College diversity event excludes whites

A ”diversity happy hour” was canceled at a Washington state community college, when the emailed invitation said white people were not welcome, reports the Washington Times.

“Staff, Faculty and Administrators of Color” at South Puget Sound Community College invited all college employees, except for whites.

“If you want to create space for white folks to meet and work on racism, white supremacy, and white privilege to better our campus community and yourselves, please feel free to do just that,” the email read.

Diversity & Equity Center program coordinator Karama Blackhorn, who helped write the invitation, said  non-white staffers would have a more honest discussion about race without their white colleagues. Blackhorn also told the local radio station that the center “is not for white people. That space is for people of color.”

The center’s web page says it’s “a safe, hate-free space for ALL students. . . a place where we can connect with our own communities while learning from other communities.” A director, assistant director and program coordinator (apparently Blackhorn’s predecessor) are listed. The programs page tells students they can apply in fall 2012 for the spring 2013 Students of Color Conference.

The college canceled the event and apologized. If rescheduled, the event “will of course be open to anyone who wants to come,” the college promised.

CCs recruit diverse students to teaching

Community college can be the first step to a teaching career. The National Association of Community College Teacher Education Programs (NACCTEP) is working to diversify the teacher workforce, reports Community College Week.

Leeward Community College in Oahu is trying to encourage Native Hawaiian and Filipino students to earn an AA in teaching. Half of public school students — but only 15 percent of teachers — come from these ethnicities.

Leeward’s AAT program reaches out to high school students and to teacher aides. Students complete an academic plan. Peer mentors — current or former AAT students — provide counseling and tutoring. That’s raised completion rates to 80 percent.

At Santa Ana College in California, would-be teachers can turn to the Center for Teacher Education (CFTE) for help. Seventy-nine percent are Latino and a majority of first-generation college students, says Steve Bautista, a coordinator and counselor. 

For most of our low-income students, the cost of books is one of the biggest barriers to attending college. One of the most successful and popular services and strategies for retention has been the Center’s Textbook Loan Program. Students who want to participate are required to register with the center, attend an information session on the pathway to teaching, and develop an educational plan with a counselor. In return, the students have the opportunity to borrow textbooks . . . 

Once CFTE identifies students who want to be teachers, counselors can explain pathways to teaching, connect students to support services and help them “develop an educational plan that will lead to graduation and transfer,” writes Bautista. Retention rates are high.

California: Time for a new higher ed plan?

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.”
Charting a Course
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.

Should community colleges recruit the rich?

Community colleges aren’t segregated by race or income, argues Jamal Abdul-Alim in Diverse.

“Community colleges are inadequately funded and they’re increasingly segregated by race and class,” said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation in announcing a new report, Bridging the Higher Education Divide. To increase diversity, community colleges should recruit middle-class and affluent students, recommends  the report by the Task Force on Preventing Community Colleges from Becoming Separate and Unequal.

However, two of the report’s charts show community colleges enroll a range of students, Abdul-Alim writes.

One chart shows that the lowest two income quartiles—those who earn less than $36,149 and those who earn between that amount and $66,620, respectively—each comprise 31 percent of public two-year college students, while those in the upper quartiles comprise 23 and 15 percent, respectively.

Whites are slightly underrepresented at community colleges, where they make up 57 percent of the students but 61 percent of the overall population. Hispanics, on the other hand, are overrepresented, making up 18 percent of two-year college students but 13 percent of the overall population. All other groups, including Blacks, have community college populations that are roughly proportional to their percentage of the overall population.

Honors programs would attract more affluent and high-achieving students, the report suggests. However, “the challenge is to offer programs that simultaneously will be highly attractive to students who might not otherwise consider community college and yet at the same time avoid becoming tracking devices that segregate students within community colleges.”

Many community colleges are putting students on wait lists already, responds Daniel Luzer in Washington Monthly’s College Guide. If community colleges recruit more rich kids, where do the poor students go?  “Oh right, they go to for-profit colleges.”

AACC names 25 finalists for excellence awards

Twenty-five community colleges have been named finalists for the Awards of Excellence sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges. Awards will be given in five categories: Emerging Leadership, Student Success, Exemplary CEO or Board, Advancing Diversity and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership.

The finalists and winners will be honored April 23 during the closing brunch of the 2013 AACC Convention in San Francisco.

Elite colleges recruit community college transfers

As elite colleges try to boost diversity, more community college students are transferring to selective four-year institutions, reports the New York Times.

At the end of his first year at the Community College of Philadelphia, Christopher Thomas decided that his goal — to go back to school and get a degree — was no longer worth it. He was in debt from thousands of dollars in student loans. After class, he rode a bus an hour and a half to a suburban restaurant where he worked as a waiter. When the shift ended at midnight, it took him three buses to get home. He couldn’t afford a computer, so in the middle of the night, he walked to his aunt’s house and used hers to finish his class work.

. . . A woman in the college’s Institutional Advancement department, Patricia Conroy, kept sending e-mails about a $2,000 scholarship. “WHY DON’T YOU APPLY FOR THIS,” she wrote. He won one.

. . . This fall he will enter the University of Pennsylvania.

Increasingly, the students here are making that jump. Dawn-Stacy Joyner, a former hospital cook, will also attend the University of Pennsylvania. Nine women graduating this spring have been accepted to Bryn Mawr. Larry Thi, who hopes to become a teacher, transferred to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

As debt fears grow, more ambitious students are starting at community college with hopes of going to a selective college or university, according to Rod Risley, executive director of Phi Theta Kappa, the community college honor society. While most community college students don’t tranfer, those who do are likely to compelete a degree.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation gives scholarships of up to $30,000 a year to to help outstanding community college students earn a bachelor’s degree. The foundation also gives up to $1 million a year for community college recruitment by such four-year institutions as the University of Michigan, Cornell, Amherst, Berkeley, the University of North Carolina and Bryn Mawr.

CC transfers could solve the smugness problem

Elite colleges teach students to be smug, wrote Andrew Delbanco, director of American Studies at Columbia,  in a New York Times commentary.

There’s an antitode to smugness, responded Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College, in a letter to the editor.

If each Ivy League college committed to accepting transfer students from community colleges for 1 percent of their junior classes, privileged students would begin to encounter students from the other 99 percent. Research confirms that low-income and minority transfer students, after being transformed by a community college education, graduate at the same or higher rates than students who began at the same college.

Making transfers a part of the elite colleges would provide living proof that intelligence, drive and achievement are not the sole province of students born with good fortune, but are as alive as the American dream among strivers at community colleges.

Elite colleges have tried to create racial and ethnic diversity, but have paid little attention to socioeconomic diversity.  Taking community college transfers — and military veterans — would shake up the smug.

CC transfers boost diversity at top colleges

Elite colleges enroll few low-income students and many very high-income students, notes the New York Times.  The “single easiest way” to increase socioeconomic diversity is to accept community college transfers, the Times writes. Transfers have made the University of California campuses in Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego much more diverse than other top colleges.

The truth is that many of the most capable low- and middle-income students attend community colleges or less selective four-year colleges close to their home. . . .  Incredibly, only 44 percent of low-income high school seniors with high standardized test scores enroll in a four-year college, according to a Century Foundation report — compared with about 50 percent of high-income seniors who have average test scores.

“The extent of wasted human capital,” wrote the report’s authors, Anthony P. Carnevale and Jeff Strohl, “is phenomenal.”

While drop-out rates are high at community colleges, students who succeed tend to be highly motivated and far more likely to be “war veterans, single parents and immigrants who have managed to overcome the odds,” writes the Times.

Amherst has succeeded in boosting socioeconomic diversity: Some 22 percent of students now qualify for Pell Grants, up from 13 percent in 2005. One strategy: 62 percent of transfer students came from a community college.

Obama: ‘You can make it if you try’

America is the place where you can make it if you try,” President Obama told graduates at Miami Dade College on Friday. His commencement speech was cheered by the crowd at one of the nation’s largest and most diverse colleges, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The president said:

. . . I believe that community colleges like this one are critical pathways to the middle class that equip students with the skills and the education necessary to compete and win in this 21st-century economy. And that’s why I’ve made community colleges a centerpiece of my education agenda, along with helping more students afford college. I couldn’t be prouder of the work we’ve done in community colleges. And your accomplishment today is vital to America reclaiming the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. So I am proud of you.

Many graduates have overcome obstacles and doubts to fulfill their family’s dreams, President Obama said. “This is their day, too. This is their day, too.”

The president said he supports the “Dream Act,” which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented high school graduates who go on to college or the military. He blamed Congress for refusing to pass the bill. He also pledged to work on comprehensive immigration reform.

Training community college instructors

Teaching community college students requires skills that don’t come with a master’s or a PhD, argue graduate programs that offer a special credential, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Temple University offers a community college teaching certificate; students don’t have to be enrolled in a Temple graduate program. In addition, there is a  track for current community college instructors who want to learn new teaching techniques.

The certificate for current community college instructors consists of a three-credit seminar on “teaching in higher education” — with broad-based lessons on various teaching philosophies and course designs — and three one-credit modules on specific topics. Current topics are “assessment,” “diversity and inclusive teaching” and “teaching with technology.” Aspiring higher education instructors in graduate school take the same introductory seminar but then take on a teaching practicum in which they serve as teaching assistants at Temple instead of taking the module courses.

One of the most valuable aspects of the program, according to its participants, is the opportunity to talk about their individual teaching practices with other community college instructors and learn from one another.

Valerie Schantz, reading and critical thinking professor at Delaware County Community College, took the teaching class even though she’s taught for more than six years. She plans to allow students to use technology more often.

 So instead of always assigning a five-page essay for students to show their understanding of a concept, she said she will encourage the creation of videos or other multimedia presentations for the class. Additionally, she said, she will try to make more use of interactive online tools to stimulate discussion among her students outside of the classroom.

The certificate program also includes a module on “diversity and inclusive teaching,” which teaches instructors to develop  “diversity action plans” and adapt their teaching to the demographics of their students.

Temple hopes to offer an online version of its community college teaching certificate program.  

A few other graduate programs offer certificate programs for teaching certain disciplines at community college, such as San Francisco State’s graduate certificates in “the teaching of composition” and “teaching post-secondary reading.”

Jennifer Trainor, an English professor at the university, explains that most students who pursue these certificates are earning master’s degrees in other disciplines such as literature, creative writing or linguistics.

. . . “We try to give those in the certificate program an overview of composition theory, and we also show them common student errors in writing and how to approach them constructively,” Trainor said. “Sometimes the first response to bad student writing is to put red ink all over a paper, throw your hands up and go look for another job. We try to show these future instructors what kinds of mistakes students make and how not to mark up everything and how to take teaching them step-by-step.”

San Francisco State is working with community college to strengthen the program by preparing students for the online learning environment and for administrative duties new instructors may have to take on.

Sugie Goen-Salter, another English professor at San Francisco State, wants to require future instructors to study the history of community colleges and their missions.