Some Oregon students are signing up for a fifth year of high school — that’s really a first year of community college. The state pays the district about “$6,500 per student, and the district in turn uses the money to pay for three terms of community college tuition, fees and books,” reports the Oregonian.
Students get a year of college for free. The district ends up with enough funding to hire a counselor to help students handle the transition.
The idea is that by easing students’ transition and making the first year free, high schools get more students to try college and more to stick with it, said Frank Caropelo, assistant superintendent of Greater Albany Schools, which launched the program in partnership with Linn-Benton Community College this school year.
“That is moving the dial on 40-40-20,” the state’s goal of having 40 percent of young adults earn four-year degrees and another 40 percent earn two-year degrees or industry-recognized credentials, Caropelo said.
Nursing is a popular field, said coordinator Danielle Blackwell. “We’ve got some (aspiring) engineers. We’ve got a ton that want to do chemistry or biology and some that want to do journalism. We’ve got some who are passionate about art or music, but they’re wondering that they are going to do with that. Some of them are deciding to minor in the arts but study business and merchandising.”
Chemeketa Community College has partnered with schools in Dallas, Oregon for seven years. Many first-generation students sign up, said Brian Green, assistant principal at Dallas High. More than three-fourths complete a full year of community college, he said.
It’s a great way to ease 17- and 18-year-olds into college, writes Rebecca Schuman on Slate. “It’s worth considering making the 13th grade standard, not just for students on the vocational, technical, or community college track, but for the four-year-college-bounds as well. The fact is, many American students enter college woefully unprepared.”
Lauren Bizzaro owes $40,000 for three years of college. (Caleb Kenna for The Wall Street Journal)
College dropouts are the “untouchables” of higher education, writes Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, in Forbes.
Looking at those 25 to 34 years of age, the median earnings in 2013 were $27,339, about 10 percent higher than those who stopped their education with a high school diploma ($24,835), writes Vedder. And most dropouts who enrolled in four-year institutions took out student loans.
One approach is to spend more money — more financial aid for low-income students, better remedial education — to “alleviate some causes of dropping out.”
The alternative, writes Vedder, is for four-year colleges and universities to stop accepting students with weak academic records and little chance of success. That would include students in the bottom half of their high school class or with low SAT or ACT scores.
Those failing to meet the admissions thresholds should be allowed to attend community colleges or non-degree schools offering certificated vocational training and, if they succeed there, be allowed to proceed to four-year schools. This approach should not only reduce the dropout rate, it should save a good deal of money, both for students and taxpayers. It should reduce student loan repayment problems a bit, and lower loan delinquency rates.
Above all, a more restrictive admissions approach would in the long run reduce the mismatch between the availability of relatively high paying jobs and the numbers of college graduates seeking those jobs. We have too many college graduates, not too few.
Colleges would lose enrollments and revenue, Vedder writes. That would force “some needed creative destruction upon higher education.”
A Bit of College Can Be Worse than None at All, according to the Wall Street Journal. For one thing, employers don’t like quitters.
Candidates with degrees or certificates have “shown perseverance and persistence to obtain that credential,” says Kevin Brinegar, president and chief executive of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Dropping out after a few courses makes managers wonder “‘Is that what they’re going to do when they come to work for me? They’ll work for three weeks or three days and say, ‘I’m out of here?’ ”
A majority of students at four-year institutions who didn’t complete college took out federal loans, with average borrowings of $9,300 to $10,400 depending on the type of school, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
“More than three quarters of college freshmen who finished in the bottom 40 percent of their high school class will not graduate in eight years,” writes Bill McMorris in American Spectator.
Washington state’s new Common Core tests will be used to decide whether students can start in college-level classes at community colleges and state universities, reports the Seattle Times.
Students who score at the top two levels –considered “college ready” — won’t need to take placement exams.
Students who just miss qualifying on the “Smarter Balanced” math test can qualify for college-level math by earning a B or higher in a pilot course called “Bridge to College Mathematics.”
Achieving the Dream colleges work to improve college readiness programs, orientation, student-success courses and remediation.
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.
Community Colleges Should Be Free, editorializes Scientific American. Community colleges train technicians for jobs in leading-edge industries and serve as gateways to higher education for first-generation, minority and working-class students.
The Tennessee Promise is showing the way. Starting next year, high school graduate will pay no tuition at two-year community colleges and technical schools.
However, many community college entrants have weak basic skills. Only 32 percent of Tennessee students complete a credential. Gov. Bill Haslam’s program includes “mentors” to help students succeed.
To ensure that the newly enrolled reach graduation day, administrators of community colleges must emphasize accelerated remedial programs to get students through the basics and into career-related classes quickly enough to avoid the frustration and despondency that lead to elevated dropout rates.
The two-year colleges should also give serious consideration to new teaching methods that could maximize the time teachers have to interact with their students. Bill Gates, whose foundation has contributed tens of millions to remedy the failings of two-year schools, recommended in a speech last year that community colleges experiment with “flipped classrooms.” Students watch lectures from MOOCs (massive open online courses) at home. In class, instead of getting lectures, they complete homework-like exercises, with personalized instruction from professors and teaching assistants.
Oregon plans a Promise bill. Mississippi legislators rejected the idea, but may come back to it next year. Now a Texas politician has proposed making community and technical college free to high school graduates in her state.
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, wants the state to invest $2 billion in a Texas Promise Fund modeled after the Tennessee plan. “It is time to get Texans prepared for the jobs of the future,” said Van de Putte. Students would have to exhaust their federal grant aid and pay for their non-academic fees, books and living expenses.
In Michigan, the Kalamazoo Promise — funded by local philanthropists – guarantees college or university tuition to graduates of district-run public schools. Grades and AP enrollments are up and suspensions are way down, reports Politico. But, nine years after the Promise was announced, college dropout rates remain high for Kalamazoo students.
Brian Lindhal, a 2012 graduate of Loy Norrix High School, had a rocky start at Kalamazoo Valley Community College last fall. After earning a B in English and a D in history his first semester, he didn’t sign up for the winter term. “It didn’t click,” says Lindhal, 20, who works full-time at a company that restores garments after fires and floods. He plans to go back next semester. “I know a lot of people in other places would kill to have what I have,” he says sheepishly.
Rochester, New York also has a Promise program, writes Michael Holzman on Dropout Nation. Very few blacks — and even fewer black males — read proficiently in ninth grade and go on to earn a diploma at Rochester’s high schools. Only nine percent of blacks earned a degree in six years at Monroe Community College. The completion rate was five percent for black males.
The White House will host a second College Opportunity Summit on Dec 4. The meeting will focus on encouraging first-generation, low-income and minority students to enroll in college, persist and earn degrees.
Community colleges, which received little attention in the first summit in January, have been the focus of attention by the Obama administration.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz hosted a discussion last week with community college and nonprofit leaders on effective ways to help poorly prepared college students.
Fourteen community colleges made commitments to improve remedial education. For example, Macomb Community College will mandate a college skills course for all remedial students, reports Inside Higher Ed.
In July, the White House and the Harvard Graduate School of Education convened K-12 and higher education leaders to explore strategies to improve the effectiveness of college advising and support school counselors. Another working session focused on college readiness and enrollment.
Education Department funding will support a new Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR) led by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia and the social policy research organization MDRC. The center will focus on college readiness research.
In addition, Khan Academy will work on technology-based solutions to improve student success in developmental math.
The first year of college has become grade 12½ writes Rick Diguette in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Once he taught college English at the local community college. He’s still teaching composition, but it’s no longer “college” English.
Every semester many students in my freshman English classes submit work that is inadequate in almost every respect. Their sentences are thickets of misplaced modifiers, vague pronoun references, conflicting tenses, and subjects and verbs that don’t agree―when they remember, that is, that sentences need subjects. If that were not bad enough, the only mark of punctuation they seem capable of using with any consistency is the period.
I often remind them that even the keenest of insights will never receive due credit if it isn’t expressed in accordance with the rules of grammar and usage. Spelling words correctly, as well as distinguishing words that sound the same but are not, is also a big plus. “Weather” and “whether” are not interchangeable, for example, but even after I point this out some students continue to make the mistake. And while I’m on the subject, the same goes for “whether” and “rather.”
A state law called Complete College Georgia now links college funding to student performance, writes Diguette. Georgia Perimeter College faculty have developed testable “Core Concepts” students are expected to master in freshman English.
Early in the semester we must first assess their ability to identify a complete sentence ― that is, one with a subject and a verb. After that, somewhere around week five, we find out if they can identify a topic sentence ― the thing that controls the content of a paragraph. Then it’s on to using supporting details by week eight and creating thesis statements by week eleven.
It’s a low bar, he admits.
Is this grade 12 1/2? These were elementary and middle-school skills when I was in school, admittedly in the Neanderthal era. I remember learning “weather” and “whether” in fourth grade. I guess we didn’t learn to create thesis statements supported by details until ninth grade.
Early college programs are bridging the gap between high school and college, reports Community College Daily.
it’s important for community college leaders to work with high school faculty on their turf, said Mary Aycock, former director of Early College Health Science Academy at Butler Community College (BCC) in Kansas. She spoke at an American Association of Community Colleges convention.
Students enter BCC’s Early College program in their sophomore year of high school. They attend classes once a month that introduce them to higher education and career possibilities in their chosen field of study. They are also introduced to current BCC students who speak with them about their experiences. High school juniors and seniors join a cohort that spends a half day taking 13 to 15 semester hours of classes at the college and a half day taking regular courses at their high schools. The host school district provides Early College students with textbooks for BCC courses free of charge.
“We’ve tried to keep the costs down as much as possible because high school students don’t qualify for regular college financial aid,” Aycock says.
Offering a glimpse of college life motivates students, said Annette Cederholm, associate dean of planning and research at Snead State Community College in Alabama. Twice a year, Snead hosts College Days: High school students are invited to tour the campus and meet with faculty, administrators and students. Snead staffers also participate in a youth leadership program sponsored by local businesses.
Ninety-five percent of low-income students who take the ACT want to go to college, reports The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2013: Students from Low-Income Families. That’s higher than the rate for all students who take the ACT.
However, low-income students (defined as a family income under $36,000) are less likely to take a strong college-prep curriculum in high school. Only 20 percent meet at least three of the four college readiness benchmarks set by ACT. Only 59 percent of low-income students who take the ACT go directly from high school to college. That compares to 71 percent of all ACT test-takers.
Colleges are using “predictive analytics” to advise high-risk students, writes Libby Nelson on Vox. The goal is to raise “dismal graduation rates.”
Is flunking a course the sign of a bad semester, or the harbinger of much worse to come? Is a student with a 2.3 GPA going to be fine — “C’s get degrees,” after all — or a future dropout in the making?
But what if the numbers show some students have little chance of success?
Studies show teachers expend more time and attention with students they know will succeed; will professors neglect students data shows are likely to fail? States are under pressure to improve their graduation rates; if they can identify the students least likely to graduate, will it be too tempting to shut them out rather than admit them and help them through?
. . . The American ethos of college-going rests on “if you can dream it, you can become it.” But when we can pinpoint the students least likely to succeed, what will happen to them?
Many students rely on “magical thinking,” writes Nelson. “From kindergarten through high school graduation, students are steeped in a can-do spirit. Believe in yourself. Reach for the stars. Never give up.”
Students will say an F on a midterm “isn’t a real F,” says Linda McMillin, a provost at Susquehanna University. Professors can use data to persuade them to get real.
“Ninety-eight percent of people who got this grade in this class were not able to change it. Tell me how you’re the exception. Let’s get real here, and let’s think about how we move you into another major that really aligns with your strengths and with your passions and gets you through in four years.”
“This is not a tool to highlight to students that they’re in trouble or can’t make it, says John Nicklow, provost at Southern Illinois University. “It’s an awareness tool to make them aware that now’s the time to buckle down.”
Perhaps middle-school and high school counselors should be armed with predictive analytics. The time to get real and buckle down occurs much earlier.