Hoping to boost the number of college graduates, Oregon is trying to make college affordable, writes Sophie Quinton in The Atlantic.
Currently, about a third of students in the Beaver State don’t graduate from high school on time—or at all—and just 61 percent of graduates immediately head to college.
. . . State and local funding for higher education dropped by 32 percent between 2007 and 2012 even as enrollment jumped by 36.2 percent, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. Unsurprisingly, Oregon students are paying 18 percent more in tuition and fees than the national average, and students’ debt loads are soaring.
One proposal, “Pay It Forward,” would eliminate tuition at public two- and four-year colleges — if students commit to pay a fixed percentage of their post-graduation salaries to their college or to the state. A state commission is researching the idea.
Getting a statewide program off the ground could cost more than $9 billion over 24 years, until enough graduates are paying into the system to make it self-sustaining, The Wall Street Journal reports. Oregon will have to figure out how to track graduates who move out of state, what to do about students who enroll in college for a few years but never graduate, and how to maintain the balance of high and low earners necessary to keep institutions fully funded.
“Pay It Forward” wouldn’t necessarily eliminate the need for financial aid: Living expenses and other costs wouldn’t be covered by the program. And for students who enter low-paying fields after graduation, income-based repayment for federal student loans may actually be a better deal, according to The Washington Post.
Two years of community college would be free to all qualified Oregonians under a proposal by State Sen. Mark Hass. ”Two years of community-college credit is a much better value than a lifetime on food stamps,” the Democratic lawmaker says.
Oregon legislators also are considering requiring all high school students to earn “dual enrollment” college credits, but the $1 billion cost is a barrier.
“College and career readiness” is the goal — but not the reality — for all high school graduates. Making the Most of 12th Grade in the Common Core Era, a policy brief by the Community College Research Center and Jobs for the Future, looks at ways to help students who aren’t on track for success.
Currently, 68 percent of community college students and 40 percent of students at open-access four-year colleges require one or more remedial classes, according to the CCRC. While 43 percent of community college students who need remediation graduate in eight years, only 28 percent of remedial students complete a credential.
Seven states and the District of Columbia — plus a number of school districts — are creating “transition” curricula to help low-scoring 12th-graders avoid remediation in college. Usually, these involve a special course, online tutorials and sometimes help with study skills and “college knowledge.” Tennessee’s SAILS (Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support) pilot uses a mix of online and teacher-led learning to teach key math competencies.
The Southern Regional Ed Board has designed model literacy and math courses for high-risk students.
Early college high school and dual enrollment programs also can help high-risk students prepare for college, the policy brief concludes. Once in community college, accelerated remediation and redesigned developmental math (statistics and quantitative reasoning for non-STEM students) show promise.
“Acceleration is more motivating than remediation,” writes Joel Vargas of Jobs for the Future. “The students who will struggle most with the Common Core are likely to be the same ones who struggle now to graduate high school and enroll in college. They will be disproportionately low-income and minority youth, often English language learners, whose parents did not attend college themselves.”
Despite President Obama’s call for more college graduates, only 54 percent of students earn a two- or four-year degree in six years, reports the National Student Clearinghouse. The graduation rate is nearly flat, notes the Hechinger Report.
However, community colleges raised the six-year completion rate by 1.1 percentage points to 37.4 percent. That includes the 9 percent who earned a degree after transferring to four-year institutions.
Graduation rates also inched up for students who started at public universities in 2007.
While 76 percent of full-time students earned a degree, only 22 percent of part-timers graduated in six years with another 11 percent still enrolled.
The National Student Clearinghouse’s full report, due in December, will include college students who earned credits in high school through dual enrollment programs.
New college students will enter a structured program, reports Community College Times. Even high school students in dual enrollment programs will be encouraged to enroll tuition-free in a pathway that leads to a technical or bachelor’s degree.
The system also used research and analysis to identify and address “momentum loss points”—points where students become bogged down and too often pulled off course in their goals toward completion. In community colleges, that usually happens in a student’s first semester or first academic year, particularly in developmental education programs.
“We found too many students entering developmental education without exiting, which is why we have completely redesigned our efforts in North Carolina,” Ralls said.
The colleges tapped expert math and English faculty members across the state to re-engineer curriculum to shorten the length of courses and to develop modules to let students get the courses they need.
The state system also worked with high schools to align career and college readiness testing. Now students will know early whether they’re on track to take college-level community college classes.
Eighty technical programs in in transportation, energy, manufacturing, environment and construction now offer “stackable” credentials. A student can earn a certificate, leave college for the workforce and return later to add an advanced credential.
Tennessee community colleges are running math labs in local high schools to prepare students for college math, reports Inside Higher Ed. Encouraged by early results, Gov. Bill Haslam came up with money to expand the experiment.
Math labs are designed for high school seniors who appear likely to place into remedial courses in college.
Pass rates have been high. For example, 83 percent of a group of 200 students in the remedial, dual-enrollment group at Chattanooga State Community College completed all of the college’s required math “competencies” during their senior year of high school.
Even better, 25 percent of those students completed a credit-bearing, college-level math course while still in high school (remedial math is typically noncredit). These were also students who scored a 19 or below on the ACT Mathematics Test as high school juniors, meaning they had deficiencies in the subject.
“They were completely done with math before they even started” college, said Kimberly G. McCormick, interim associate vice president for academic affairs at Chattanooga State.
Three years ago, Chattanooga State helped set up a remedial math lab at a nearby high school. Teacher Deborah Weiss used Pearson’s MyMathLab courseware, which lets students work at their own speed.
The class was “wildly successful,” McCormick said. The state funded a larger pilot at high schools near Northeast State, Cleveland State and Jackson State Community Colleges as well as Chattanooga State.
This year, all 13 of the state’s community colleges are running math labs at 1134high schools throughout Tennessee.
Colorado Gear Up‘s Early Remediation Project starts even earlier — in eighth grade. This year, some 1,300 students in grades 8, 9 and 10 are enrolled in classes mirroring the remedial math and English sequences taught on Colorado campuses. Once students pass the courses, as verified by Adams State University, they can enroll in college-level courses. Some start earning college credits in 10th grade.
The New Vo-Tech is helping students prepare for skilled careers — and for college, writes Del Stover for American School.
Not long ago, a manufacturer asked for assistance from the Pickens County Career and Technology Center (South Carolina). A factory robot needed to be retooled for a new product, and the company’s technicians were too busy to do the work. Could the high school’s students take on the project?
. .. Soon, students were installing a new welding arm and reprogramming the robot, even though the company didn’t have a technician’s manual to help with the work.
“After we finished that, the company said they were going to put the robot on line at the plant, and they’d need maintenance,” (Principal Leonard) Williams says. “So they hired one of our kids for an apprenticeship … and hired another kid from our electronics program.”
Vo-tech — often called career and technical education (CTE) — works best when schools work closely with local employers.
In Pickens County, 1,100 students “study everything from auto repair and high-tech welding to pre-engineering and medical sciences.” Some work in school workshops or apprentice at local companies. Others earn college credits at a local technical school or work toward vocational certifications.
High school senior Toby Wofford took part in an apprenticeship program with a local manufacturer and has decided to stay on with the company after graduation. He is working part-time while seeking an associate’s degree at the firm’s expense.
Meanwhile, senior Conner Smith, who originally studied mechanical and architectural drafting at the technical center, says his experience sparked an interest in engineering that he’ll pursue in college.
In Europe, vocational education isn’t seen as a dead end, says Nancy Hoffman, author of Schooling in the Workplace. Vocational students can go on to technical colleges and universities. In the U.S., vocational education is seen as less rigorous, fit for low-performing students who aren’t going to college. There’s a stigma, says Hoffman.
“CTE prepares young people for high-demand jobs — in career areas where there are significant opportunities for middle-class wages. These jobs may require skills that may be slightly different than what’s offered in traditional academics, but there are rigorous levels of math and writing required. This is not a dumbed-down version of high school.”
Career-tech courses don’t hurt — or help — math achievement, concludes a new study. Federal legislation has attempted to integrate career and academic courses to prepare more students for STEM careers and college majors.
Going a step behind dual enrollment, high schools and community colleges are combining a “fifth year” of high school with the first year of college, reports Community College Times.
In Oregon, nearly 200 high school students will spend a fifth year earning an advanced high school diploma while attending and earning credits at Klamath Community College (KCC). Since these students are still considered to be enrolled in high school, their tuition, fees and textbooks for their first year at KCC are covered by the state’s funding to K-12 school districts.
The students will attend KCC as a cohort and take a college success course together. If they complete the year, they’ll earn an advanced high school diploma and as many as 39 college credits — for free. They’ll be able to continue at KCC, transfer to another college or enter the workforce.
Colorado’s Ascent program lets high school students delay graduation for a year while they attend a community college; the cost is covered by the state’s K-12 funding.
Community College of Aurora (CCA) has close to 100 Ascent students and 3,000 dual enrollment students, said Elena Sandoval-Lucero, dean of student success. To qualify for Ascent, students must complete at least 12 dual-enrollment credits before 12th grade and be ready to start in college-level courses. Some will be able to earn an associate degree in their “fifth year,” said Sandoval-Lucero.
High school educators hope fifth-year programs will encourage low-income students to start college at no cost and keep on going.
Only 61 percent of Oregon high school graduates in the class of 2011 were enrolled in college by fall, 2012, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. That’s below the national average of 68 percent and far below Oregon’s goal, which calls for 40 percent of young people to earn a bachelor’s degree and 40 percent to earn an associate degree.
In some districts and high schools, students are doing much better than expected, reports the Oregonian.
For example, with 73 percent of students from low-income families, the David Douglas school district in east Portland sends 62 percent of graduates to college, far more than the average for districts with similar demographics. Counselors explain that college is almost always necessary to qualify for a career, said head counselor Miki Johnson.
Two thirds of David Douglas students take Mount Hood Community College courses, taught by high school teachers who hold Mount Hood credentials. The average graduate has earned 12 college credits. Most dual enrollment students go on to college, said Tifini Roberts, who coordinates the program. ”Being exposed to college, taking a college class and passing it, is a huge confidence booster.”
Jefferson High, a small school with primarily low-income, black students, is across the street from Portland Community College. The college hired a counselor to help Jefferson students get into the right college classes and reach their goals. The high school sends 79 percent of its students to college.
Students who’ve earned college credits in high school may not be prepared for college work, writes Ken Smith, a math professor at Sam Houston State, in The Dark Side of Dual Enrollment in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
One of his students needs to pass calculus for her science major, but she’s failed precalculus twice. She earned two years of community college credit in 11th and 12th grade by guessing the answers on multiple-choice tests. She never learned to solve math problems. (Her math SAT score was 380.)
These “college classes” were not college level. The student received a failing grade in one math class, but then, after her mother complained to the teacher, the student was allowed to rework some problems and pull her grade up to passing. This teacher continued to let her rework problems and pull up her failing grades in later classes. This apparently explains how she achieved a C in “College Algebra” in her high-school math class in her senior year.
Her math SAT score was in the 11th percentile nationally, far below college requirements. But here at Sam Houston, she was advised out of our developmental math classes and into precalculus because her high-school-senior math class (“College Algebra”) transferred in as our freshman College Algebra class.
In Texas, community colleges certify high school teachers as college instructors, Smith writes. “College is now high school.”
His student entered Sam Houston State as a junior at the age of 18. But how far will she get?
Dual enrollment is growing very rapidly. But if students are getting college credit for high school work (or less), they won’t succeed in college. Do we need a way to certify that these are real credits? Advanced Placement students need to pass a tough exam to get college credit — and not all colleges will grant it.
Technology is helping high school students with learning disabilities take college courses, writes Michael Yudin,acting assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.
In the heart of Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara Unified School District and Mission College have created Mission Middle College to enable students to earn college credit while still in high school. High expectations and e-literacy services build students’ confidence, said program coordinator Jennifer Lang-Jolliff. All students develop a postsecondary plan that includes attending community college or a university.
Students with visual impairments, physical disabilities and severe learning disabilities are helped to find the right assistive technology, computer software application or device to help them achieve academically. Students with reading problems can use Bookshare, a free and federally funded online library developed by Benetech, a Palo Alto company.
Bookshare provides timely access to curriculum in digital formats and offers a large collection of eBooks (currently over 190,000 books and growing) as well as reading technologies to enable students to experience multimodal learning—the ability to see and hear text read aloud.
Kate Finnerty, a high school senior with dyslexia, uses Bookshare to keep up with reading and research. She plans to study graphic design in college.