Starbucks offers workers a free online degree

Starbucks workers will be able to study for a free online bachelor’s degree via Arizona State University, reports the New York Times. Employees anywhere in the U.S. are eligible if they work at least 20 hours a week.

Starbucks will pay ASU Online’s full tuition for a barista with at least two years of college credit. Those in their first two years of college will get a partial scholarship and need-based financial aid for two years of full-time study. Employees will not be obliged to stay with the company after completing a degree.

“Starbucks is going where no other major corporation has gone,” said Jamie P. Merisotis, president and chief executive of the Lumina Foundation. “For many of these Starbucks employees, an online university education is the only reasonable way they’re going to get a bachelor’s degree.

Arizona State’s online program is one of the largest in the U.S. with 11,000 students and 40 undergraduate majors. Tuition typically costs $500 per credit with 120 credits needed for a bachelor’s degree.

Seventy percent of Starbucks employees do not have a degree but want to earn one, the company reports. (The other 30 percent earned degrees in film studies . . . No, that’s unkind.)

“My dad lost his job during the recession, in my first year of college, and my parents were really struggling for money,” said Tammie R. Lopez, 22, who would also be the first in her family to finish college. “They were on the verge of losing their home, so I stopped going to school so I could get a second job and help them.”

Ms. Lopez, who lives in the San Fernando Valley, got a full-time job at Starbucks and goes to a community college at night. “I could never see myself finishing school because it’s taken me so long to get where I am,” Ms. Lopez said. She is studying to be a sign language interpreter, but is also weighing other possibilities, such as a business degree.

What Starbucks has planned, she said, completely changed her outlook. “I could be done with school in a couple of years — I can see it, that financial burden would be lifted,” she said.

Michael Bojorquez Echevarria, 23, another barista in the San Fernando Valley, is working toward an associate degree in sociology while working 60 hours a week at two Starbucks locations.

“My ultimate vision, what I’m striving for, is to work with children who have gone through physical or emotional abuse,” he said. “Imagine just waking up one day and knowing that your whole degree would be paid for, and the only thing you have to do is enroll and study and be a good student,” he said. “It would change my lifestyle, the whole dynamic of what I do every day.”

Limiting tuition aid to a single online university is “incredibly problematic,”  said Sara Goldrick-Rab, a University of Wisconsin professor. While Arizona State is a public university, “ASU Online is a profit venture,” she said.

In addition to limiting student choices, online-only courses don’t work well for low-income students, said Goldrick-Rab, citing recent studies.

‘Inferiority myth’ plagues community colleges

Community colleges are fighting an inferiority myth, writes Kerry Hart, president of Morgan Community College in Colorado. “A community college education is as good — or even superior to what universities offer during the first two years,” he argues in the Fort Morgan Times.

Community colleges have smaller class sizes and give students more individual attention. In addition, the academic courses taught at the freshman and sophomore levels are identical to those taught at the university (and that’s why in Colorado we have a common course numbering system with guaranteed transfer from any Colorado community college to any Colorado public four-year institution and virtually all of the private universities as well).

. . . Unlike universities, community colleges do not use teaching assistants. . . . many university faculty are hired to do research as their primary job responsibility, and community college faculty are committed to helping students become successful.

In addition, students are comparable at community colleges and universities, writes Hart. “One can find academically well-prepared, bright, capable, gifted and economically advantaged students in both settings.”

A small but growing number of community colleges are dropping the word “community,” reports USA Today. The Seattle Colleges and Henry Ford College in Michigan are the latest to make the change. Most Florida community colleges are now “state colleges.”

One motivation is “a desire to increase enrollments and to upgrade the traditional image of community colleges as a place where students go if they can’t get admitted anywhere else.”

In surveys for Seattle Colleges, for example, high school principals said students “were sometimes put off by the name ‘community college’ and would come if it was called a college,” says spokeswoman Susan Kostick.

Michigan’s Jackson College hopes the name change will help it recruit international students.

Community colleges “are constantly having to defend themselves to people who have no idea what those colleges do or how they do it, and who often evaluate their worth using criteria designed to assess four-year campuses,” writes Rob Jenkins, who teaches at Georgia Perimeter College.

Do we over-invest in non-traditional students?

Do We Over-Invest in Non-Traditional Students? asks Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, on Minding the Campus. Older and part-time students are the “new majority” on college campuses, but their completion rates are low, reports the National Student Clearinghouse.

Two-thirds of full-time traditional-age students who started in 2007 — but only half of those 25 and older — earned a degree by 2013. Overall, 86 percent of full-time four-year students graduate within six years compared to 20 percent of part-time students. More than two-thirds of part-time students entering in 2007 not only had no degree by 2013, but were not in school.

. . . perhaps we should reduce subsidies for part-time or older students. Younger students have more than a 40-year work lifetime expectancy after graduation; older students often have 20 years or less. The economic and noneconomic benefits of a degree are far smaller for older students because they enjoy them for fewer years —and there is a far greater risk they won’t graduate. Encouraging older students to attend school part-time strikes me as questionable, something pushed by colleges facing enrollment shortfalls desperate for more bodies in the classroom.

At community colleges, the low costs are “considerably offset” by the greater non-completion risk, Vedder writes. Starting at a community college and transferring “works for many and saves lots of money.” But the reality is that many community college students never graduate.

Report: CCs pay off for economy, students

Community colleges are a boon to the economy and to their students, according to Where Value Meets Values, a report by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

In 2012 alone, the net total impact of community colleges on the U.S. economy was $809 billion in added income, equal to 5.4 percent of GDP. Over time, the U.S. economy will see even greater economic benefits, including $285.7 billion dollars in increased tax revenue as students earn higher wages and $19.2 billion in taxpayer savings as students require fewer safety net services, experience better health, and lower rates of crime.

Students also see a significant economic benefit. For every one dollar a student spends on his or her community college education, he or she sees an ROI of $3.80.

Associate-degree holders average $41,900 per year in mid-career, about $10,700 more than someone with just a high-school diploma, the report estimated.

Community colleges deliver a negative return on investment to taxpayers — though a positive return to students –because of the high dropout rate, an October report found. The earlier report focused more narrowly on tuition costs and post-graduation salaries, observes the Chronicle of Higher Education.

An author of that report, Mark S. Schneider, a vice president of the American Institutes for Research and president of College Measures, thinks the AACC report exaggerates the societal benefits. The AACC researchers “didn’t acknowledge that students who attend college are already less likely to pose risks or added costs to society,” he told the Chronicle. “It assumes that if you didn’t graduate from a community college, you’re going to be a fat, smoking criminal, which is just not true.”

Overweight and obese girls earn lower grades and are less likely to go to college, concludes a new study. That’s the primary reason educated adults are slimmer and healthier, the researchers concluded. It’s not that “higher education confers lifelong social, economic, and psychological benefits that help adults” make healtheir choices.

Completion rates are higher for ‘dual’ students

Sixty-six percent of dual enrollment students who started college in 2007 completed a credential in six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse’s new report.  That compares to a 54 percent completion rate for those who didn’t take any college-level courses in high school. However, because dual enrollment may draw more motivated students, it’s not clear the program raises graduation rates.

Dual enrollment is expanding rapidly: 47 states and the District of Columbia let high school students take college courses,reports Education Commission of the States.  The number of states making students and their families primarily responsible for the costs of dual enrollment is dropping, from 22 in 2008 to 11 in 2013.

For degree seekers who started college in 2007, six-year completion rates ranged from 40 percent for those who started at community colleges, 63 percent who started at public universities and 73 percent for students who started at four-year private nonprofit institutions.

While completion rates were low at four-year for-profit colleges, two-year for-profit colleges, which focus on job training, once again did better than community colleges. Sixty-two percent of two-year for-profit students completed a credential.

Figure B. Six-Year Outcomes by Starting Institution Type

Figure B. Six-Year Outcomes by Starting Institution Type

 Seventeen percent of community college starters completed a four-year degree, the study found. A majority had not first received an associate degree.

Overall, one in four completers had moved to another college or university.

Completion rates were higher for women and for traditional-age students.

Dream the affordable dream

Cartoon by Liza Donnelly

Collegebound students must dream the affordable dream, writes Michael Alcorn in the Arvada (Colorado) News. A music and fitness instructor, he’s the father of three children, including a daughter in 12th grade who wants to study nursing.

Me, the “life coach” parent, wants her to dream as big as the sky and the stars. . . .

Me, the “teacher” parent, really believes in education and higher education and the value of learning for learning’s sake . . .

But me, the “financial advisor” parent, looks at the average of $26,000 student loan debt for graduates, looks at one in three college graduates living in their parents’ basements, looks at 45-percent dropout rates and 40-percent graduate underemployment . . . This part of me loves the idea of two years of community college to get the general ed. out of the way, transferring all those credits to the great, local private university with the great nursing program, and finding a way to get her into life without crippling debt.

Only 20 percent of jobs require bachelor’s degrees, according to the Department of Labor, writes Alcorn. About 30 percent of adults are college graduates. “One hundred percent of high school students in any suburban school are told . . . they’re a failure if they don’t go to college.”

The three parents in his head keep arguing, but the one who says “debt be damned!” probably isn’t going to win, he concludes.

Portlandia: Don’t go to community college

Portlandia parents tell their preschooler to fear growing up to attend community college. It’s humor.

Foreign students eye community colleges

Studying at a U.S. community college is an affordable option for foreign students, says Dr. Joel Ericson in a U.S. Embassy video.

International students at most U.S. colleges and universities are charged the “sticker price” to help pay for tuition discounts for U.S. students.

Six years of high school (with job training)?

President Obama’s visit to Brooklyn’s P-Tech spotlighted the idea of combining high school, community college and job training, reports the New York Times. After six years at P-Tech, graduates are “first in line” for jobs at IBM, which helped create the school. Some have earned an associate degree.

Is P-Tech the wave of the future? asks the Times‘ Room for Debate blog.

P-Tech ties school directly to an interesting job, writes Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World.

Very few U.S. students attend “high-quality vocational programs tightly aligned with industry needs,” she writes.

In Switzerland, Norway and Denmark, vocational students spend half to three-quarters of their schooling in work placements.

That kind of vivid experience helps kids see into the future; they can connect the dots between what they are doing in school and how interesting their lives can be.

.  . America abandoned vocational high schools for good reason, decades ago: too many were second-rate warehouses for minority and low-income kids. But now that all decent jobs require higher-order skills, there’s an opportunity to get this right. American employers want higher-order skills, and American teenagers want more interesting work. The sooner they get together, the better.

Aiming at a moving target like the job market is dangerously short-sighted,” warns Zachary Hamed, a computer science student at Harvard.

IBM’s Stan Litow calls for P-Tech-like options for students on the Shanker Blog.

“Young people who enter the workforce with only a high school diploma are expected to earn no more than $15 per hour, and many will earn less,” he writes. Yet only 25 percent of high school graduates who enroll in community college complete a degree in six years.

IBM analyzed a community college freshman class. “Nearly 100 percent of community college freshmen who required two remedial courses—with one of them being math—failed to complete even one postsecondary semester,” Litow writes. A majority of these students dropped out of college within two months.

College costs, job prospects worry parents

President Obama talked about controlling college costs in a speech at the University of Buffalo last week. Buffalo students and parents worry about paying for college and finding a job afterwards, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education

Over at Kenmore West High School, home of the Blue Devils, David Coates was meeting with students to finalize their class schedules. Since the recession began, the college counselor has heard plenty of doubts. . . . More students choose to attend local universities and live at home. More have enrolled at community colleges, with plans to transfer to a four-year college, an option that once held more of a stigma, he said.

Mr. Coates has seen parents’ expectations for college change, too. “More are viewing it as vocational training rather than subscribing to that old adage about becoming a problem solver and creative thinker,” he said. . . .

Parents are less focused on liberal arts, said Jane S. Mathias, director of guidance at Nardin Academy. “They want to know, What job is there?” This fall, she’ll offer a financial-aid session for students and parents. “She wants the prospective college-goers to think harder about what it would be like to have $40,000 in debt,” reports the Chronicle.

As the president was speaking at University of Buffalo, Mike Kushner, a freshman, was moving into his dorm with help from his mother, Wendy Kushner, and his sister, Amy.

Ms. Kushner, a widow, said she had saved as much as she could for college, hoarding savings bonds and recycling soda cans. “I feel bad,” she said, “that he’s going to have to take out loans.”

“For a piece of paper,” her daughter said.

Amy had enrolled at Buffalo after high school. She worked at restaurants on the campus, preparing food and making change. “For all the talk about how the foundation of our country is education, as a student you feel like you’re being taken advantage of,” she said. “Tuition, books, all these fees. A lot of things just feel like a scam.”

Amy transferred to Erie Community College and then to Trocaire College, a Catholic school, moving back home to save money. Once an art major, she now plans to become a nurse.

Pragmatists Nearly all parents want their child’s school to provide a strong core curriculum in reading and math and  stress science and technology, concludes a new Fordham study. They want their children to learn good study habits, self-discipline, critical thinking skills and speaking and writing skills. But, after that, parents have different priorities, concludes What Parents Want.

Pragmatists (36 percent of K–12 parents) assign high value to schools that, “offer vocational classes or job-related programs.”

Jeffersonians (24 percent) value “instruction in citizenship, democracy, and leadership,” Test-Score Hawks (23 percent) look for a school with “high test scores,” Multiculturalists (22 percent) want their children to learn “to work with people from diverse backgrounds,” Expressionists (15 percent) stress art and music instruction and Strivers (12 percent), who are far more likely to be African American and Hispanic, prioritize getting into a top-tier college.