How far ahead can students plan? West Hills Community College District in California will let spring registrants sign up for summer, fall and spring 2015 classes too, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. Those who wait may find high-demand classes already filled.
“It’s going to put a little bit of pressure on all students to try to decide what they want to do sooner,” says Sandy McGlothlin, who is vice president for student services at West Hills College Coalinga. “Classes will be filling up.”
“For the good students, it’s going to be a great plan,” says Ms. McGlothlin, who spent 18 years as an academic counselor. What about those who may not be as prepared or as organized? “It will be an eye-opener for them to see that they may need more than two years to finish their degree,” she says.
Reg 365 students will need to pay or arrange for financial aid within 24 hours of registering for the summer and fall courses, and by Nov. 1 for spring of 2015.
The district hopes to improve completion rates by encouraging students to commit to a course of study. Students who make academic plans are more likely to be successful, research has shown.
But community colleges tend to be short on counselors. Some fear early registration will help well-organized students who tend to do well anyhow.
If students’ self-commitments become self-fulfilling, the policy will help, writes Matt Reed, the community college dean. He predicts few students will sign up that far in advance, but thinks the policy is worth a try.
Maine students should pay no tuition in their sophomore year at a University of Maine campus, proposes Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democratic candidate for governor. ”One-third of first-year students don’t continue on to their sophomore year,” the “Sophomore Year Free” plan states. “Affordability is a major obstacle” to completion.
Michaud also proposes giving the state’s community colleges an extra $1 million to add summer classes.
At the community college level, it would be hard to define “sophomore year.” What about part-timers, transfers and students who started out in developmental courses? “Free” would leave a lot of federal financial aid on the table.
Still, using pricing to reward desired student behavior is “worth exploring,” writes Reed.
DeVry, a for-profit, used “plateau pricing” when Reed worked there. Students paid for the first 12 credits in a semester; the next four credits were free. That encouraged them to take more credits and finish on time.
Another option is a refundable “graduation deposit” paid on enrollment. Students would get the money back only if they earned a credential. It would be a financial hardship for students, writes Reed.
If it forced students to think about their commitment to completion, it might cut enrollment drastically.
Completion rates are low at Indiana’s public two-year colleges, reports the state Commission for Higher Education. The six-year completion rate for students seeking certificates or degrees is 28.2 percent. That includes transfers and students who earned a lower-level credential than originally sought.
Two-year public colleges spend an average of $31,369 for each degree produced, half the per-degree cost of four-year colleges and universities.
At Ivy Tech, the state community college system, the cost per degree is $30,120. Ivy Tech’s six-year completion rate — any credential at any campus — is 27.7 percent for full-time students and 20.8 percent for part-timers.
Only 15.7 percent of blacks who start at Ivy Tech have earned a credential within six years, compared to 26.8 percent of Hispanics, 29.6 percent of whites and 35.7 percent of Asians.
At Indiana’s four-year colleges and universities, the six-year completion rate is 68.6 percent. That includes any degree at any campus.
Remedial college courses are facing a new test in Florida, reports the Wall Street Journal. Under a new state law, students can decide whether to start in developmental ed or in for-credit, college-level courses. Most are skipping remediation.
More than half of community-college students in the U.S. take at least one remedial class. Success rates are very low. “States are trying alternatives, from adding basic tutorials to college-level classes to weighing high-school grades in addition to test scores,” reports the Journal. Florida has gone the farthest by making placement tests and remedial classes optional for recent state high school graduates and active-duty members of the military.
In a white-walled classroom here at Miami Dade College, students on a recent afternoon pondered the absolute value of 19. After a silence, instructor Carlos Rodriguez offered a hint: “How far is it from 0?”
Such algebra class work, which is typically done at the high-school level, is front and center at this community college, where about 12,000 students enrolled in remedial classes last spring. But enrollment in catch-up classes has fallen about 24% since the legislation took effect this year.
The failure rate will soar, predicts Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón. “You’re not able to test students [who opt out of the remedial program] and know where they are,” said Padrón. “When you don’t have the tools to guide them, it’s very, very difficult.”
Brooke Bovee, who teaches college-level English composition and literature, says just six of her 26 students came in prepared for the class, noting that for four of her students, this will be their third try. For an additional six students, this is their second attempt.
Now, with the new state law, she also has at least one student who tested into a remedial class but chose the higher-level class instead.
“A lot of discussion among English faculty is how to keep standards high,” said Ms. Bovee, who acknowledges the need for changes to the system. “Students ask me what a paragraph is now. What’s next? Maybe, what’s a sentence?”
Miami Dade is adding counselors, but instructors say it won’t be enough.
Ohio community colleges are trying to strengthen counseling to lower the high dropout rate, reports NPR’s StateImpact Ohio.
“College is an intimidating place for students, particularly for first generation students or returning students who make up a lot of our community college population,” says Suzanne Cox, a counselor at Cuyahoga Community College.
More than 60 percent of Tri-C students attend part-time. Cox says students tend to be older than traditional college students, and many juggle school with a full time job and caring for their children or parents.
. . . “Having that connection with someone who cares, who says I’m here for you, I’ll encourage you. If you need me, here’s my card, just that simple act of encouraging someone is really, really important,” Cox says.
But as much as she tries, Cox says she doesn’t always have much time to build a relationship with every student she advises. Students are required to attend orientation and see a counselor when they first enroll, but after that it’s up to them to seek out academic advising when they need it. Some may see an advisor only once during their entire college experience.
Only 20 percent of first time, full time, two-year college students complete an associate’s degree within three years. Community colleges are trying to raise graduation rates, says Melinda Mechur Karp, a researcher at Columbia University’s Community College Research Center. “Advising is a really critical component.”
Counseling centers at community colleges “don’t have enough staff and they don’t have enough funds,” Karp says. The median caseload is 441 students per counselor, according to a 2011 survey by the National Academic Advising Association.
Some two-year colleges are “turning to online academic program planning tools that will send a red flag to an advisor when a student is veering off track,” reports State Impact Ohio. Many require new students to attend orientation or a “college success” class.
“Undermatching” — disadvantaged achievers may not apply to selective colleges — was the focus of President Obama’s higher education summit. But the most effective way to help low-income students is to improve community colleges, writes Thomas Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Teacher’s College Columbia, in Inside Higher Ed. “The reality is that even in a perfectly matched world, millions of low-income, minority, first-generation, and immigrant students will continue to enroll in community colleges.”
Community colleges have been extremely successful at opening the doors to college for disadvantaged students, but thus far, they have had less success in helping them graduate. Less than 40 percent of students who start in community colleges complete a credential in six years. The success rates are worse for low-income and minority students.
In the past, reform initiatives “have focused too narrowly,” writes Bailey. It’s not enough to change remedial education or the first semester. What’s needed is “comprehensive and transformative reform.”
What the CCRC calls the “guided pathways model” provides structure and guidance in “all aspects of the student experience, from preparation and intake to completion,” Bailey writes.
The model includes robust services to help students choose career goals and majors. It features the integration of developmental education into college-level courses and the organization of the curriculum around a limited number of broad subject areas that allows for coherent programs of study. And, importantly, it stresses the strong, ongoing collaboration between faculty, advisers and staff.
Initiatives such as the Gates-funded Completion by Design and Lumina’s Finish Faster are advancing such comprehensive reforms by helping colleges and college systems create clear course pathways within programs of study that lead to degrees, transfer and careers.
The new Guttman Community College at the City University of New York (CUNY) is experimenting with a full range of reforms, including the guided pathways model, concludes Bailey. CUNY’s holistic ASAP program has improved completion rates significantly.
A new analysis by the University of Michigan’s Michael N. Bastedo and Allyson Flaster questions key assumptions behind undermatching research, reports Inside Higher Ed. What’s far more important than enrolling in a more or less selective four-year institution is whether a student enrolls in community college, write Basteo and Flaster. Starting at community college significantly lowers the odds of earning a bachelor’s degree, they write.
It’s a “big fact” that the economic returns to college are high, write Clive Belfield and Davis Jenkins in a Community College Research center paper. It’s a “big myth” that the “college affordability crisis is actually an efficiency crisis caused by wasteful spending by colleges.” That’s especially true for community colleges.
Neglect of this fact and acceptance of this myth have impaired policymaking, resulting in reduced state funding and new practices (more adjuncts, larger classes, online courses) that cut spending and lower quality.
If colleges invest in improving quality, they’ll improve efficiency as well, write Belfield and Jenkins.
Community colleges serve many underprepared students who need substantial support, they point out. Educating college-ready students is cheaper and easier.
Reforms to remediation, which likely require more (not less) resources, are therefore essential, as are reforms that provide a better articulation between high school and college. Much of the potential efficiency gain would come from improvements at the high school level.
For students already in college, barriers to completion include no-credit remedial courses, college-level courses that don’t meet degree requirements at transfer destinations and “the earning of extraneous credits outside a program area.”
Reforms should include creating more educationally coherent program pathways that lead to student end goals, building on-ramps to help students get into a program of study quickly, and tracking student progress and providing feedback using information technology and reorganized advising.
Low-income and first-generation students, who disproportionately enroll in community colleges, need more information on the returns to college, write Belfield and Jenkins. They also need more “structure and guidance” to succeed in college.
For-profit career colleges have much higher graduation rates than community colleges, writes Matt Reed, who’s worked in both sectors. Here’s how for-profits get more students to completion.
It starts with minimal or no remediation, writes Reed. At DeVry, very few students started in remedial courses. When he moved to County College of Morris in New Jersey, he was surprised to see a majority of students placed in remediation.
Since I taught freshman comp at DeVry for a while, I can attest that the placements weren’t because the students were all fully polished upon arrival. They were not. 101 was a punishing course to teach, since you had to try to meet students where they were.
Math was a different issue, but even there, there was a premium on putting students in the highest level class they could conceivably pass.
For-profit colleges take the eat-dessert-first approach, writes Reed. Students don’t have to wait to start training for jobs.
Students at for-profits are there to get jobs. . . . And since many students have had checkered academic pasts, they’re sensitive to revisiting scenes of earlier failures.
Most traditional colleges force students to eat their vegetables — basic math, English, and the usual distribution requirements — before getting to what the students recognize as the reason they’re there.
. . . DeVry, and apparently other for-profits . . . offered a lot of A.A.S. degrees — associate’s of applied science, as opposed to associate of science or associate of arts — to reduce the amount of gen ed. And the gen ed courses it did require were spread evenly through the program, or even backloaded. Students started with dessert, and only got to the veggies at the end.
DeVry required a “college success” course, like many traditional colleges. It also required a “career development” course that covered how to write a resume, how to handle an interview and how to dress on the job. Those were things most students didn’t already know.
At Holyoke Community College where Reed is vice president for academic affairs, “eat dessert first” means linking developmental math to students’ intended major. ”We’ve moved career advising to the first semester, to help students identify goals before they choose majors,” Reed writes. “And we’re looking at ways to help students get through developmental coursework more quickly, so they don’t just throw up their hands in frustration and walk away.”
The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence has announced 150 colleges contending for the $1 million prize. The eligible institutions hail from 37 states. Texas, Florida, Kansas and Mississippi are especially well represented.
Colleges are judged on students’ persistence, completion and transfer rates, consistent improvement in outcomes over time and equity in outcomes for students of all racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Ten finalists will be announced in the fall and the winner will be named in early 2015.
Aspen’s Josh Wyner discusses community college excellence.
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.