Chicago: Free tuition for college-ready students

College-ready students will get a free ride to the City Colleges of Chicago‘s seven campuses, reports the Chicago Tribune. To qualify for a Chicago Star Scholarship, which covers tuition, books and fees, students must graduate from a public high school with a 3.0 grade-point average or better and be prepared for college-level math and English.

The Star Scholarship will cover costs for up to three years above any state or federal aid the student receives.

Chancellor Cheryl Hyman said the scholarships’ $2 million cost will be covered by “greater efficiencies in the system, such as establishing a single nursing at Malcolm X College instead of funding several separate nursing programs,” reports the Tribune.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel predicted City Colleges could save money if more students are prepared for college classes, cutting the $40 million spent each year on remedial classes.

Why graduation rates are misleading

Federal college graduation rates don’t distinguish between certificates and associate degrees, presenting a misleading picture of community colleges and for-profit institutions, writes Ben Miller on EdCentral.
10 08 14 CC vs For Profit 2 The College Graduation Rate Flaw That No Ones Talking AboutAccording to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), three-year graduation rates are much higher at for-profit colleges than at community colleges: 63 percent compared to 21 percent.

However, 86 percent of for-profit graduates have finished less-than-two-year programs, “almost certainly certificates,” while three-quarters of community college graduates were in programs that were two years or longer, likely associate degrees. It’s a lot easier to finish a short program than a longer program.

In 2012-13, 58 percent of credentials awarded by community colleges were associate degrees; at for-profit colleges, 27 of graduates earned associate degrees.
10 08 14 CC vs For Profit 4 The College Graduation Rate Flaw That No Ones Talking About“About 47 percent of students at for-profit colleges who started out seeking an associate degree or certificate earned something,” writes Miller. “That’s higher than the attainment rate at public colleges (37 percent).” However, more public college students were still pursuing a credential.

The analysis includes public four-year institutions that award associate degrees. Not surprisingly, public students are far more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than for-profit students.

I’d like to see a comparison of completion rates at public technical colleges, which do not offer associate degrees for transfer. For students pursuing vocational credentials, are community colleges as effective as for-profit career colleges?

High hopes, long odds


Vladimir de Jesus hopes to teach art, but has flunked remedial math three times.

Community College Students Face a Very Long Road to Graduation writes Gina Bellafante in a New York Times profile of a student at New York City’s La Guardia Community College. Vladimir de Jesus enrolled in September 2008, left after the first semester to work full time, then returned in 2012. In six semesters, he’s earned only 27 credits of the 60 he needs to transfer — and he’s flunked remedial math three times.

A fine arts major, he hopes to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees and teach studio art and art history.

De Jesus went to a low-performing high school, cut classes and dropped out, but earned a GED. He fathered a child when he was 17. He helps care for his six-year-old and uses some of his earnings as a freelance tattoo artist to help pay her Catholic school tuition. He suffers from ulcers.

More than 70 percent of LaGuardia students come from families with incomes of less than $25,000 a year, writes Bellafante. Many are working, raising children and facing personal and  health issues. Community colleges offer far less counseling than better-funded colleges and universities. The neediest students are on their own.

Toward the end of last semester, Mr. de Jesus had fallen behind on his math homework. There were domestic complications: the death of his grandfather, and the stresses of a college student’s typically strained romantic life. At one point he lost the lab work that he had done in class, which would make up 5 percent of his total grade. Not having a computer of his own, he had been checking laptops in and out of the library. In the process of returning one, he had left the lab work behind. When he went back to retrieve the papers, they were gone.

The final exam for Math 96 would make up 35 percent of the total grade, and as the day of the test approached, Mr. de Jesus knew that with the demerits he would face for his poor attendance and his unfinished homework, there was little chance he would pass. On the morning of the exam, he didn’t show up, and he failed the class for the third time. As it happened, more than 40 percent of the students in the class also failed.

“This whole thing with math just hits your spirit in the wrong way,” he said. “It demolishes your spirit. You become lazy.”

Gail Mellow, LaGuardia’s president, believes students shouldn’t have to master algebra if they’re not planning to pursue a math- or science-intensive field. La Guardia is experimenting with Carnegie’s statistics and “quantitative reasoning” alternatives to traditional developmental math.

De Jesus is postponing a fourth try at remedial math and considering applying for a job with the Sanitation Department, reports Bellafante. Given his long odds of completing a bachelor’s degree and low earnings for fine arts graduates, that’s not a bad plan. He could take art classes, do art and forget about trying to pass math.

Community college isn’t second class

Community college is not a second-class education, writes Isa Adney. It’s a “first-class opportunity.”

Just because community colleges don’t require a particular SAT or ACT score for admission does not mean that it’s easy to earn a degree, she writes. “Community college is hard.”

It’s a great way to save. It’s a great way to start. It’s a great way to learn.

But it’s also a lot of work. Sometimes even more so because the temptation to just go to class and go home is so huge. Students who are successful in community college do more than just go to class and go home. They branch out. They join (and lead) clubs. They visit professors during their office hours. They hound the career center. They spend time in the tutoring center. They do their homework and research in the college library. They stay on campus.

. . . College requires all of you. Your time management skills, your growth, your open-mindedness, your strength, your resilience, your learning, your time, and your greatest effort.

Community college students “must figure out why they’re there, writes Adney. Why is it worth the time, effort and sacrifice required?

Community colleges let you make mistakes without having to spend thousands of dollars per semester,” writes Nicholas Bostick, editor of the Brookhaven Courier. “You can take the time to explore different classes and majors before you take the plunge and head to a four-year university.”

Use grades to improve remedial placement

High school grades are more accurate than placement tests in predicting who needs remedial courses, concludes a working paper by Judith Scott-Clayton, Peter M. Crosta and Clive Belfield, Community College Research Center researchers.

. . .  roughly one in four test-takers in math and one in three test-takers in English are severely mis-assigned under current test-based policies, with mis-assignments to remediation much more common than mis-assignments to college-level coursework. Using high school transcript information — either instead of or in addition to test scores — could significantly reduce the prevalence of assignment errors.

If colleges took account of students’ high school performance, they could “remediate substantially fewer students without lowering success rates in college-level courses,” researchers believe. Currently, remedial coursework costs $7 billion a year.

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?

Enrollment patterns are ‘chaotic’

Community college students enrollment patterns are “chaotic,” concludes a Community College Research Center study at five colleges in the same state.

Only 1 percent of first-time, full-time students completed a degree in four semesters (fall-spring-fall-spring), and less than 4 percent completed a degree within the two years generally assumed in the college catalogue, the study found.

Thirty-five percent of students dropped out after one semester.

“Continuous and intense enrollment” was most likely to lead to success.

Flexibility encourages students to take “meandering” paths through — and out of — college, researchers said. “More structured programs—coupled with advising to help students choose and map out an efficient plan for completing these programs—would encourage students to make enrollment choices that will ultimately help them achieve their educational goals.”

Keeping men of color in college

Many black and Latino men are dropping out of college, report diversity researchers in Advancing the Success of Boys and Men of Color in Education. They urge the federal government to “require all colleges to create early-alert systems that flag students with low test scores, missing assignments, or spotty attendance,” reports Katherine Mangan in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Only a third of black male students graduated from four-year colleges within six years, compared with 45 percent of Hispanic men, 57 percent of white men, and 64 percent of Asian men, according to federal statistics.For two-year colleges, the percentages who received a certificate or degree or who transferred to a four-year college over six years were 32 for black, 30 for Latino, 40 for white, and 43 for Asian men.

The Minority Male Community College Collective participated in writing the report.

15 credits for the price of 12

Community College of Philadelphia students can 15 credits for the cost of 12, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Pay for 12 credits – the equivalent of four courses – and the college picks up the tab for the fifth, worth about $555.

. . . To become eligible, students must have completed 24 credits, taken no fewer than nine and no more than 14 credits the previous semester, and have a grade-point average of at least 2.5. They also must be Philadelphia residents. To stay enrolled, they must maintain a 2.0 GPA, have no course withdrawals or failures, and pay their college bills.

Upper-division courses typically have space for more students, so the college can offer a deal without running up costs.

Mai Nguyen, 19, an aspiring nurse, will graduate in two years.

“I didn’t have the money for the fifth class,” said Nguyen, who gets federal financial aid and works in the college’s financial-aid office to pay for her books. “I would have had to save up my money to take it. Now, I’m saving money, and at the same time saving time.”

Federal financial aid programs count 12 credits as a full-time load, even though it takes 15 credits to graduate on time, points out Complete College America’s “Full Time is 15″ campaign. One completion strategy is to to “ensure that taking 15 credits per semester costs no more than the current 12-credit standard.”

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.