New River Community College, which is located near Virginia Tech, the site of mass killing in 2007, remains closed today after a shooting Friday that wounded two women at a branch campus in a shopping mall. Neil Allen MacInnis, an 18-year-old student at the college, has been charged with wounding Taylor Sharpe, a part-time college employee, and Kristina Bousserghine, a first-year student. Both victims are in stable condition.
Students say the gunmen tried to lure them out of hiding by pretending to be the police, reports the Roanoke Times.
Clara Keller of Blacksburg was working in a computer lab when she heard a gunshot, a woman screaming and then more gunshots. She hid beneath a desk with four classmates.
“I heard him go into a classroom, and then four more shots,” she said.
Then, another scream.
“He came into our room,” Keller said. “He said, ‘I can hear you. I know you’re in here. Come out.’ I was thinking, ‘He’s going to come looking for us.’ ”
. . . The shooter called out “Help, help!” as he walked, Keller said, as if to lure people out of hiding. At another point, he yelled, “It’s the police!”
“The guy’s a terrible actor,” Keller said. “I knew it was just a matter of holding still as long as possible until the real police got there.”
About five minutes after the shooting started, MacInnis surrendered to an off-duty security guard and two police officers.
A poster who called himself Neil MacInnis wrote about using a shotgun minutes before the shooting, writing “Anyways this is not a highscores game but actually a lesson (that’s why I’m at school).” He also linked to his e-portfolio, which says he’s a computer graphics and web design major who works part-time at Old Navy and has a brown tabby cat named Mowww.
Community colleges “may face particular challenges in preventing” tragedies, writes Scott Jaschik on Inside Higher Ed.
Many colleges have opened branch campuses that rely on the facility’s security force rather than campus police.
Community college counselors have large caseloads and many responsibilities. Seven in 10 community colleges now have threat assessment teams, according to a survey by the American College Counseling Association’s Community College Task Force.
Retraining adults for high-demand jobs and improving graduation rates are the priorities for Iowa community colleges, reports the Gazette. Half the students who enrolled in 2009-10 earned a credential or transferred within three years. Colleges are trying to improve that number.
Des Moines Area Community College is among the schools that now requires an orientation course for all students, said Jeremy Varner, administrator of the community colleges division with the Iowa Department of Education. Other colleges are putting resources into more advising and early-warning programs for when students begin to struggle, he said.
“Getting more through to graduation — that’s where a lot of that focus is,” Varner said.
Kirkwood Community College hopes its math “emporium” will improve retention, ’said Math and Science Dean Lori Woeste.
Students work in a computer lab where an instructor is always on hand for one-on-one discussion, and the students work at their own pace. . . . students signs up for the Prep for College Math course, where they demonstrate competency in the “modules” they are confident about and then focus their time on the areas where they need work, Woeste said.
College officials hope state funding will improve next year, easing the tuition burden on students and funding job training. Iowa is focusing on training workers for jobs in nursing, information technology and advanced manufacturing.
At Brookhaven College near Dallas, a team of volunteers tries to assess potential threats, before it’s too late, reports Community College Times.
The college realized the need in October 2010, when Dallas police received a report that a student, possibly carrying a gun, had threatened suicide on campus. The student was found alive and at home and was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation. But it turned out the student had told an adjunct instructor he was feeling suicidal and the instructor hadn’t reported it.
“We felt like we needed to have some sort of system in place to address when students are dealing with mental health issues, as well as other issues that could hinder the safety of students,” said Oscar Lopez, vice president of student services.
The CARE Assessment Team, which includes Lopez, counselors, health professionals, college police, faculty and the human resources director, was formed to provide a “caring, confidential program of identification, intervention and response.”
Referrals can come from anyone —a professor disturbed by a student’s writings, or a student worried about something posted on a friend’s Facebook page.
Brookhaven also recently purchased Kognito at Risk software, which helps train employees to identify and refer students in mental distress. And soon, the college will launch an online referral form, allowing people to make confidential referrals more easily.
Each referral triggers an assessment of the student’s mental health and the potential risk to others. In most cases, the student is referred to the counseling center or disability services. ”If it’s determined that the student is a potential threat, the student will be directed to have a psychological evaluation with a mental health professional and possibly asked to withdraw from the college until he or she has gotten the needed help,” reports Community College Times.
At Miami Dade College, pass-Math is boosting Latino pass rates in gatekeeper math courses, improving retention and reducing math anxiety. A program at LaGuardia Community College strengthens counseling to help Latino and other low-income students move from remedial to college-level courses. San Diego State’s peer Mentoring program (pMp) helps community college transfers handle the transition.
Only 21 percent of Latino adults 25 and older have completed an associate degree or higher, compared to 40 percent of all U.S. adults. More Latinos are enrolling in college — especially community college — but success rates are low.
The report spotlights a variety of programs.
The Mother-Daughter Program at Knox College (Illinois) counseled families on the importance of completing a degree. “Latino families make decisions together and an informed family is more supportive,” says Deborah Santiago, Excelencia’s vice president of policy. Some mothers decided to enroll in college after participating with their daughters.
Some programs target male Latinos, who have higher dropout rates. At Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York, Doorway to Success focused on improving male students’ study habits, engagement and retention. The Clave Latino Male Empowerment program at Union County College in New Jersey includes learning communities, a monthly lecture series, professional development opportunities and a social and professional support network for business and economics students.
When a student is trying, but failing, what can a teacher do? Siobhan Curious,who teaches English in Quebec’s version of community college, writes about regret in Classroom as Microcosm.
She knows “Michael” has a troubled home life and severe difficulties with schoolwork.
Last week, Michael did his oral presentation, and he got a zero. He spoke for barely a minute (for a 5-7 minute talk) and nothing he said bore any relationship to his topic or made any sense. I was unable to give him points or feedback in any of the categories he was being graded on.
She told that there’s no way for him to pass the course, despite his hard work.
How to tactfully explain that because he is demonstrating absolutely no progress from assignment to assignment, and is not in possession of the most fundamental skills required to pass, he’ll probably never complete college? How to say, “It makes no sense that you ever graduated from high school”? How to say, “This is the wrong path for you”?
. . . I’ve talked to other teachers and tutors who know Michael, and they confirm what I’ve seen: he works very, very hard, and he makes no progress. None. It breaks my heart that he continues to waste his time, when he could be investing himself in something that brings him enjoyment and maybe even an income. For some reason, he’s been continually given false expectations of what he is capable of. Someone, somewhere – maybe many someones – has to help him understand that he needs to stop banging his head against this wall.
I asked, “Have you ever spoken to someone in counselling about your bigger plans? About what you want to do with your life, and where college fits in? I can see that school is a big struggle for you, and it’s causing you a lot of anxiety.”
Michael thanks her and leaves. Should she personally escort him to a counselor? Just keep failing him?
Proactive support for students improve success rates for career-tech programs at Washington community and technical colleges, concludes a Community College Research Center study. The study looked at high-performing and low-performing programs in allied health, business and marketing, computer and information studies, and mechanics and repair.
A common college-level mechanism in high-performing colleges was an early alert system, which provides a proactive and potentially consistent way to identify students who are having trouble with a course or a program of study and intervene before they fall too far behind.
One high-performing college used dedicated, knowledgeable allied health counselors to advise students, instead of counselors who handled all fields of study.
Higher performing programs were less likely to emphasize the associate degree and more likely to promote long-term vocational certificates that require fewer general education courses and let students enter the workforce quickly.
. . . an emphasis on earning a long-term certificate and then immediately seeking paid employment could provide students with more motivation to complete than a bigger picture focus on an associate degree to improve long-term career options.
Low-performing programs offered more short-term certificates, which tend to be less valuable in the workplace. It’s possible programs with low graduation rates begin offering short-term certificates so “students would have at least some credential even if they dropped out,” the study concludes.
Community college students want to be more connected to faculty, classmates, coursework and career exploration, according to Connection by Design. The report is based on focus groups of current and former students conducted by WestEd and Public Agenda for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation‘s Completion by Design initiative.
Students wanted community colleges to engage them in classes and campus life, but they said mandatory orientation or student success courses must be high quality and relevant to their goals to be worth time in their busy schedules.
In the discussions, students spoke like consumers — saying they wanted more individualized help, if not in-person through personal emails or texts. Students felt most college websites fall short and would welcome more interactive features. Too often students said in making college-related decisions, they don’t know what questions to ask until it is too late.
Students want schools to better anticipate their needs and provide them with clear information, especially if they are at risk of dropping out and could benefit from extra services. And supports should be offered beyond the freshman year, many in the focus groups felt.
Many former students who have dropped out want colleges to invite them to return and let them know how to do so.
Most students wish their college had provided them with more structured opportunities to explore their academic and career options.
Students in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Texas participated in the focus groups.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed the Student Success Act, which cuts off fee waivers for students who fall below a C average for two semesters in a row and requires colleges to provide orientation, assessment, placement, counseling and education planning help to new students. At least two-thirds of students qualify for fee waivers. Full tuition has risen to $46 per unit, still below the national average. The bill was amended to remove a provision cutting off waivers for students who’ve already earned 110 credits.
In addition, community colleges will report the academic performance of students with breakdowns by race and socioeconomic status.
It’s hoped students will move more quickly to achieve their goals, freeing up spaces in a system that now places nearly half a million students on wait lists for the classes they need.
In addition, Brown signed bills expanding digital access to free college textbooks.
Disabled students need more help transitioning to college and jobs, concludes a Government Accountability Office report. Students can apply for tutoring, job training and assistive technology help, but there’s little coordination between federal departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Social Security Administration, said the GAO. Once they leave high school, “it’s easy for these same young people to flounder in a maze of bureaucracy,” reports Ed Week.
McALLEN, Texas (AP) — When Gabriel Rios began classes at South Texas College last month, he was dealing with worries beyond those that confront most incoming college freshmen.
Rios, an 18-year-old student who is deaf, was nervous about the college-level curriculum and advanced reading and writing levels he’ll need when he pursues a certificate in auto mechanics. But Rios knows older friends who are deaf have struggled adjusting to college, a challenge that puts college graduation rates for deaf individuals far below the national average.
But Rios is among a dozen students with disabilities who will receive the support services they need at STC through a five-year program designed to help them graduate and later secure employment.
Project HIRE — or Helping Individuals Reach Employment — will provide 50 Texas high school students with college and career coaches who will provide an array of services, including on-campus counseling, life skills training and job placement.
Project HIRE is helping South Texas College evaluate and improve services for students with disabilities, said Paul Hernandez, the college’s dean of student support services. Currently, the college offers lecture notes, sign language interpretation and extended time for tests to 300 students who’ve self-identified as disabled.
“The historically wide-open doors of California’s community college system will be merely ajar beginning in 2014, when enrollment priority will go to students with clear academic or vocational goals,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle. “Professional students” who’ve attended for years without completing a credential will go to the end of the line and may be shut out of classes.
Faced with shrinking funding and long wait lists, the Board of Governors voted unanimously to set enrollment priorities.
The enrollment priority shift comes as Gov. Jerry Brown considers whether to sign into law SB1456, a bill that would prevent low-income community college students from receiving fee waivers unless they develop clear academic or vocational goals and stick with them.
“In the past, community colleges have been able to serve everyone, and students could accrue a large number of units or do poorly in all of their courses and still receive priority registration,” said Chancellor Jack Scott. “Now that colleges have had to cut back on the courses they can offer, those students were taking up seats in classrooms and crowding out newer students focused on job training, degree attainment or transfer.”
Starting in 2014, new students will go to the head of the enrollment line only if they complete orientation and academic assessment and set up an academic or vocational education plan in their first year. Returning students more than 100 credits — only 60 are needed to transfer as a junior — will not qualify for priority enrollment.
Opponents of the new policy say there aren’t enough counselors to help students develop study plans. Also, they fear re-entry students with “some college” would be shut out.