Pell Grants should go only to college-ready students, proposes Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Foundation on Bloomberg View.
“A huge proportion” of the $40 billion annual federal investment in college aid is going to unprepared students, he asserts.
About two-thirds of low-income community-college students — and one-third of poor students at four-year colleges — need remedial (aka “developmental”) education, according to Complete College America, a nonprofit group. But it’s not working: Less than 10 percent of students who start in remedial education graduate from community college within three years, and just 35 percent of remedial students earn a four-year degree within six years.
Currently, Pell recipients in a “program of study” — they say they’re seeking a credential — can take remedial courses for one year before losing benefits. Petrilli suggests cutting off Pell aid for remedial students.
Ambitious, low-income high-school students would know that if they want to attend college at public expense (probably their only option), they would first need to become “college-ready.” This would provide a clear sign and incentives for them to work hard, take college-prep classes and raise their reading and math skills to the appropriate level.
Many low-income students wouldn’t go to college without Pell support for remedial courses, Petrilli concedes. That “cuts against the American tradition of open access, as well as second and third chances.”
But it’s not clear unprepared students benefit by enrolling in college remedial courses, he writes. Most drop out long before they complete a degree or certificate. (Most drop out before they take a single college-level class.) “Many would be more successful in job-training programs that don’t require college-level work (or would be better off simply gaining skills on the job).”
Eliminating remedial Pell would free up money to boost the maximum grant for needy, college-ready students.
Colleges could respond by giving credit for courses that used to be considered “remedial,” Petrilli writes.
Indeed they could. Placing poorly prepared students in credit-bearing courses, with extra help to learn basic skills, already is a trend due to the high failure rates in traditional remedial ed.
Remedial education costs millions of dollars a year with very poor results, said Stan Jones of Complete College America at the Education Writers Association conference last week at Stanford. “We pride ourselves on access, but access to what? Most never access a true college course.”
Of half a million new community college students in remedial education every year, “maybe 20 percent” will move on to college-level courses, said Carnegie’s Alicia Grunow. “We’re killing the aspirations of hundreds of thousands of students every year.”
Andrea Levy, Statway instructor at Seattle Central Community College, talks about how she gives developmental math students the intellectual and emotional support they need to persist and succeed. The Carnegie Foundation’s alternative math pathways stress “productive persistence,” a mix of effective learning strategies and the tenacity to keep working when the going gets tough.
After three weeks in Carnegie’s math pathways, students showed greater enthusiasm for math, less anxiety and more confidence they could improve with hard work, reports the Pathways Blog. Carnegie believes these indicators “powerfully predict whether students persist in the course and whether they obtain higher grades.”
Community colleges in Texas will adopt a radical redesign of developmental math, reports Inside Higher Ed. The Carnegie Foundation and the Dana Center at the University of Texas have developed Mathways, a new approach to helping community college students get up to speed in the math skills they’ll need to complete a credential.
. . . remedial students who intend on majoring in a science- or math-based field will still take a traditional, algebra-based developmental course. But other students might take classes in statistics or quantitative reasoning, subsets of math that could prove more relevant to their careers and present less of a barrier to emerging from remedial education. Students who are undecided on a major are likely to be steered toward statistics, with “bridge courses” available later on if they select a science or math major.
“Not having algebra doesn’t mean you haven’t had rigorous preparation,” said Rey Garcia, president and CEO of the Texas Association of Community Colleges. “What’s the point of taking a course that isn’t going to be useful to you in your work life? As long as we maintain high standards for rigor, that pathway is as meaningful as an algebra-based pathway.”
Two Texas community colleges in El Paso and Houston have piloted Carnegie’s Statways. This fall, six or seven colleges will offer the statistics program and it’s expected to be at all 50 of the state’s community colleges by fall 2013.
The quantitative reasoning program and a reimagined algebra-based remediation will be rolled out in subsequent years, first in small batches and then statewide.
Here’s a Dana Center webinar on Mathways:
Community colleges must redesign remedial math education, write Anthony Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and Thomas Toch, who directs the foundation’s Washington office, in an Inside Higher Ed commentary. Carnegie is working with 27 community colleges to teach statistics and quantitative reasoning to students who’ve done poorly in math in their K-12 years.
There are units on “Seven Billion and Counting,” “The Credit Crunch” and “Has the Minimum Wage Kept Up?” Students learn math through themes such as citizenship and personal finance. It’s rigorous stuff, but relevant and engaging, requiring students to use the tools of algebra, statistics, data visualizations and analysis to solve meaningful, real-world problems as a way of thinking mathematically.
Instructors in the network have replaced traditional homework with “problem- and scenario-based exercises,” Bryk and Toch write.
Faculty collaborate across different campuses to “build common instructional systems and improve the program.”
Students earn college credit for completing the new “pathways,” speeding their way to a certificate or degree.
So far, students who complete the new courses test nearly as well as students who complete college-level statistics, Bryk and Toch write. Compared to colleges’ typical remedial students, pathway students earning C’s or better in the first semester are much more likely to move on to the second semester. In surveys, they express less math anxiety and are more confidence in their ability to learn math, if they work at it.
Faced with huge remedial math enrollments — and low success rates — some community colleges are reducing math requirements for non-STEM majors to avoid “overmathing.” Others are trying Carnegie’s alternative pathways, which focus on statistics and quantitative reasoning rather than the traditional algebra-to-calculus track.
Here’s how to avoid remedial math.
Wetzel was honored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
Wetzel, who also chairs AC’s math, sciences and engineering department, established an award-winning math outreach center that provides more than 22,000 free, hour-long tutoring sessions each year.
. . . Along with courses ranging from developmental math to calculus, and engineering statics and dynamics, Wetzel teaches her students how to study, work with others and ace a job interview. She believes such “soft skills” are as important as academic and technical skills.
Eduardo J. Padrón, president of Miami Dade College is a co-winner of the Carnegie Corporation‘s $500,000 academic leadership award. Padrón was selected for creating a culture of success that has improved student access, retention and graduation rates for predominantly low-income and minority students at his community college.
Padrón believes that increasing the number of low-income students who enter and complete college is one of the most important—and proven—approaches to reducing poverty and increasing economic mobility. To help students complete school, MDC has teamed with Single Stop USA, an anti-poverty initiative, to establish offices on its campuses staffed with coordinators who work directly with students to identify benefits and services that can help them stay in school, whether it’s help buying groceries and paying rent, filing their taxes, or coaching them on how to manage debt.
Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) is the other co-winner.
Today’s higher education leaders — the ones willing to butcher sacred cows — typically come from non-elite institutions, writes Anya Kamenetz in the Washington Post, citing Gail Mellow at LaGuardia Community College and Padrón. ”Whether public or private, these lesser-known institutions all serve needier students and remain closer to their demands. They are also working with far fewer resources than the selective privates or flagship state universities, which I’m sure makes for less complacency.”
Most remedial math students never move on to college-level classes and a certificate or degree. A Carnegie Foundation webinar discussed redesigning developmental math programs at community colleges. Carnegie is working with 27 community colleges on Statway, which takes remedial math students through transferable college statistics in one year, and Quantway, an accelerated quantitative literacy pathway that stress using “mathematics and numerical reasoning to make sense of the world.” Go here for the webinar recording.
Developmental mathematics has become a “burial ground for the aspirations” of many community college students, said Uri Treisman, director of the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas. Only 6 to 8 percent of students who start in algebra make it to credit-bearing courses, he said, in part because they’re often taking classes that have no bearing on their goals.
Despite tales of college graduates working as cashiers, college is still worth it, argues Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce in Inside Higher Ed. Bureau of Labor Statistics data misses a shift in the economy: Employers are requiring postsecondary credentials for jobs that didn’t use to require a two- or four-year degree, he writes.
Examples in the white-collar world include increasing demand for college degrees among managers, health care workers, and a wide variety of office workers, from insurance agents to building inspectors. Examples in the blue- and pink-collar world include increasing degree requirements among production workers, health care technicians, and utility and transportation workers.
Simple, repetitive tasks have been automated. Workers need to perform more sophisticated tasks that require more skill, training and education, Carnevale writes. Employers are paying a wage premium to hire workers with college credentials.
Bartenders, cab drivers and janitors with bachelor’s degrees will move to better jobs, he writes. “Over a 10-year period, each cashier job has 13 incumbents who permanently leave the occupation; among medical doctors, that replacement rate is only one.”
There is a higher education bubble at the bachelor’s degree level, writes Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars. As the recession pushes more four-year graduates into low-level jobs, high school graduates are getting cagier about borrowing to take the traditional college path to a career.
More and more students are enrolling in lower-priced community colleges either to take a terminal associate’s degree or to transfer as juniors to a senior college. And online education is luring more and more students to the idea of gaining college credentials through part-time study while working full-time.
All it would take for higher education’s bubble to pop would be a significant increase in the percent of students defecting to community colleges or online programs. Perhaps as little as a ten percent shift would pose dramatic problems for the expensive second-tier private colleges.
Career colleges are growing rapidly, according to a new Carnegie Foundation report. The focus of higher education is shifting from liberal arts colleges to professional training programs in business, health, education and law.
The majority of the new institutions—77 percent—are from the private for-profit sector. The growth in public institutions and private not-for-profit institutions has been minimal, accounting for only 4 percent and 19 percent of the newly classified institutions respectively.
In addition, more two-year colleges are adding bachelor’s degree programs.
Ping-Tung Chang, a math professor at Matanuska-Susitna College in Palmer, Alaska, is one of four 2010 U.S. professors of the year honored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, which is sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Chang is constantly exploring new ways to help his students learn mathematics in the classroom. Saying the “teacher talks, students listen” model of learning is ineffective, Chang leads an interactive classroom where students debate and discuss different methods to solve problems. This hands-on, problem-solving approach helps students become more confident and engaged in solving and reasoning. Chang also believes in using tests for formative assessment instead of grading. Students are encouraged to retake tests until they master the content, a strategy that has led to a boost in student confidence and a more relaxed learning environment. And for nearly 25 years, Chang has provided refreshments for students, reinforcing his belief that students are unable to learn if their basic needs are not met. Chang also volunteers to help high school students struggling with math and has worked extensively in China to develop more effective mathematics teaching methods.
Chang was the national winner in the community college category. Professors also were honored for exemplary teaching at the state level.