California: Student aid lags costs

Grants and scholarships haven’t kept pace with rising living costs  for low-income students at California community colleges and the second-tier California State University system, according to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

Students who receive grants and scholarships are more likely to complete a degree, the report finds.

At the community colleges and CSU — the public colleges attended by the bulk of the state’s low-income students — increases in total student costs exceeded increases in grant aid between the 2008-09 school year and 2011-12. As a result, the actual cost to students rose by 6 percent, when adjusted for inflation. In dollars, these increases were significant, totaling more than $600 at the community colleges and almost $1,000 at CSU. The news is better at UC, with virtually no change in actual cost. In comparison, prices declined by almost $1,000 at private nonprofit colleges

. . . Prices dropped more sharply at private for-profit institutions, which may reflect declining enrollment as many have faced scrutiny for low completion rates and high loan default rates.

Making College Possible for Low-Income Students recommends helping students complete financial aid forms, increasing grants to keep pace with inflation and adopting policies to ensure aid doesn’t encourage colleges to raise tuition.

California OKs 4-year degrees at 2-year colleges

Fifteen California community colleges will be allowed to offer bachelor’s degrees in vocational fields. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Sunday to create the pilot program, which will launch on Jan. 1, 2015.

California joins 21 other states that authorize two-year colleges to offer four-year degrees.

In recent years, advocates have argued that growing industry demand for more educated workers in fields such as dental hygiene and automotive technology could be met by expanding existing programs at community colleges.

“This is landmark legislation that is a game changer for California’s higher education system and our workforce preparedness,” state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, who authored the bill, said in a statement. “SB 850 boosts the focus of our community colleges on job training and increasing the accessibility and affordability of our state’s higher education system.”

Community college baccalaureates will not compete with degrees offered at nearby state universities.

Many entry-level jobs now require a bachelor’s degree, said San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance M. Carroll.  Colleges are looking at programs in health information science and radiologic technology, she said.

Students will pay an additional $84 per unit fee for upper-division coursework, considerably less than the fees charged to California State University students.

‘Some college’ pays — for some

California faces a shortage of middle-skill workers with technical certificates and associate degrees, reports the Public Policy Institute of California.

In some fields, workers with “some college” earn no more than high school graduates: Child-care workers, solar installers, bakers, massage therapists, personal care aides, housekeepers and hairstylists don’t improve their earnings by attending college, PPIC reports. However, the wage premium is high for health care providers and technicians with a certificate or two-year degree.

FIGURE 4. SOME OCCUPATIONS OFFER HIGHER WAGES AND RETURNS TO “SOME COLLEGE” WORKERS THAN OTHERS

figure 4

SOURCE: Calculations from American Community Survey 2010–2012.

California community colleges should expand training opportunities for allied health care workers in the next decade to meet growing demand, reports PPIC.

Allied health care jobs are technical—licensed vocational nurses, dental hygienists, and imaging technologists, for example—and support positions, such as certified nursing assistants, medical assistants, and dental assistants. They typically require an associate degree or post-secondary certificate that can often be completed in fewer than two years.

However, the number of associate degrees and postsecondary certificates in health programs awarded by the community colleges has increased only slightly in the past decade. Most of these additional degrees have been in nursing.

For-profit colleges have expanded allied health training, enrolling many Latino and black students. However, for-profit students would pay $20,000 to $35,000 for a licensed vocational nurse certificate program,  estimates the report. A similar program would cost  $4,500 at community colleges.

It’s not a bargain education if you drop out

California’s community colleges are accessible and affordable, reports KCRA-TV. But completion and transfer rates are low. Are California’s community colleges a bargain?

Accreditors: Jellyfish or thugs?

Are accrediting bodies toothless jellyfish, or jackbooted thugs?” asks Matt Reed on Confessions of a Community College Dean @insidehighered.

Accreditation agencies enforce a producers’ cartel, argues Andrew Kelly in Forbes. It’s hard for new providers to get approval if they don’t resemble their predecessors, “but once you’re in the club, it’s remarkably rare to get kicked out.”

But City College of San Francisco‘s accrediting panel tried to shut down the long-established college, writes Reed. Judges and legislators came to the rescue.

“The California legislature passed unanimously (!) a bill to require the statewide community college accreditor to report directly to the legislature,” writes Reed. “The motive was to bring the accreditor to heel.”

 If the accrediting agency is really captured by incumbents, why is it giving incumbents a hard time?  Alternately, if it has an anti-incumbent agenda, as some have suggested, why?  If nothing else, the seeming “rogue” status of ACCJC calls into question the idea that peer review is necessarily clubby and insular.  In this case, it seems almost hostile.  The very independence from its sponsors that Kelly sees as an impossible dream strikes the California legislature as a clear and present danger.

. . . Accreditors can create barriers to entry, but they also force a certain honesty on providers who rely on federal financial aid.  (I’ll go farther.  If regional accreditors are such lapdogs, why do most for-profits avoid them in favor of so-called “national” accreditors?  And if regional accreditors are so clubby that nobody can get in, how is it that Phoenix and DeVry did?)

Accreditors have worked positive and professionally with Southern New Hampshire University’s competency-based College for America, “despite the very real threat that a competency-based degree” poses to established colleges, writes Reed, who works in New England.

California: CCs plan huge growth

California community colleges will try to increase degree completion and transfers by nearly a quarter of a million students over the next decade, reports the Sacramento Bee.

“This is probably the most ambitious goal-setting effort ever undertaken by our system,” California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris said.

Currently, 48.1 percent of students complete a degree or transfer; the completion rate for vocational certificates is 53.9 percent. The new targets call for raising the completion rate for degree programs and transfers to 62.8 percent and for career technical education certificates to 70.3 percent.

California’s entrepreneurial economy requires a skilled workforce, writes Chancellor Brice Harris in the Los Angeles Daily News.

The new goals aim to increase the number of students who successfully complete remedial instruction, which unfortunately 75 percent of our students need when they arrive at our campuses. And we’ve set targets to increase the number of students who prepare educational plans at the beginning of their academic careers as well as the number of students who earn degrees under the Associate Degree for Transfer program, which has improved transfer with California State University.

The system’s “Student Success Initiative” calls for “giving priority registration status to students who participate in orientation, assessment and education planning; redesigning our student support services to help them stay on track academically; making it easier for students to transfer to CSUs; and collaborating with K-12 institutions to ensure that students come here ready to take college-level math and English courses,” writes Harris.

‘Step: Forward’ launches in California

California’s Step: Forward campaign offers priority registration for high-demand community college classes to students who participate in orientation, participate in skills assessment and develop an education plan. “Providing more structure and guidance” will “encourage better choices and increase a student’s probability of reaching their goal,” said Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris.

Some colleges also require students to maintain a 2.0 grade point average, complete at least half their courses each semester and not accumulate more than 100 units.

Step: Forward, funded by an $845,000 grant from The Kresge Foundation, is part of the system’s Student Success Initiative, reports the Lake County News. 

 “When you complete these steps – orientation, assessment, and an education plan—you have a greater understanding of what you’re going to have to go through to achieve your goal, and that’s really what it’s about,” said student Luis Carlos Alvarez, who studied physics at the College of San Mateo. “These steps are about completing your goals.”

The Step: Forward web site is integrated with the registration tool used by most California community college students, “allowing it to provide college-specific resources such as campus maps and contacts for counselors and advisors,” reports the Lake County News. An online assessment quiz will help students determine whether they need to take college placement exams.

California OKs 4-year degrees at 2-year colleges

Nursing students, from left, Caroline Pantaleon, Yang Liu, Melody Saechao and Christine Crivello practice inserting an IV in Saul Jones’ nursing

Nursing students, from left, Caroline Pantaleon, Yang Liu, Melody Saechao and Christine Crivello practice inserting an IV in Saul Jones’ nursing skills lab class at Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Calif. The college could begin offering bachelor’s degrees in nursing.  (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group) ( Kristopher Skinner )

As early as next year, some California community colleges  will start offering four-year degrees if the governor signs a bill that cleared the state Legislature Thursday.

Colleges will be allowed to offer one bachelor’s degree program per campus, if the degree isn’t available at a nearby state university, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Proponents of SB 850 — introduced by state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego — argued that bachelor’s degrees in technical fields are in great demand and noted that 21 other states allow their community colleges to offer such programs.

“In today’s economy, many businesses require their employees to possess a four-year degree or higher skill sets than are offered through associate degree programs, even in fields such as dental hygiene or automotive technology where a two-year degree would have been sufficient in the past,” Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris said in a news release. “I applaud the Legislature for addressing California’s urgent workforce needs.”

Help college students stay on track

Edward James Olmos played calculus teacher Jaime Escalante in Stand and Deliver.

California community colleges need degree-tracking systems to help students reach their goals, writes actor Edward James Olmos in a Sacramento Bee commentary.

Less than half of the state’s community college students complete a degree or certificate, or transfer to a four-year university within six years. With one counselor for 2,000 to 3,000 students, many don’t get the help they need, Olmos writes. Some will leave unaware that they’ve qualified for a degree.

The community college system has been the gateway to college for my entire family. I’m a proud product of East Los Angeles College; all four of my sons, my brothers and sisters and my own mother attended a community college. Our story is similar to so many low-income families throughout the state.

. . . I was lucky enough to have a professor who believed in me and walked me through the process, but thousands of students are struggling to find their way.

The California State University and the University of California systems already have systems that let students build an academic program online, tracking their progress in real time, writes Olmos. But many of the state’s 112 community colleges don’t offer degree tracking.

Senate Bill 1425, which would require degree tracking for  all community college campuses has passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the Assembly.

Does Khan help remedial math students?

Can Khan Academy help community college students learn algebra? With a $3 million U.S. Department of Education grant, WestEd will evaluate the effectiveness of Khan Academy’s resources for developmental math students at 36 California community colleges.

Khan Academy is a free, Internet-based learning environment that includes instructional videos, adaptive problem sets, and tools for teachers to use in providing individualized coaching and assignments to students.

. . . “Until now, there has never been a rigorous, large-scale efficacy study of Khan Academy, in community colleges or in K-12 settings,” says STEM Program Director Steve Schneider.

Algebra I instructors with no Khan experience will be randomly assigned to integrate Khan videos and problem sets into their normal classroom activities or to teach as usual. Comparing Khan-aided students to the control group, researchers will evaluate whether using Khan resources affects persistence and achievement. In addition, they’ll analyze what factors, such as teacher preparation, student characteristics and course structure, improve effectiveness.

A recent SRI study looks at how K-12 schools use Khan to teach math, notes EdSurge.

Founded by Salman Khan, who started out tutoring his cousins’ children in math, the nonprofit now offers 6,000 instructional videos and 100,000 practice problems in math, biology, physics, chemistry, economics, and more, reports Inside Philanthropy. Some 350,000 teachers also use the videos as classroom aids.