Community colleges forced to downsize

Declining enrollment has forced many community colleges to downsize, reports Inside Higher Ed. Often that means canceling courses and laying off instructors.

After the 2008 financial crisis and he ensuing recession, enrollment surged as laid-off workers turned to community colleges to learn new skills. State funding and tuition dollars rose.

Enrollment numbers were almost 25 percent higher in 2010-11 than three years earlier, said David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research for the American Association of Community Colleges.

But enrollment at two-year public institutions fell 3.6 percent between spring 2012 and spring 2013 and dropped another 2.7 percent between spring 2013 and spring 2014.

Enrollment has fallen by 5.9 percent among students 24 and older in the last year, though adults still make up 40 percent of community college attendees. Younger students’ enrollment fell by just 0.5 percent.

Staffing costs account for 80 percent or more of overall expenditures at many community colleges, said Baime.  “Very quickly you get into people when you’re involved in budget-cutting.”

Tuition revenues spiked at Patrick Henry Community College in Virginia between 2008 and 2011.  Then enrollment tapered off and revenues fell. “Slapdash budgeting left a $1.8 million deficit” for fiscal 2013, reports Inside Higher Ed.

After a year spent sorting out tangled accounting, Patrick Henry balanced its budget by making dramatic cuts . . .  The community college cut 16 full-time positions – including five teaching positions – and six part-time positions, saving slightly more than $1 million. The institution also chopped $754,000 from its non-personnel spending by canceling subscriptions to certain databases and reducing money spent on instructional supplies, among other areas.

At Pasadena City College, one of the most successful in California, cuts forced by declining enrollment have increased tension between the faculty and the college president, reports the Los Angeles Times. Since the peak in fall of 2010, enrollment is down by 13 percent. President Mark W. Rocha canceled a six-week winter semester to save money. Faculty members say they weren’t consulted as the college’s shared-governance model requires.

Who completes college?

Less than 40 percent of students who start at a two-year public college will complete a degree in six years, reports Pew Research Center. The completion rate is 62.4 percent for students who start at a two-year for-profit institution.
CollegeGrads_1

Two-year colleges are enrolling fewer students but granting more associate degrees, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s annual Condition of Education report.

Enrollment — about 7.2 million in 2012 — declined by 7 percent from 2010 after steady growth since 1990. The number of associate degrees increased by 8 percent from 2010-11 to 2011-12.

Latinos narrow graduation gap

The Latino college completion gap is narrowing for full-time students, reports Excelencia in Education in a new report. The gap fell from 14 percent in 2012 to 9 percent in 2014: 41 percent of Latinos graduate in 150 percent of the normal time compared to 50 percent of all first-time, full-time college students.

However, almost half of Latino college students are enrolled part-time. Their completion rates remain very low.

Miami Dade College, South Texas College, El Paso Community College, East Los Angeles College and Florida International College enroll the most Latino students. “Four of the top five are predominantly community colleges,” said Deborah Santiago, chief operating officer and vice president of policy at Excelencia.

Miami Dade, El Paso and South Texas also rank in the top five for awarding associate degrees to Latinos, along with Valencia College and University of Phoenix Online. “We are seeing the closure in the achievement gaps in some states, but not all,” said Santiago.

ASSOCIATE DEGREES: Top 5 Institutions Awarding to Hispanics, 2011-12

Rank Institution State Sector Grand Total Hispanic Total % Hispanic
1 Miami Dade College FL 4yr Public 11,959 7,958 67
2 El Paso Community College TX 2yr Public 3,790 3,244 86
3 University of Phoenix – Online 4yr Private For-Profit 39,341 2,424 6
4 South Texas College TX 4yr Public 2,292 2,138 93
5 Valencia College FL 4yr Public 7,974 2,129 27

California, which has the highest numbers of Latino students, lags in graduating them: Only 15 percent of the state’s Latino students completed a degree or certificate in 2010-11.  “Why does California, the state with the largest Latino population in the nation, not have a single college break into the top five nationally for awarding degrees to Latinos?” asked Santiago.

Florida does much better in enrolling — and graduating — Latinos.

Latinos make up 22 percent of K-12 students and 17 percent of the population, reports Excelencia.  The median age for Latinos is 27, compared to 42 for non-Hispanic whites.

Twenty percent of Latino adults have earned an associate degree or higher compared to 36 percent of all adults.

Online ed grows as retention gap narrows

Online enrollment grew by 5.2 percent at community colleges from fall 2012 to fall 2013, even as traditional enrollment declined, reports the Instructional Technology Council’s 2013 Distance Education Survey. Twenty-six percent of community college students enrolled in at least one online course in fall 2012, according to IPEDS data.

“The retention gap” between online and traditional students  “has narrowed dramatically” in the past nine years, ITC reports.  Colleges are shifting their focus from adding online offerings to improving the quality of online courses.

MOOCs have not caught on.

Most community college distance education administrators and faculty remain skeptical of massive open online courses (MOOCs) due to their low student retention rates, low teacher-to-student interaction, inability to authenticate students, and lack of financial sustainability. A few community colleges have received grant funding from private foundations to develop MOOCs that offer self-paced online orientations and remedial help, but few community colleges have created a financially-sustainable model for creating MOOCs for their students.

Only half of the community colleges surveyed are able to meet the growing student demand for distance education courses.

‘Reinvented’ Chicago colleges are growing


An advanced manufacturing program is drawing students to Chicago’s Richard J. Daley College.

“Once considered a deeply troubled urban institution where enrollment was plummeting, graduation rates were dismal and degrees held little value, the City Colleges of Chicago are undergoing a turnaround under the leadership of Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, reports Community College Weekly.  She arrived in 2010 pledging “reinvention” of the seven-college system. Enrollment and graduation rates are on the rise.

Two Chicago city colleges — Richard J. Daley and Olive-Harvey — are among the fastest-growing in the nation, Community College Weekly reports.

Hyman credits “strategic efforts to realign our programs with the demands of employers and four-year colleges alike and target our adult education offerings to community needs.” 

Launched in 2011, College to Careers enlists industry partners to help redesign job training programs. Each college has a vocational mission. Daley College focuses on high-tech manufacturing. Olive-Harvey specializes in training students for logistics and transportation careers.

Nationwide, community college enrollment is down by 4 percent as the recession eases.

Enrollment dips as jobs rebound

As the economy rebounds, community college enrollment has gone from boom to bust. Enrollment is down at community colleges in Maryland and Virginia, reports the Washington Post.

“The truth of the matter is that during the recession, we were the economic recovery plan for a lot of Virginia families,” said Jeffrey Kraus, assistant vice chancellor for public relations for the Virginia Community College System.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported that community college enrollment nationwide fell 3 percent in fall 2013, similar to the previous year’s decline.

At Montgomery College, the largest community college in Maryland, enrollment fell by 5 percent. The college is back to the number of students enrolled in 2010.

In Virginia, Southwest Virginia Community College has lost 30 percent of its peak enrollment. However, Northern Virginia Community College — grown by nearly 6 percent.

NVCC President Robert G. Templin Jr. said the school “has made a concerted effort over the last eight or nine years” to reach out to students who might be the first in their families to go to college. Many are from minority, immigrant or low-income families in Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun and Arlington counties. “We help them navigate the higher education landscape, which is pretty difficult if no one in your family has ever gone,” Templin said.

NVCC also is a major provider of transfer students to the state’s four-year institutions, including nearby George Mason University.

Many people don’t know that certificates or two-year degrees in certain fields can be a steppingstone to a well-paying career, said Jeffrey Kraus, spokesman for the Virginia Community College System.  “We need to go out and be talking to people who otherwise are not hearing the message of higher education,” he said. “Part of it is breaking through that ‘bachelor’s or bust’ mentality that a lot of folks have.”

Enrollment declines have forced Kansas community colleges to cut salaries, benefits and hiring, reports the Kansas City Star.

The economic fall and rise has made budgeting “so unpredictable,” said Johnson County Community College President Joe Sopcich in announcing $3.7 million in budget cuts. “Our projections calling for annual increases in enrollment and state aid (this year) were overly optimistic and unrealistic,” he said.

Students will be less affluent, more Latino

Colleges and universities will compete for fewer white, affluent students, according to demographic projections. That could drive some tuition-dependent private colleges out of business.

The number of black students is declining too, while the number of Latino and Asian-American students will increase significantly in the next decade. “The nation’s already seeing a sharp rise in first-generation and low-income graduates, reports the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

Some colleges and universities have stepped up recruiting of first-generation students, but most apply to low-cost community colleges.

The number of high-school graduates is projected to drop sharply in several Midwestern and Northeastern states.

Who Will Reach College Age in the Next 14 Years? shows demographic changes, interactively, down to the county level.

Nationally, the number of college-age whites will decline by 14.8 percent and blacks by 8.9 percent over the next 14 years, while college-age Latinos will rise by 13.7 percent and Asians by 14.6 percent.

College bubble will pop


A college degree is “the ticket to the middle class,” according to President Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and most parents and high school counselors, write Richard Vedder and Christopher Denhart in a Wall Street Journal commentary. But the college bubble will pop, they predict. As college costs rise, graduates’ earning advantage is declining.

Since 2006, the gap between what the median college graduate earned compared with the median high-school graduate has narrowed by $1,387 for men over 25 working full time, a 5% fall. Women in the same category have fared worse, losing 7% of their income advantage ($1,496).

A college degree’s declining value is even more pronounced for younger Americans. According to data collected by the College Board, for those in the 25-34 age range the differential between college graduate and high school graduate earnings fell 11% for men, to $18,303 from $20,623. The decline for women was an extraordinary 19.7%, to $14,868 from $18,525.

Meanwhile, the cost of college has increased 16.5% in 2012 dollars since 2006.

A 2013 Center for College Affordability and Productivity report, found many more college graduates are working as retail sales clerks, cab drivers and janitors. Underemployment has risen for recent college graduates since the recession, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports.

Employers want to hire graduates of top universities and graduates with master’s degrees, write Vedder and Denhart. But a bachelor’s degree no longer signals “best and brightest.”

Today, with over 30% with degrees, a significant portion of college graduates are similar to the average American—not demonstrably smarter or more disciplined. Declining academic standards and grade inflation add to employers’ perceptions that college degrees say little about job readiness.

As demand for a high-priced not-so-higher education falls, colleges will have to “constrain costs,” they write. In addition, “colleges must bow to new benchmarks assessing their worth.” There’s too much competition from online education to resist, even if it means “poorly endowed and undistinguished schools may bite the dust.”

Enrollment continues to rise at traditional four-year universities, notes Jordan Weissmann in The Atlantic. “All of the declines happened in the troubled for-profit sector, which has cut back somewhat on enrolling clearly under-qualified students in an effort to clean up its image, and community colleges, which have been grappling with overcrowding in recent years.”

Chinese, Saudis choose U.S. colleges

Fewer international students are enrolling in U.S. community colleges, while more are choosing baccalaureate colleges, according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors 2013 report.

Community colleges’ international enrollments fell by 1.4 percent in 2012-13, the fourth consecutive decline, notes Community College Times. The number of international students increased by 2.9 percent at baccalaureate colleges.

The Houston Community College System in Texas has 5,333 international students this academic year, followed by Santa Monica College in California with 3,471 students and De Anza College in California with 2,728 student. Lone Star College in Texas with 2,112 students and Northern Virginia Community College with 1,901 students rounded the top five community colleges.

China is sending an increasing number of students to U.S. colleges and universities.

“Chinese students and their parents are looking for high quality education, get the importance of international education and it’s making America the No. 1 destination because we actually have the capacity to absorb international students,” said Allan Goodman, president and CEO of the institute.

The number of Saudi students increased by 30 percent thanks to a government scholarship program.

Enrollment rebounds at California colleges

California community colleges are starting the fall term with more students and more courses, reports the Los Angeles Times. Statewide, enrollment is expected to increase by 2.5% and course sections by 5%.

About 60,000 more students are expected to enroll systemwide this fall, officials said. It was a welcome turnaround from last year, when many colleges were planning for further budget cuts. Officials at the time were uncertain of the fate of Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s measure to increase state sales tax and some income taxes mostly for education. Voters approved it in November.

Last year, more than 470,000 students began the fall term on waiting lists for an average of 7,157 wait-listed students per school. This fall, an average of 5,026 students per campus are on waiting lists.