Creating structured pathways to graduation will help more community college students achieve their goals, said presenters at the American Association of Community Colleges meeting in San Francisco.
Completion by Design, a Gates Foundation initiative, is working with community colleges on mandatory student advising and structured course sequences, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. College leaders from North Carolina, Ohio and Florida discussed their efforts.
Jobs for the Future‘s completion campaign focuses on getting students into college-level classes as quickly as possible.
Many students who end up in remedial courses don’t need to be there, but they don’t realize the importance of the tests that colleges often use as the sole placement criterion, said Gretchen Schmidt, a program director at Jobs for the Future. ”They didn’t prepare, they had kids in the hall running around, or they rushed through the test to get back to work … and as a result they ended up two levels down” in developmental courses.
Students who start in remedial courses rarely earn a degree. Recent research has shown students placed in high-level developmental courses do just as well at the college level.
North Carolina now lets high school graduates with a 2.6 grade point average or better skip community college placement tests and start at the college level.
A new Connecticut law limits state funding for remedial education to a single course.
Florida may “cut off nearly all support for stand-alone remedial education,” reports the Chronicle.
Lenore P. Rodicio, director of Miami Dade College‘s Completion by Design effort, worries that’s going too far.
“Seventy percent of our students come in needing some kind of remedial education, many of them from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and this could close the door to them,” she said.
Her college offers a one-week boot camp for students who place into remedial education to allow them to zero in on the skills they need to improve, and it’s looking at other ways to get students into credit-bearing courses faster.
In another session, California Community Colleges chancellor Brice Harris discussed the state’s new “student-success agenda,” which includes encouraging students to develop a study plan, dropping reliance on a single remedial placement test and giving new students priority for registration over perennial students who aren’t moving toward a credential.
All 12 Connecticut community college presidents have been offered buyouts, if they resign by Oct. 31, according to Gena Glickman, president of Manchester Community College. After a state meeting, president were told that those who reject buyouts may be terminated in one year with a less-generous package, Glickman said.
Michael Meotti, the state college system’s executive vice president, said Glickman’s account was inaccurate, reports the Connecticut Mirror. Presidents were offered an “expedited separation process,” if “they could not carry out the directions of the [remedial education] law and the board,” he told the board of regents.
In his email Tuesday to the regents, Meotti said the proposal was put forward because several presidents are resisting implementation of the new state law limiting when students can be forced to take noncredit remedial courses. It is known as SB-40.
However, Barbara Douglass of Northwestern Community College, told the Mirror that all 12 presidents “have been offered a buyout,” and it was “made clear we’re on the chopping block if we don’t accept.”
”President Glickman’s account of the meeting was accurate,” said Douglass. “The other presidents are not coming forward because of fear and intimidation. I am coming forward because I feel one of my colleagues is being held out to dry.”
Steven Weinberger, the director of human resources for the regents, did not bring up the remedial education law when he offered buyouts to the 12 presidents, Douglass said. “All that was mentioned was the need for change in leadership.”
Complete College backed a Connecticut proposal to eliminate remedial requirements for community college students. The group wants all students to be placed in college-level classes with extra support. Not everyone agrees.
“Given the paucity of knowledge about what works for remedial students,” wrote Thomas R. Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College of Columbia University, in an opinion piece published in the Hartford Courant, “Connecticut’s bill is too inflexible.”
The proposal was modified to let colleges require a maximum of one semester of developmental classes.
Community college leaders fear states will pass bans on remedial classes but fail to allocate money to provide tutoring or other help for students in classes they can’t handle.
Learning Matters TV takes Complete College America’s slant on rethinking remediation.
Connecticut may let all students start in college-level classes with “embedded” remedial support, at state colleges and universities, regardless of how they do on placement tests, I write on U.S. News. Currently, 70 percent of new community college students must take at least one remedial class.
Many students are “way more than a little behind,” testified David Levinson, president of Norwalk Community College and the Board of Regents’ interim vice president for community colleges, at a committee hearing on the bill. If students skip remediation, he fears a “Darwinian result where they fail introductory classes in large numbers.”
Students who place into high-level remedial classes can succeed in college-level academic classes, researchers say.
One third to one half of students who place into remedial classes could succeed in college-level classes from the start—with the right support, argues Stan Jones, president of Complete College America. Learning basic skills should be a “co-requisite” rather than a prerequisite, he argues. Under the co-requisite model, students take a college-level course (for credit) and a linked remedial course (for no credit) at the same time.
Connecticut colleges would drop required remedial courses by 2014, under proposed legislation, reports the Hartford Courant. All students would be able to take college-level classes with “embedded” remedial support.
“We have kids who spend years in remedial classes, paying for a class every semester, not able to take any other classes, so it really slows completion,” said Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, who introduced the bill and is co-chairwoman of the higher education committee. “In community college, so many things get in the way, so every semester, you delay [students], you’re hurting their chances. … Time is the enemy.”
The bill, which sailed through the higher education committee, would require an intensive “college readiness” program for poorly prepared students before the start of their first semester.
While the state’s Board of Regents supports the bill, some professors say it won’t work for low-level remedial students.
“We have students who are reading at the eighth- and ninth-grade levels, who are writing incomplete sentences [and] run-ons. They have essays that don’t have any internal coherence, that don’t have a main idea,” said Thomas Hodgkin, an English professor at Northwest Community College. “I’m not sure that can be remediated in one semester or even two semesters.”
What we are currently doing is not working,” said David Levinson, president of Norwalk Community College and interim regents vice president for the state’s 12 community colleges. Some 15 to 20 percent of community college courses are remedial, he estimated.
Seventy percent of the state’s community college students and 20 percent of state university students take at least one remedial course.
Remedial work should be a “co-requisite” not a prerequisite to college, said Stan Jones, president of Complete College America.
Community College Dean speculates on how embedded remediation might work and how success could be measured.
Comparing pass rates of the “new” English 101 to the previous 101 will almost certainly suggest terrible failure, since the previous one featured only those students who had already made it through (or bypassed) remediation. The relevant measures, I’d think, would include success rates in the followup course (Composition 2, say), graduation, and measures of student outcomes on defined learning objectives. Even if the pass rates in 101 are abruptly lower than they once were, they may still be higher than the combined pass rates of two semesters of remediation plus 101. Ultimately, if more students make it into comp 2, you’ll know it “worked.”
Connecticut, which recently centralized its community college system, would be wise to try out the idea at a few campuses rather than imposing it systemwide, advises the dean.
Massachusetts should expand statewide control of its 15 community colleges argues a new report from the influential Boston Foundation. In the centralized system focused on job training, colleges should be judged and funded based on student performance, the report concluded.
The state’s community colleges “have failed to connect in a systemic way with prospective workforce, economic development and employer partners,” reports Inside Higher Ed.
As a result there is no way to make broad curriculum changes based on workforce needs, it argues, and colleges and community-based groups compete for resources rather than cooperate.
“There are good programs within the community college system, but the system as a whole is under-resourced, overly fragmented, and not well aligned with the needs of Massachusetts employers in the knowledge economy,” said Paul S. Grogan, the foundation’s president, in a written statement.
Virginia’s centralized community college system was offered as a model for Massachusetts.
Community college presidents believe they already collaborate, reports the Boston Globe.
“We think we’re doing a hell of a lot better job than we did in the past,’’ said William Messner, president of Holyoke Community College. “We’re on the case.’’
Job training “what we do,” said Ira Rubenzahl, president of Springfield Technical Community College, who was a panelist for the report’s presentation. “We’ve been doing it for 50 years.’’ “I’m concerned that [the proposed structural changes] will be disruptive at a time when our institutions are fragile.’’
The system needs “radical change,” not “tweaking,” responded Grogan.
Next door in Connecticut, the community colleges will share a state board with the Connecticut State University System, a move that’s not popular with college officials.
“Board consolidation is a trendy idea in some states, particularly when budgets are tight,” notes Inside Higher Ed. Louisiana may merge its higher education boards. A proposal in Rhode Island would create a single K-12 and higher education board.
Decentralization is on the table in other states, such as Wisconsin, which may separate its flagship university from the rest of the state university system.
Connecticut Community College Chancellor Marc Herzog retired May 31 and returned to work the next day as a consultant, reports the Hartford Courant. He’ll collect a $14,000-a-month pension and $14,555 for a month’s work. The consulting job could run as long as 120 days.
The governor’s not happy with the surprise retire-and-hire deal. Neither are state employees, who are being asked to give back pay and benefits.
Enroll full time. Get more aid. That’s the message California community colleges are sending students, reports Inside Higher Ed. Tuition is only $624 a year for a full-time student, the lowest in the nation. Those who qualify for a Pell Grant — and many do — collect $5,550, which can be used for expenses as well as tuition. Half-time students, who pay $312 and collect $2,775, have a lot less left over for expenses.
Since full-time students are much more likely to complete a degree, Chancellor Jack Scott has told financial-aid officers to make sure students know the financial advantages of full-time enrollment.
Only 29 percent of the state’s community college students are enrolled full time, but 39.8 percent of Pell Grant recipients enrolled full time in 2009-10, up from 33.4 percent a year earlier.
California is imitating the Connecticut Community Colleges, which began using aid to encourage full-time enrollment 10 years ago.
. . . the system’s overall headcount has grown by 42 percent since 2000-01, but its full-time enrollment has grown by 101 percent.
In 2008-09, 63 percent of Connecticut community college students applied for aid, compared to 42.5 percent of community college students nationally.
Earning a two-year degree at a community college raises earnings nearly as much as a bachelor’s degree for a lot less money, concludes a University of Connecticut study. From the Connecticut Mirror:
“It is very clear that for a very limited investment, community colleges return pretty high results,” said Steven P. Lanza, editor of UConn’s latest quarterly economic review. “Surprisingly, the returns from a community college education aren’t far off the mark of a four-year degree.”
Earning a degree from a community college increase lifetime earnings by 8.3 percent, according to Lanza’s report in The Connecticut Economy. A four-year degree from the University of Connecticut increases earnings by 9.4 percent. Both estimate takes into account the cost of tuition and the loss of potential income while in school.
State funding for community colleges hasn’t kept up with soaring enrollments, the report warns. “Students and their parents are shouldering a growing share of the burden.”
In 2009, the state’s 55,000 community college students paid for 21 percent of the total cost of their education, the highest rates in the last 20 years.
“We have to keep the price affordable or it could begin to impact students’ ability to attend our schools,” said Mary Anne Cox, assistant chancellor of Connecticut Community Colleges.
Community colleges have been level-funded by the state at $158 million since the 2008-09 school year. In that time, enrollment has exploded and now accounts for almost half of all public college students. UConn, which has about one quarter of the state’s public college students, will receive $332 million from the state this year.
Only 25 percent of community college students earn a degree. But even those with “some college” earn 21 percent more than a worker with only a high school diploma or GED, the report found.
Community college graduates are more likely to stay in the state than graduates with four-year degrees, Lanza added. “Public subsidies to community colleges stand a good chance of being recouped when they stay here,” he said.
Seventy-two percent of Connecticut’s high school graduates who go on to community college aren’t prepared for college work, according to a state education group. The remediation rate is 65 percent for graduates enrolling at four state universities.
“Connecticut has a significant college readiness gap that is threatening our ability to replenish our workforce,” said Michael Meotti, the state’s commissioner of higher education. “We are fortunate that with 3 out of 4 high school graduates going onto college, we have one of the highest college-going rates in the country. But now we are finding that many of these students are not college ready.”
Only 54 percent of Connecticut high school graduates who go directly to college will earn a certificate or degree.