New York City high schools are flooding community colleges with unprepared students, reports the Village Voice. Eighty percent need remedial reading, writing or math — especially math — when they enroll, up from 71 percent a few years ago.
City University of New York’s community colleges have doubled spending on remediation in just a decade, to $33 million a year, reports the Voice. “Faculty members have been transformed into de facto high school teachers.”
The Voice blames the push to raise graduation rates, but it’s also a sign of increased academic ambitions: More high school graduates are enrolling in community college.
Seeing very low success rates for remedial students, CUNY began experimenting in 2007 with other ways to prepare students for college-level courses.
Jahleah Santiago and Ashley Baret, who hated math in high school, are in the START program, an intensive 12-week immersion, at LaGuardia Community College. They spend 15 hours a week in math class.
Nathan Stevens . . . stands at the whiteboard, going over eight homework problems, encouraging all 14 students (average class size is 20) to verbalize their thought processes. . . . “How do you know that you’re finished with the factors now?” . . . as the class simplifies polynomials and multiplied exponents: “Put it into words, Manny. Tell me how you got that answer.”
. . . “In this program we seek to show what’s really happening in the math,” Stevens says. “Rather than teaching my students to memorize the formulas, tricks, rules, I try to reinforce the underlying ideas of what they’re looking at, with the hope that they could solve any problem they see.”
“In my high school, math was kind of under a veil,” says Santiago. “You didn’t know what was going on—you just do that and that and get the answer. Nathan will break it down and do different examples until we get it.”
Sixty to 70 percent of START students reach proficiency in one semester, compared with 20 percent who take regular remedial courses.
CUNY also offers ASAP, a full-year intensive program. It costs more per student plus less per graduate.
. . . of the original cohort who entered ASAP in 2007, 55 percent earned their associates’ degree in three years, compared with 24.7 percent of similar students in the broader CUNY campus and just 16 percent of urban community college students nationally. According to an independent study by the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Columbia, the graduation rates were so much higher that ASAP cost about 10 percent less per graduate.
If New York City’s public schools invested in ”small class sizes, mastery-based course design, one additional counselor or adviser for every 25 students,” it’s likely more students would learn math in middle and high school, instead of struggling to learn it in college, the Voice suggests. That would save money in the long run, but it would be saved by CUNY and by students, not by the K-12 system.
City University of New York’s ASAP program is cost effective when measured by dollars per degree, concludes a new study by Henry M. Levin and Emma Garcia. At six community colleges, more than half of ASAP students graduated in three years, compared to a quarter of similar students not in ASAP.
ASAP is designed to help motivated community college students earn their degrees as quickly as possible. Key ASAP program features include a consolidated block schedule, cohorts by major, small class size, required full-time study, and comprehensive advisement and career development services. Financial incentives include tuition waivers for financial aid eligible students and free use of textbooks and monthly Metrocards for all students.
Many new college students won’t be back sophomore year. At community colleges, 56 percent of students return for a second year, up from 51 percent in 2004, according to ACT research. The average retention rate is 74 percent at four-year public or private colleges. Colleges are trying to improve retention rates, reports Caralee Adams on Ed Week.
Weak academic skills and shaky motivation are the major reasons students give up on college, reports ACT.
The City University of New York boosted retention — and three-year graduation rates — through the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP). Students move through college as a group. They receive books, transportation aid and tuition support so they can be full-time students.
“If students are struggling, counselors work with faculty and students to get help,” said Donna Linderman, the program’s director. “It’s individualized. That’s the heart and soul of the program—to help with the transition into college and use the resources available.”
Fifty-five percent of the first group earned an associate degree in three years compared to 24 percent of a comparison group.
College Bound, a nonprofit in St. Louis, provides coaches to help low-income college students cope with problems and stay in school.
Under financial pressure, low-income students often take fewer classes and try to work longer hours. Single Stop USA helps low-income students apply for a range of benefits, such as Pell Grants, food stamps, earned-income tax credits and child care aid, so they can stick to their studies.
“There are lots of resources and services, but they aren’t coordinated,” (co-founder Elisabeth) Mason said. “We seek to become a one-stop shop, where students can be comprehensively screened.”
The nonprofit has offices at 18 community colleges in five states, and is expanding.
Under pressure to raise graduation rates, colleges are working with nonprofits to help students cope with unexpected crises, notes the Hechinger Report.
In pain from a decaying tooth, Job Asiimwe nearly quit Bunker Hill Community College months away from graduation. Using a foundation-funded Dreamkeepers grant, the college paid for Asiimwe’s dental work.
“Finances are the number one reason students drop out. It’s not just school finances — it’s life finances,” said Lauren Segal, president and CEO of Scholarship America. “It’s the day-to-day life experiences that are the hurdles students have to get over. And those don’t have to be big things. They can be small things — say, their daycare goes up $100 a month, and that’s the make-or-break number.”
At Mount Hood Community College near Portland, Ore., employees have found students sleeping in campus restrooms or in their cars. Mount Hood lets students check out books, laptops and calculators if they can’t afford them, runs a food pantry and provides bus passes for students in emergencies.