Starting at a community college will cut the cost of a bachelor’s degree, but students have to be savvy to make it work, writes Lisa Ward in the Wall Street Journal.
Transferring credits can be be “complicated and confusing,” she writes. Students and parents should research whether their state has coordinated community college and state university credits.
For example, California, Louisiana and Texas guarantee admission to a four-year state university to any student who earns an associate degree at an in-state community college. Florida has the same guarantee for an associate of arts, but transfers will need high grades and prerequisites to get into popular majors at prestigious schools.
Some states, including Texas and Florida, use the same numbering system for community college and state university courses. Psych 101 is the same at every school, making it easier for students to know which credits will transfer.
Hybrid degree programs also help transfers earn low-cost bachelor’s degrees.
Houston Community College and University of Texas at Tyler designed a program where students can earn an associate’s degree in engineering from HCC and then enroll at UT Tyler, as long as their grade-point average is 2.5 or higher. The program sets the student up for a bachelor’s degree in mechanical, electrical or civil engineering.
“It costs $19,000, for all four years, if you live in-state,” says David Le, who is enrolled in the program. “No one ever believes me when I tell them how cheap it is,” says Mr. Le, who lives at home because the program is taught entirely at HCC’s campus.
Earning college credit in high school also cuts the cost of a degree. Most schools offer Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses that enable students to earn college credit. Increasingly, students can earn credits through “dual enrollment” or “early college” classes, which often are taught by community college instructors.
“In many cases, dual enrollment and early college are the absolutely cheapest way to earn college credit because it’s free,” says Dilip Das, assistant vice provost at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
California may let community colleges offer low-cost bachelor’s degrees, reports the San Jose Mercury News.
It would “save us money in the long run,” said State Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, who’s introduced a bill to authorize one bachelor’s program per campus for a few college districts.
It’s getting harder for graduates to find jobs in fields such as nursing and respiratory therapy with just an associate degree, but it’s also harder to transfer into state university programs.
Ruby Guzman waited three years to get into the Contra Costa College nursing program, and now, about to earn an associate degree, she’s on the wait list at Cal State East Bay. ”It just feels like roadblock after roadblock,” Guzman said.
Community colleges in 21 states offer four-year degree programs. “I’d just like to see California catch up with the rest of the nation,” said Linda Thor, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District.
Both critics and advocates worry the state won’t adequately fund the programs, notes the Mercury News. “That’s always the million-dollar question, like are you going to pay for it?” said Aaron Bielenberg, president of the college system’s student senate.
Now that the state budget outlook has improved, momentum is building, said Barry Russell, president of Las Positas College in Livermore. ”I think it’s an inevitable move that needs to be made,” said Russell.
Each year, De Anza College‘s automotive technology program graduates about 140 students. With a certificate or associate degree, they will get good jobs as technicians, but their career options are limited, said Randy Bryant, the department head.
Moving up at a dealership or opening their own shop now requires a bachelor’s degree or higher, but Bryant says his students often fear transferring to a four-year business program — and he wants them to be able to “finish what they start here.”
Bryant is designing a four-year automotive management degree, which combines technical skills with “courses in ethics, entrepreneurship, management, sales and marketing, and inventory control.”
If the bill passes, there will be pressure to offer more than one four-year degree at each campus. At Foothill College, the dental hygiene and the respiratory therapy programs already want to offer bachelor’s degrees.
Leaders of California’s three state higher education systems met this week with Gov. Jerry Brown to pledge cooperation, especially in helping community college students transfer to state universities, reports the Los Angeles Times.
In a rare gathering, University of California President Janet Napolitano, California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White and California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris said they want to break through some of the walls set up by the state’s 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, which established different roles and student enrollment criteria for each sector. Yet they also said they want to maintain the plan’s basic tenets.
“Transfer should be as streamlined as possible and as transparent as possible,” said Napolitano, as the three leaders appeared together at the UC regents meeting in San Francisco.
The challenge for the three systems, White said, is to strengthen the master plan “for the new economy for the next 50 years.”
The master plan, among other things, gave UC control over doctoral degrees and professional schools, allowed open access to community colleges and set higher admissions standards at Cal State and UC. Although many educators speak of it reverently, Brown described it as the result of a political deal in need of updating.
Napolitano pledged at the White House summit to improve diversity at the University of California by admitting more transfers from community colleges that “enroll large numbers of underrepresented and low-income students but send relatively few on to UC.”
Currently, only 20 percent of transfers are Latino or black compared to 24 percent of first-year students, points out Robert Shireman, director of California Competes. Latinos and African Americans make up 42 of the state’s population. CSU campuses are developing transfer pathways with the community colleges. UC has not participated.
California needs a new higher education plan and a statewide coordinating agency, concludes California Competes in Charting a Course for California’s Colleges. The California Postsecondary Education Commission was defunded in 2011. Since then, the state has no system of coordinated higher education leadership.
“For California’s continued economic growth, we must graduate 5.5 million degree and technical certificate holders who can succeed in the high-skilled labor market by 2025,” said Shireman. The state will fall short by 2.3 million, including one million four-year college graduates, without “consistent and coordinated leadership for our colleges and universities.”
The report recommends creating an autonomous coordinating agency “independent from political influence, informed by data, focused on outcomes and effective in articulating its goals, and able to work with policymakers.”
“We can’t just transplant” a higher education governance model from another state, said Lande Ajose, author of the report and a deputy director of California Competes. But California could learn from Ohio, Washington, Illinois, Texas, Florida and other states, the report suggests.
Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown called for the University of California and California State University systems to begin reporting performance outcomes, but it wasn’t clear who would collect and analyze the data, notes California Competes. The governor signed a bill calling for the state to develop postsecondary education goals, “but there was no guidance on who would monitor progress toward those goals.”
Speaker John A. Pérez, who serves as a UC Regent and a CSU Trustee, has introduced a bill establishing a new state oversight and coordinating body for higher education. AB 1348 passed the Assembly last year and will be considered by the Senate this year.
California’s higher education system is just average, concludes the Campaign for College Opportunity in Average Won’t Do.
Tuition (known as fees) at community colleges and state universities is relatively low: Community college fees are only 42 percent of the national average and many students pay nothing. Student loan debt averages a relatively low $20,269 per borrower. But fees and student loan amounts are rising rapidly.
California is below average on college readiness, according to the report. Only 68 percent of high school students earn a diploma in four years. Thirty-eight percent have passed college-prep courses that qualify them for state universities.
The college-going rate is relatively high, but the completion rate is average at state universities and well below average for community colleges.
By 2016, California community college students will need to meet academic performance standards to receive tuition waivers, reports Inside Higher Ed.
The fee waivers eliminate the relatively affordable tuition of $46 per credit that the system’s 112 colleges charge. But to remain eligible under the change, students will be required to maintain a 2.0 GPA for two consecutive terms. They will also lose access to the state subsidy if they fail to complete half of the credits they attempt in a semester.
Colleges plan to increase counseling services as part a series of changes designed to improve graduation and transfer rates. In addition to raising standards for waivers, incoming students will receive priority enrollment if they attend orientation sessions and develop education plans.
Tuition is waived for about 40 percent of the state’s 2.6 million community college students, reports the Los Angeles Times.
“We will do everything in our power to help students on financial aid succeed,” said community colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris, “but students need to know that they have a responsibility to keep up their end of the bargain.”
Restricting fee waivers will hurt low-income students who face many challenges, said Rich Copenhagen, a College of Alameda student and past president of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges. “If you cut our fee waivers, they’re probably going to be gone from community colleges forever.”
Forty-six percent of Latinos who graduated from high-scoring public high schools enrolled in a community college, according to a USC study. That compares to 23 percent of their black classmates, 19 percent of Asians and 27 percent of white students. White and Asian students are much more likely to enroll at a four-year university.
Graduation rates are much lower for students who start at community colleges.
Table 1. College-Attendance Rates of California High School Graduates by Public Higher Education System and Race/Ethnicity, 2010
Community College Attendance Rate
CSU Attendance Rate
UC Attendance Rate
South Pasadena is known for excellent public schools. Of South Pasadena High’s 2010 Latino graduates, 71 percent went straight to community college, reports KPCC. Only about a third of the school’s white and Asian graduates that year attended community college.
“Perhaps certain kinds of college pathways are promoted for different types of students,” said George Washington University education researcher Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux, who authored the study. “We know that tracking is real. We know that differential expectations for academic performance based on things like race and class are real.”
Lower-income students are more likely to choose to a low-cost community college, especially if their parents don’t understand financial aid options.
From Colorado: For low-income students, getting into college is only half the battle. Graduating is a challenge.
The commission that accredits two-year colleges in California will keep its federal recognition for another year, reports Inside Higher Ed. A federal panel told the accreditor to show that it is complying with federal standards.
The accreditor, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, has been under fire for its decision this year to revoke accreditation of City College of San Francisco. Many supporters of the college — faculty unions, student advocates, and some elected officials — had been pushing for the panel to recommend the Education Department strip the accreditor of its federal recognition.
More than two dozen students, faculty members, union leaders and other supporters of City College of San Francisco testified Thursday and Friday.
The federal panel also voted to recommend another year of recognition for the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, which is under fire for how it’s handled complaints from adjuncts.
Last week’s meetings of the federal accreditation panel occurred against the backdrop of a larger debate over the future of accreditation that has begun to play out in Washington as Congress considers the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Policy makers have discussed, among other issues, whether accreditors are doing enough to promote innovation in higher education and whether they should do more to keep college affordable.
Outgoing Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter asked the panel to revisit its 2011 recommendations for improving accreditation and make new suggestions.
More community colleges are offering bachelor’s degrees in career fields, reports Community College Daily.
South Seattle Community College (SSCC) added a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, which lets graduates seek a supervisory job in the hotel or restaurant industry.
North Dakota’s universities don’t offer a bachelor’s degree in energy management, so Bismarck State College (BSC) started a program to meet industry demand.
Courses are entirely online and are in eight-week blocks rather than the traditional 16 weeks. Only about 10 percent of the 250 students in the program are in North Dakota; the rest are all over the country. Most are adults already working in the field, although there are some traditional students who’ve just completed an associate degree.
The chief executive officers of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community Colleges Association (SDICCCA) this week voted unanimously to endorse the concept. SDICCCA comprises the nine community colleges in the six college districts of San Diego and Imperial counties: Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, Imperial Community College District, MiraCosta Community College District, Palomar Community College District, San Diego Community College District and Southwestern Community College District.
“Our local community colleges excel at preparing students to enter the workforce in career technical fields such as nursing and allied health, ”Melinda Nish, SDICCCA president and superintendent/president of Southwestern College, said in a statement. “It’s time for California to join this national movement and address our local workforce and student needs.”
Colorado community colleges are trying again to add four-year degrees, despite a defeat in the legislature last year, reports the Denver Post. Possible majors included dental hygiene and mortuary science.
Young black Californians are less educated than their parents’ generation, according to The State of Blacks in Higher Education in California: The Persistent Opportunity Gap by the Campaign for College Opportunity. Black freshmen and transfer students have the lowest completion rates at community colleges, California State University campuses and the University of California.
“The report reveals a troubling pattern,” said Michele Siqueiros, Executive Director of the Campaign for College Opportunity, the organization that produced the study. “Instead of trending up, Black success in higher education remains flat and in some cases, it’s trending downward.”
Only 30 percent of black Californians 25 to 34 years old have completed an associate degree or higher, compared to 35 percent for those 35 to 44 and 33 percent for those 45 to 54. “We have a system that promotes college access, but doesn’t equally promote success and completion,” said Siqueiros.
Black students have the lowest high school graduation rate of any ethnic group and the second-lowest rate of completing college-prep courses, next to Latinos. They are more likely to attend for-profit colleges and community colleges, less likely to enroll at state universities.
The Campaign recommends creating a higher education plan with statewide and college-by-college goals for lowering the number of black students in remedial courses and increasing completion rates. Funding should create incentives for increasing graduation rates for blacks and Latinos, the nonprofit recommends. In addition, expand “college knowledge” about financial aid and the college application process and invest in orientation, counseling and peer tutoring.
California is losing its higher education edge, warns a new report. State universities and community colleges must be redesigned to produce the educated workers the economy needs, said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who commissioned the report.
The percentage of young adults earning associate and bachelor’s degrees in California already is below the U.S. average, warns the Committee for Economic Development, which wrote the report. The higher education system must be redesigned to serve an increasingly diverse and low-income population, CED advised.
Along with boosting graduation rates at Cal State and community college campuses, which enroll the vast majority of the state’s college students, the study calls for greater collaboration with for-profit private colleges, employers and K-12 schools.
Lead author Patrick Callan, president of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that if the state is serious about meeting its “productivity challenge,” it will need to create “new kinds of institutions that take advantage of innovative instructional technologies and business plans to develop nontraditional ways of providing high-quality postsecondary education programs.”
“Modest injections of funding” and “tweaks in current educational policy and practice” won’t be enough to fix California’s underperforming higher education system, said Newsom.
Fewer international students are enrolling in U.S. community colleges, while more are choosing baccalaureate colleges, according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors 2013 report.
Community colleges’ international enrollments fell by 1.4 percent in 2012-13, the fourth consecutive decline, notes Community College Times. The number of international students increased by 2.9 percent at baccalaureate colleges.
The Houston Community College System in Texas has 5,333 international students this academic year, followed by Santa Monica College in California with 3,471 students and De Anza College in California with 2,728 student. Lone Star College in Texas with 2,112 students and Northern Virginia Community College with 1,901 students rounded the top five community colleges.
China is sending an increasing number of students to U.S. colleges and universities.
“Chinese students and their parents are looking for high quality education, get the importance of international education and it’s making America the No. 1 destination because we actually have the capacity to absorb international students,” said Allan Goodman, president and CEO of the institute.
The number of Saudi students increased by 30 percent thanks to a government scholarship program.