, and a very deep blow to the economy of California,” Scott said, describing community colleges as the “No. 1 workforce training institution” in the state.

California enrolls 2.75 million students. “That’s 140,000 fewer students than two years ago, when budget cuts forced the colleges to shed thousands of courses and instructors,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Community college tuition is scheduled to rise from $26 a unit to $36 a unit, still low compared to other states.

Elsewhere, some states are  cutting four-year universities more than community colleges, reports Inside Higher Ed.

In New York, for instance, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and state legislative leaders unveiled a budget compromise Sunday that includes significant cuts to public higher education — but not the 10 percent across-the-board cut that Cuomo had originally proposed. The budget deal restores $18.2 million to community colleges in the City and State University of New York systems, but no money to their four-year institutions.

In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett’s budget proposal cuts community colleges by 1 percent, while cutting 50 percent of state university funding.

There are states where community colleges are taking the brunt of the cuts. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer wants to cut community college funding by 50 percent, while cutting  state’s universities by 20 percent.

Texas legislators have proposed closing four community colleges.

Debbie L. Sydow, president of Onondaga Community College, in New York, said governors tend to propose community college cuts, then legislators restore the money.

“Community colleges have been underfunded from the beginning,” Sydow said. “It’s in the normal course of business for us to operate efficiently…. I just think [the legislature] is finally starting to understand that community colleges are very nimble in preparing people for jobs and understand what we offer in terms of economic development.”

It’s important to preserve the “educational safety net,” said Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.  “The sector that’s least able to look to tuition to make up for losses has to be a priority.”


States eye community college cuts

Even as students turn to community colleges for low-cost education and job training, state leaders are eyeing community college funding.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer proposes cutting community college funding in half to balance the state budget.

Texas would close four community colleges to save $39 million in a Republican budget-balancing proposal some call “apocalyptic.”

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez proposes cutting 20 percent of funding for remedial education at community colleges. reports the Albuquerque Journal. Instead, students should learn basic skills in high school, the governor says.

It’s already difficult to get into high-demand basic courses, such as math and writing, and state cuts could make it even harder, said Kamie Hopper, 32. Hopper is taking a high school level algebra course at Central New Mexico Community College as a refresher before pursuing more difficult courses for an accounting degree.

. . . Hopper began her degree at CNM last year after losing her job as a restaurant manager. It’s been 13 years since she studied math in high school.

Some 39 percent of CNM students are seven or more years out of high school. Statewide, about 15 percent of community college courses are remedial.

In California, Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott is fighting Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to link community college funding to student outcomes.

Scott told California Watch that Brown’s proposal would unfairly punish colleges with high enrollments of “vulnerable students,” and reward colleges serving students in high-income suburban areas who are more likely to succeed.

California’s 112 community colleges receive funding based on the number of students who are in class on “Census Day,” typically the first day of the fourth week of classes. The college continues receive funds, regardless of how many students drop out or fail to complete the class by the end of the semester.

Brown’s plan would encourage colleges to drop rigorous classes with low completion rates, Scott said.  Instructors would have an incentive to pass students who don’t deserve it in order to keep the funding.