An $8 billion Community College to Career Fund will reward colleges that partner with local employers to train 2 million workers for high-demand, well-paying jobs in advanced manufacturing, information technology, health care and “green” tech. That’s if President Obama persuades Congress to pass his budget. In a speech at Northern Virginia Community College yesterday, the president linked “America’s comeback” to investing in education. ”We can’t just cut our way into growth,” he said.
A key component of the community college plan would institute “pay for performance” in job training, meaning there would be financial incentives to ensure that trainees find permanent jobs – particularly for programs that place individuals facing the greatest hurdles getting work. It also would promote training of entrepreneurs, provide grants for state and local government to recruit companies, and support paid internships for low-income community college students.
Despite the recession, some high-tech industries report shortages of skilled workers. As the economy recovers and baby boomers retire, there will be 2 million job openings in manufacturing through 2018, according to the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown. But there’s a catch, reports AP.
. . . these types of jobs frequently require the ability to operate complicated machinery and follow detailed instructions, as well as some expertise in subjects like math and statistics.
. . . Mark Schneider, the former U.S. commissioner of education statistics who now serves as vice president at the American Institutes for Research, said there’s no doubt that high-tech companies need skilled workers. But he said there are challenges with leaning heavily on community colleges. Many students enter community colleges lacking math skills. The sophisticated equipment needed for training is expensive, and there’s little known about the effectiveness of individual community colleges programs across the country, he said.
In particular, “green” job training programs have produced disappointing results.
Community colleges have been partnering with industry on job training for many years. “Community colleges understand the needs of local employers,” said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in a White House press conference yesterday. The fund would allow colleges to hire staff, buy equipment and develop curriculum, she said. (I wanted to ask why taxpayers should fund training for employers, but I was too far back in the phone queue.)
“We will give community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, echoing President Obama’s line from the State of the Union speech. We will create “an America built to last,” said Duncan. Also “an economy built to last.” And a workforce “built to last.”
President Obama’s past budgets have been “rife with unfilled promises” to community colleges, notes Inside Higher Ed.
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.
President Obama focused on the workforce development mission of community colleges in his State of the Union Speech, calling on community colleges to train two million skilled workers for unfilled jobs.
Workforce development is the flavor of the month, writes Community College Dean. But it’s not as easy as politicians think to turn out skilled workers.
The most predictable lower-level workforce needs are actually the skills we expect students to pick up in their general education courses: effective communication, the ability to see the big picture, enough quantitative skill to know when an answer doesn’t sound right. Those skills are evergreens, and like evergreens, they take time to grow.
There are always a few local employers who need workers who can be trained quickly, the dean writes. But those jobs get filled by the first or second cohort of trainees.
Many would-be workers need literacy or English as a Second Language classes. Community colleges’ developmental track is geared towards getting students into a degree program. Adult Basic Education is a better fit, but often is underfunded and can’t meet the demand.
The dean’s advice:
If you want to improve the prospects of the local workforce, start with adult basic education, add short-term training programs, and beef up the classic academic offerings at community colleges for transfer. . . . Otherwise, you’ll just keep cycling people through training programs every few years, every time the economic winds shift.
The second word in “community college” is “college,” the dean points out. Community colleges are in danger of being defined purely as job training centers.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s approach to controlling college costs is dead wrong, writes Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom. More federal aid will fuel exploding college costs, argues McCluskey, author of How Much Ivory Does This Tower Need? What We Spend on, and Get from, Higher Education.
To a system blackout-drunk on taxpayer money, the Obama administration would deliver even more booze while only whispering about tough love.
Speaking at a Nov. 29 Las Vegas gathering of financial-aid administrators, Duncan addressed exploding college costs, a problem highlighted by Occupy Wall Street protesters angry over rising student debt. He lauded loan forgiveness and repayment reduction, and exhorted colleges to do, well, something to become more efficient.
The education secretary inflated the benefits of a college degree — it’s not really $1 million over a working life — and ignored the reason colleges keep raising tuition, McCluskey writes.
Between 1985 and 2010, inflation-adjusted federal student aid rose from about $30 billion to about $140 billion, a 367 percent leap. Pell Grants alone ballooned from $8.1 billion in 1985 to $41.7 billion in 2011.
Add various tax credits and deductions to that, and it’s no wonder college prices have inflated even faster than health care: Government has ensured that ever-higher bills can be paid.
Declining state support for higher education isn’t the reason tuition keeps going up, argues McCluskey. Private colleges are charging more and more too.
President Obama wants to lead the world in college graduates by 2020. That means raising graduation rates for the many students who start college and never finish, often because they’re not prepared for college-level work.
Duncan says the administration will “challenge” schools to improve their graduation rates. Great.
Colleges’ most likely response will be to run warm bodies through to graduation, while giving them few if any college-level skills. Indeed, we’ve been seeing this for years, with literacy for degree-holders dropping and earnings for people with only a bachelor’s degree falling, too.
The only way to make college much cheaper or more effective is “taking the jet fuel — federal student aid — out of college pricing, and being frank about the real value of higher education,” McCluskey writes.
He provides links here to research on the effect of aid on college prices.
Virginia Postrel has more in a Bloomberg View column, including a warning:
A good chunk of the educated public has decided that college educators are decadent and lazy. Many are positively lusting to see higher education get its Detroit-style comeuppance.
This attitude is unfortunate and often unfair, but it’s the direct result of decades of federal policies. Any strategy to reduce college costs needs to look beyond traditional subsidies to remove some of the insulation that stifles innovation and feeds public resentment.
I keep expecting the non-elite private colleges to collapse as students and parents realize that it’s just not worth the money compared to a state university or a community college. If we do see cost controls, they’ll come in the private sector.
Rising college costs was on the agenda this week, when President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan met with college leaders at the White House. Most were chancellors of large state university systems, but Thomas Snyder of Ivy Tech Community College was invited along with the presidents of the three nonprofits, the all-online Western Governors University, Carnegie Mellon and Berea College.
New financial aid policies to encourage completion were discussed, said Jamie P. Merisotis, president of the Lumina Foundation, who also testified before Rep. Virginia Foxx’s committee on streamlining college costs.
. . . there seemed to be some consensus at the White House meeting that the federal government should develop policies on financial aid, its biggest tool, to spur a higher graduation rates, whether by limiting the number of semesters for which students could receive aid, requiring them to attend full-time, or doling out aid bit by bit to discourage students from dropping out mid-semester, or other approaches.
Requiring full-time attendance to qualify for Pell Grants would have a huge impact on community college students.
College leaders also talked about the importance of linking colleges with K-12 education and the potential for technology to cut costs.
“If we’re going to address the 37 million adults with some college and no degree, we can’t just tweak the existing model,” said Robert W. Mendenhall of Western Governors University, an online nonprofit university. “Mostly in higher education, technology is an add-on cost that doesn’t change the model at all. We need to fundamentally change the faculty role, and use technology to do the teaching.”
Larry D. Shinn, the president of Berea College, did not disagree. “We’re structured in a 19th-century model, but I think we all know now that blended learning, combining technology and classroom learning, can let us educate for less cost,” he said. “The question is how we get there from here.”
“Technology can help us educate more students faster and better.”said Jared L. Cohon, the president of Carnegie Mellon, which has developed online classes used at other universities.
Open-access universities and community colleges have the most experience in controlling costs, writes Jonathan Gibralter, president of Frostburg State in Maryland.
President Obama plans to continue to talk about the problem of college affordability, which was spotlighted by the Occupy protests.
Despite the recession, college costs keep rising: Last year, tuition and fees increased by 8.7 percent at community colleges, 8.3 percent at public universities, 4.5 percent at private nonprofits and 3.2 percent at for-profit schools.
College leaders must “think more creatively and with much greater urgency” about controlling costs and reducing students’ debt loads, said Education Secretary Arne Duncan Tuesday at a conference of financial aid administrators in Las Vegas.
“Three in four Americans now say that college is too expensive for most people to afford,” Mr. Duncan said. “That belief is even stronger among young adults — three-fourths of whom believe that graduates today have more debt than they can manage.”
A college degree is an increasingly important investment, said Duncan, claiming that a four-year graduate will earn $1 million more over 40 years than a high school graduate. (That’s an inflated estimate, argues Richard Vedder.)
Exhortation won’t solve the debt problem, Patrick M. Callan, president of the Higher Education Policy Institute, told the New York Times.
“We’ve put huge amounts into Pell grants under Clinton, Bush and Obama, but the money that went to financial aid has been absorbed by tuition increases. And with all that we’ve invested, we have a less affordable system than we had a decade ago. We’re on a national treadmill.”
Duncan promoted the administration’s plans to link federal loans and grants to colleges’ success at graduating Pell recipients, increasing overall completion rates and closing achievement gaps. He also promised grants “to support programs that use innovation to accelerate learning and hold down tuition.”
Edububble is skeptical:
The Feds can write as many checks as they want, but the college industrial complex will take all of the money and still demand more from the students. The only solution is for professors to teach more and for colleges to quit spending so much money on new buildings. Oh, and quit paying so much for administration. But no one wants to hear those ideas.
The next day, the House Education & Workforce Committee held a hearing on “Keeping College within Reach.
“This troubling trend of higher prices has several causes, including weak local economies, increased spending on student services and academic support, and state budget crises,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, who chairs the committee.
“. . . as our nation struggles with trillion dollar budget deficits and unprecedented national debt, continuing to increase federal subsidies to supplement the growing cost of college is simply unsustainable … colleges and universities must do their part to streamline costs and lessen the burden for students whenever possible.”
Jane V. Wellman, executive director of the Delta Cost Project, said tuition is rising “much faster than spending or costs” to replace state and local revenues and to cover costlier employee benefits. “Pretty much all of the new money coming in from tuition increases [is] going out the door to pay for the growing costs of health care,” she said.
Once a fan of Pell Grants, Ohio University economist Richard Vedder, director of the Center for Affordability and Productivity, is in a Go to Pell! mood. Once a benefit for low-income students, Pell is on its way to becoming a universal entitlement, Vedder writes. Half of undergraduates now receive Pell Grants.
Why is this bad? To start with, “millions of middle-class Americans who would have gone to college anyway are getting the award.” That’s enabled colleges to raise tuition.
Pell is degrading academic quality, he adds.
Many academically unprepared students are bribed to go to college for which they flounder, or are helped through by deteriorating academic standards as manifested in such phenomenon as grade inflation.
Pell is wasting billions of dollars. The Obama Administration does not know or will not release the aggregate four-, five-, and six-year graduation rate of Pell Grant recipients.
. . . I would guess that for every full-time student with a Pell who graduates from college within six years, there are at least two who do not. For every success, there are double the number of those who mostly think of themselves as failures—unable to achieve their dream after six years of trying. IT IS A NATIONAL SCANDAL THAT THIS DATA IS BEING WITHHELD FROM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE!
Pell rewards poor academic performance by giving more money to students who spend years taking classes without completing a degree.
The marginal student who takes courses for eight years and then drops outs gets twice as much Pell money, other things equal, as the otherwise identical student who works hard and graduates with honors in four years. There are utterly no performance standards, no academic expectations, and no “tough love” to encourage good performance.
Finally, Pell encourages “over-investment in higher education” that our nation can’t afford, Vedder concludes.
I had the opportunity to ask Education Secretary Arne Duncan about the graduation rate for Pell recipients at community colleges. He said he didn’t know, but assumed it was lower than the overall rate of 22 percent since low-income students are less likely to complete a degree.
Pell reforms are inevitable. I foresee stricter time limits on eligibility and requirements for half- to full-time enrollment. Stronger enforcement of academic progress rules — students are supposed to pass their classes to remain eligible — also would cut costs.
Pell Grant funding will continue for two years under debt-ceiling proposals by both Republican John Boehner and Democrat Harry Reid. Both congressional leaders propose cutting the interest subsidy on Stafford loans to graduate students to fund Pell, notes Higher Ed Watch. But the future is murky.
As Ed Money Watch reported last week, any proposal that Congress ultimately adopts to reduce federal spending would include caps on annual appropriations for future years, and would be enforced by across-the-board spending cuts called “sequestration.” These caps on so-called discretionary spending will squeeze education funding over the coming years as nearly all federal education programs are funded through the annual appropriations process.
More than a third of Pell Grant recipients attend community colleges, notes the American Association of Community Colleges in a policy brief. With the federal aid, students are more likely to enroll full time and to cut work hours, boosting their chances of earning a credential.
However, federal expenditures for Pell Grants have increased by 182 percent in five years, making the $35 billion program an attractive target for budget cutters, notes Community College Times.
“Discussions on Capitol Hill about changes to the Pell Grant program should factor into them the real lives and people who could be impacted,” said AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus. “The Pell Grant program has historically been a vital support for many seeking to better themselves.”
. . . “More people are turning to community colleges to help them keep their dreams of higher education alive, and they need funding to stay in school and earn the credentials needed for the workplace,” he said.
Traditionally, Pell Grants have enjoyed bipartisan support, but those days may be over. Republican and Democratic lawmakers clashed on the growing cost of Pell Grants when U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified Wednesday before the Senate panel that oversees K-12 spending, notes Ed Week’s Politics K-12. Aid for low-income college students is “eating up an ever-larger share of the U.S. Department of Education’s nearly $70 billion budget.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the K-12 spending committee, admonished Duncan about runaway spending at the department. He said the department has requested a more than 20 percent increase in spending compared with two years ago.
But Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the panel’s chairman, pointed out that most of that money is Pell Grants. “What’s going on is, we’ve got a lot of people out of work,” he said. “Most of this increase is because of the increased use of Pell grants.”
Joining a conference call earlier this week, President Obama thanked student leaders for a letter on the importance of student aid. However, he made no promises.
Career and technical education must prepare students for postsecondary education or training, said Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a meeting of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium and the federal Office of Vocational and Adult Education. A high school diploma is not enough, he said. Duncan warned that federal funding will depend on evidence that CTE students going on to earn postsecondary credentials, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The budget bill cuts $138-million from the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, eliminating the Tech-Prep program and reducing state career- and technical-education grants by $35 million. Expect more cuts in 2012, Duncan said.
Career- and technical-education programs more than 15 million students in high schools, community colleges and job-training centers.
President Obama has urged every American to get at least a year of higher education or postsecondary career training. In effect, Mr. Duncan said, the president wants every American to earn a minimum of two pieces of paper — a high-school diploma, and a degree or industry-recognized certification.
“In the years ahead, young adults are likely to need those two credentials to secure a good job,” he said.
To that end, Mr. Duncan said, career- and technical-education programs must not only be rigorous and relevant but also provide an opportunity for students to be college-ready by offering them advanced courses.
CTE should not be a less challenging track for weaker students, Duncan said. “Too often, the K-12 system made these choices for children, tracking them into dead-end courses—instead of providing them with the skills necessary to succeed in college and careers and the guidance students needed to make good decisions about their future.”
CTE high school students graduate and go on to postsecondary education at higher rates than other students, responded Phil Berkenbile, president of the board of the state directors consortium.
In California, high school students can choose half-time attendance at a regional job training center that prepares them for in-demand jobs that don’t require a college credential. Most earn a high school diploma and go directly to the workforce. Is that so bad?
Since I couldn’t make the blogger breakfast last week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan invited me to drop by on Friday when I was in the area.
I asked Duncan about charges he’s hyping a 82 percent failure rate by next year — U.S. schools missing Adequate Yearly Progress — in order to argue for abandoning No Child Left Behind’s goal of universal proficiency by 2014. “Have you ever seen me hype anything?” he said. Many states set modest goals in the early years with very high goals in the last few years. They’re hitting the curve of the hockey stick, he said.
If the 2014 goal is replaced by “college- and career-ready” by 2020, what’s to prevent another round of wishful thinking meets reality?
“My dream and my hope is that it’s an honest goal,” Duncan said.
NCLB let many states “dummy down standards,” he said. He has great faith that Common Core Standards will raise the bar to a high and consistent level, and praised governors for adopting the new standards even though their states’ test scores are bound to fall significantly. “They’re going to see proficiency rates fall from 80 percent to 40 percent” in some states, Duncan predicted. That will be politically painful. But fewer students will go through school thinking they’re doing fine and end up in remedial reading, writing and math in college. “I want to get community colleges out of the remediation business,” he said.
The feds are funding new tests to go with the new standards but are staying out of curriculum development, Duncan said. Common Core‘s curriculum maps, the proposed common curriculum endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, Core Knowledge and others and whatever else is developed will compete in the marketplace, he said.
I asked about his endorsement of Harvard’s Pathways to Prosperity report, which call for creating alternative career pathways to motivate students instead of “college for all.” Duncan admitted the new budget cuts funding for career tech ed, but said there’s a need to weed out low-quality programs and fund only the programs that really prepare students for jobs and increase college-going rates. “College for all” includes all forms of postsecondary education, including apprenticeships and community college certificate programs, he said, not just bachelor’s degrees. (But that’s not what people hear.)
“College and career ready are the same skills,” he said. In schools with high expectations, low-income minority students can excel and go on to college. Schools that lower expectations for fear of increasing the drop-out rate leave students bored, disengaged and even more likely to drop out.
I asked: Does the would-be welder need trigonometry? “They all need algebra,” said Duncan.
Many teachers complain that it’s impossible to teach classes with a wide range of skills and knowledge — some algebra students are ready to learn algebra and others don’t know arithmetic — and language abilities and behavioral issues and disabilities. “What would you say to teachers who say they’re overwhelmed by students’ very different learning needs?” I asked.
He said the high-scoring countries provide extra help for struggling students after school — before they get years behind — and social services for children with family problems. He didn’t say: It’s time to stop pushing every child in the same class.
We talked briefly about the narrowing of the curriculum to what’s tested. Despite the big STEM push, Duncan also wants schools to teach reading, history, science, financial literacy, dance, drama, etc. Educate the whole child and the test scores will follow, he said.
That’s where time ran out. I left thinking that Duncan is an optimist. Perhaps he needs to be. I am more cynical. Measure reading and math performance, maybe science, and don’t expect schools to spend time on dance, drama or even history. Reward higher graduation rates and expect “credit recovery” and other scams to push marginal students to a diploma. (Stop measuring student performance — and stop looking at subgroup scores — and expect schools to give up on children who lack pushy parents.) Provide college aid to D and F students and open-admissions colleges will be overwhelmed with remedial students.