Colorado university leaders are fighting a bill that would let community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in vocational fields, reports the Boulder Daily Camera. In a letter to the General Assembly, seven state university presidents argued the proposal would divert scarce state funding, cause overlaps in missions and produce a degree with low value in the workforce.
Nancy McCallin, president of the Colorado Community College System, said there’s demand for four-year degrees in areas such as culinary arts and dental hygienists. At Front Range Community College, she envisions offering a bachelor’s degree in “geographic information systems,” technical training required to build GPS systems.
Two-thirds of the state’s 163,000 community college students work to put themselves through college, McCallin said. Many can’t afford to uproot their families or leave the farms they work on in rural Colorado to transfer to a four-year institution. Offering four-year degrees, she said, would extend educational opportunities to those types of students — not draw students away from other colleges.
The bill would let community colleges offer up to 10 degree programs only in technical and career programs. State officials would decide if a proposal overlaps with programs already offered at four-year colleges.
Colorado University has been working with community colleges to streamline the transfer process in 14 degree tracks, the Daily Camera notes. Community college students who earn 30 credit hours and at least a 2.7 grade-point average are guaranteed admission as transfers.
CU Regent Stephen Ludwig, who attended two community colleges before transferring to CU’s Colorado Springs campus, said state universities could use technology to enable students with associate degrees to earn a bachelor’s degree without relocating.
Recent graduates with a technical or vocational associate degree average higher earnings than four-year graduates in three states analyzed by CollegeMeasures. In Virginia, the average technical associate degree graduate earned $49,000 a year between 2006 and 2010.
Community college degrees “are worth a lot more than I expected and that I think other people expected,” said Mark Schneider, president of CollegeMeasures and a vice president at the American Institutes for Research.
The job news gets even better for two-year graduates, reports Forbes.
This on the heels of stats from the Department of Labor from the fall that showed job growth for those with associate’s degrees was outpacing that of more advanced degree holders. The good news doesn’t stop there; the majority of the fastest growing occupations in the US, from dental hygienists to veterinary technologists, require only a community college education.
In 2010 – 2011, the average community college student paid $2713 in tuition and received, on average, $1700 in Pell Grant aid, Forbes notes. Most community college students don’t borrow to complete an associate degree and those who do don’t need to go heavily in debt.
Michigan community colleges will offer bachelor’s degrees in specified vocational fields, under legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder. The bill covers four-year degrees in cement technology, maritime technology, energy production technology and culinary arts. Nursing was cut out of the bill in a compromise to overcome opposition from state universities.
“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.
Hispanics’ college enrollment is surging, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Forty-six percent of Hispanic high school graduates 18 to 24 years old enrolled in college — usually community college. That equals black enrollment and is closing in on young whites at 51 percent. Asian-Americans, with 67 percent in college, lead the pack.
Hispanic students also are much more likely to complete high school.
In the 1990s, fewer than 60 percent of Hispanics 18 to 24 had a high school diploma, but that figure hit 70 percent for the first time in 2009, and 76 percent last year.
That high school completion rate, however, still remains below the national rate of 85 percent (81 percent for blacks), limiting the number of Hispanics who are eligible for college.
Hispanics make up about 16.5 percent of all college students, but 25.2 percent of community college students. Graduation rates are low: In 2010, Hispanics made up 13.2 percent of those earning an associate degree and 8.5 percent of those earning a bachelor’s degree.
California’s two-year for-profit colleges have higher graduation rates than community colleges, reports the Orange County Register, which analyzed data compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education. As in other states, students seeking bachelor’s degrees were much less likely to graduate at four-year for-profit institutions.
California spends $10 billion a year on ccommunity colleges, which enroll 2.6 million students.
Nationwide, for-profit schools receive $32 billion in federal student loans and grants, according to a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions investigation.
In California, only one-quarter of degree-seeking students graduate from community colleges in three years, compared to nearly two-thirds of for-profit students seeking a two-year degree or certificate.
East San Gabriel Valley Regional Occupational Program, a job training center, had the highest graduation rate of any public two-year program: 38.2 percent complete a credential in two years and 93.4 percent in three years.
College of the Redwoods in the rural north posts the lowest graduation rate: 4.7 percent in two years and 5.8 percent in three.
Michigan’s community colleges want to award four-year degrees, reports the Lansing State Journal.
Northwestern Michigan College is the only school in Michigan that can count a 224-foot former Navy submarine surveillance ship among its classroom facilities.
The Traverse City community college is home to the only federally chartered maritime academy on fresh water and the only one that can’t offer its students the four-year degrees they need to sit for the U.S. Coast Guard licensing exam for commercial shipping officers.
The college’s imperfect solution is a partnership with Ferris State University that allows cadets to get a business degree but requires them to take 145 credits to finish both the nautical and financial portions of their education, rather than the 120 typical for a bachelor’s degree.
Community college leaders support a bill that would let two-year schools offer four-year degrees in five fields. However, state universities are opposing the proposed legislation.
The demand for college-educated workers has outpaced the supply, concludes The Undereducated American, a new study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. The weak economy has hidden the problem, says Anthony P. Carnevale, co-author of the report. “In recession and recovery, we remain fixated on the high school jobs that are lost and not coming back. We are hurtling into a future dominated by college-level jobs unprepared.”
The U.S. economy will need an additional 20 million postsecondary-educated workers by 2025, Georgetown predicts. This includes 15 million with bachelor’s degrees, one million with associate degrees and four million with vocational certificates. Adding these new graduates will stop the rise of income inequality, according to the report, which predicts wages will rise 24 percent for high school graduates, 15 percent for those with an associate degree and 6 percent for bachelor’s degree holders.
All this jibes with President Obama’s push to make the U.S. first in the world in college graduates by 2020, points out Inside Higher Ed.
The shortage of college-educated workers has created a rising wage premium, write Carnevale and co-author Stephen Rose.
College graduates earn 74 percent more than do high school graduates today — a gap that is up from 40 percent in 1980.
. . . (Adding 20 million college-educated workers) would not only allow the wage premium to shrink to 46 percent, much closer to what it was in 1980, but increase the gross domestic product by about $500 billion over what it would be without those better-educated, higher-earning workers.
Increasing college-going and graduation rates requires spending more on higher education — unlikely, Carnevale concedes — or making higher ed more efficient.
Higher education has not historically been inclined to look for efficiency, but it is likely that “as money slims down, there will be kicking and screaming, and higher ed will move toward efficiencies,” he said.
A bachelor’s degree pays off even for secretaries, plumbers and cashiers, asserts New York Times columnist Dave Leonhardt, citing the Georgetown report.
“Sending more young Americans to college is not a panacea,” says David Autor, an M.I.T. economist who studies the labor market. “Not sending them to college would be a disaster.”
About 33 percent of young adults earn a bachelor’s degree and another 10 percent receive a two-year degree, Leonhardt writes.
Financial aid cuts the cost: “Average net tuition and fees at public four-year colleges this past year were only about $2,000 (though Congress may soon cut federal financial aid).”
Meanwhile, the wage premium for college graduates has soared.
According to the Hamilton Project, “college tuition in recent decades has delivered an inflation-adjusted annual return of more than 15 percent. For stocks, the historical return is 7 percent. For real estate, it’s less than 1 percent.”
Perhaps “college filters out people with low cognitive ability, low conscientiousness, and other adverse traits,” writes Arnold Kling.
My elitism comes from the few years I spent as an adjunct at George Mason. The typical undergrad in my course could not write a paper or solve an algebra problem. I doubt that adding more students at this margin is the way to raise people’s incomes.
College attainment will boost economic growth only if it increases cognitive skills, responds Andrew Gillen of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, citing studies by Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann. “Recent research (such as Academically Adrift) calls into question how much college boosts cognitive skills,” wrote Gillen in an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed.
The way to reduce income inequality is to fix our schools, Gillen writes in a blog post.
I don’t see much point in sending more high school graduates to college to take eighth-grade reading, writing and math.
Dev Ed is Good for Business blogs Accelerating Achievement, which wants business leaders to see this graphic:
There’s also a link to talking points (under Communications) to persuade business leaders and policy makers to support community colleges’ developmental education programs.
I think business and political leaders know the correlation between education attainment and employment. But they may not believe community colleges can turn remedial students into educated, trainable workers.
Developmental ed students need to know their realistic paths to a decent job. Many think they need a bachelor’s degree, which very few will complete.
It’s a shame that the “some college” category is a mishmash of college dropouts, who don’t improve their earnings, and certificate earners, who do, sometimes very significantly. It’s long past time for the feds to collect data on outcomes for students who complete certificates of various kinds. (Short-term certificates are worth a lot less than certificates that take a year or more to earn, according to Certificates Count.)
In addition, the associate degree category mixes people with a general ed A.A., which has no effect on earnings, and those with an occupational degree, often an associate of applied science, who do quite well in the labor market.
Vocational certificate programs are growing, reports the New York Times. Do certificates pay off?
I thought the story was muddled, equating certificates with high-cost career college programs before conceding job seekers can earn certificates for much less at community colleges.
The reporter ignores the Florida study showing higher pay for community college students who earned certificate (and associate of science degrees) than state university bachelor’s graduates in the first year after college. Some four-year graduates will catch up over time, but those in non-technical majors may never earn as much as certificate holders in medical, engineering and computer specialties.
While the Certificates Count report is mentioned, the story doesn’t report the significantly higher pay for people who earn certificates that take a year or more; shorter-term certificates don’t boost earnings substantially, the report found.
Not all certificates — or bachelor’s degrees — are alike. The costs vary enormously depending on where the student enrolls; the pay-off varies depending on the field.
To me, the question is whether students who might be able to earn a certificate that would lead to a decent job are wasting their time and money trying to earn a bachelor’s degree they’ll never complete. In a Florida study, only 19 percent of high school seniors with a C average or worse completed a college credential of any kind — including a certificate — within six years.
I recently talked to Richard Vedder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, an Ohio University economist, for a story on middle-skill jobs that should come out next week. Students who’ve earned A’s in high school probably have the academic skills and motivation to complete a bachelor’s degree, Vedder said. They should go for it. ”Most C students won’t make it through a four-year program but they probably could make it through a one-year or two-year course,” he said. ”Some people should go to truck-driving school. There are good jobs for electricians. They should be plumbers.”