Tech credentials pay for low-income students

Vocational certificates and associate degrees in health, transportation, construction, manufacturing and security lead to relatively high pay for disadvantaged students and low-scoring high-schoolers in Florida, concludes a new Calder working paper.

Low achievement in high school accounts for much of disadvantaged students’ problems in postsecondary programs and in the workforce, the study found.

Earnings for disadvantaged kids are hampered by low completion rates in postsecondary programs, poor college performance, and their selection of low-earning fields. . . . Many disadvantaged (and other) students choose general humanities programs at the AA (and even the Bachelor’s or BA) level with low completion rates and low compensation afterwards.

Even those with weak academic records can do well if they pursue a technical certificate or degree program, researchers found. Those with vocational certificates earn 30 percent more than high school-only workers and those with associate degrees in technical fields earn 35 to 40 percent more.

Promoting high-potential career pathways and offering high-quality apprenticeships could help disadvantaged students move up.

Remediation rates plummet in Florida

Remedial enrollment has dropped by half this year at Florida’s Broward College,  but that doesn’t mean students are better prepared, reports the Orlando Sun-Sentinel.  Under a new state law, Florida high school graduates can choose to skip remedial courses and start at the college level.

At Palm Beach State College, remedial enrollment dropped by 41 percent; it’s down 30 percent at Miami Dade College.

Broward College officials said they’ve beefed up tutoring and advising to assist these students and have taken other steps to help them succeed. For example, the college offers a new statistics math class where students can get elective credit. About 1,200 students are enrolled in 40 sections, most of whom would have been in remedial classes before. The class is designed for students who are not planning on going into the fields of math or science.

And the college has changed its remedial classes as well.

The semester-long classroom lectures have been replaced with accelerated “boot camps” and computer programs that allow students work at their own pace and focus on their deficiencies. The school also developed a “Massive Open Online Course” or MOOC, where students can learn skills on their own time.

While placement tests are optional, counselors look at new students’ high school transcripts and recommend remedial classes if their grades or test scores are low, said Broward Provost Linda Howdyshell. She believes making remediation optional will enable more students to earn a credential.

But some are skeptical, reports the Sun-Sentinel. “Unfortunately, if they don’t know the basics, they probably won’t have a lot of success, and that makes me nervous,” said Juliet Carl, a math professor at Broward.

Corinthian crashes

Under investigation for falsifying job placement rates, for-profit Corinthian Colleges will sell 85 campuses and close 12 others. The national company runs Everest, WyoTech and Heald career colleges.

The Department of Education had put a hold on Corinthian’s access to federal student aid. Under an agreement reached last week, the DOE will provide $35 million in student aid funding to provide time to sell or close the colleges. Corinthian’s finances will be monitored closely by an independent auditor.

Corinthian receives $1.4 billion in Pell grants and federal student loans each year, which represents 85 percent of total revenuesreports the Miami Herald.

The company is facing charges in several states, including Florida and California, of exploiting and misleading low-income students.

Florida’s community colleges, which are some of the best in the nation, often offer similar programs at a far lower price. For example, Everest’s Pompano Beach location charges about $15,000 in tuition for a medical assisting diploma; at Broward College, the same program costs $1,698 for in-state students.

The Florida attorney general’s investigation of Everest has produced 100 pages of complaints, reports the Herald.

The California attorney general’s lawsuit cited internal Corinthian documents that described its students as “isolated” individuals with “low self-esteem” who have “few people in their lives who care about them.”

The California lawsuit states “the placement rates published by [Corinthian] are at times as high as 100 percent, leading prospective students to believe that if they graduate they will get a job. These placement rates are false and not supported by the data. In some cases there is no evidence that a single student in a program obtained a job during the time frame specified in the disclosures.”

In some instances, the suit says, Corinthian paid temp agencies to give its graduates short-lived jobs — so it could inflate the job placement numbers, and maintain the accreditation required to receive federal aid.

Corinthian’s enrollment has fallen to 72,000 students, estimates the DOE.

National Journal has more on the fall of Corinthian.

New name, new identity

Edison State College isn’t just changing its name to Florida SouthWestern State College, reports the News-Press. It’s changing its identity. Once a community college, the new Florida SouthWestern will offer 10 baccalaureate degrees and on-campus housing.

Admissions staff are recruiting out-of-state students and bolstering scholarship programs to attract a brighter student body. Intercollegiate athletics will resurface in 2015.

The next addition will be a director of international education, which will coordinate study abroad, faculty and student exchanges, sister college agreements and internship opportunities. Edison State also has contracted with a consulting firm to help develop an office that will coordinate research efforts and grants.

“Is this us? Is this who we are?” trustee Brian Chapman asked rhetorically.

Florida’s community colleges have become “state colleges” as they added four-year programs. Under pressure from the state’s universities, legislators approved  a moratorium on new four-year degrees at state colleges.

That will delay Edison State’s plans to add a technical communication and emerging media major.

“We basically had to lay our degree on the altar,” said Edison President Jeff Allbritten.

Tami Cullens, a trustee at South Florida State College, attended Tuesday’s meeting to encourage Edison leaders to push legislators for more funding. She noted public universities saw substantial funding increases for 2014-15, but state colleges will collect minimally more money for operations.

“We’ve got to stop being the stepchild,” said Cullens, who chairs the Association of Florida Colleges.

The name change became official on July 1. The college has picked a new logo and colors, purple and aqua.

Not all apprenticeships are equal

Apprenticeships are hot, but not all lead to middle-class jobs, writes Mark Schneider on The Quick and the Ed.

Last month, President Obama announced a $100 million fund to support apprenticeship programs in fields such as information technology, health care and advanced manufacturing. For all the praise of apprenticeships, the number enrolled is much lower than 10 years ago. Completions are down from 52,000 in 2002 to 44,000 today.

The White House says that 87 percent of apprentices find jobs that average more than $50,000 a year in pay. This is an exaggeration, according to Florida data. The median wage is $37,252 for registered apprentices, who typically study at a community or technical college.


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Graduates with an associate degree in science earn the most, with the associate in applied science coming second and apprentices a close third.  Graduates with a bachelor’s degree start at only $33,652. 

Starting wages are much higher for apprentices in jobs that “keep things working” than for those in cooking and early childhood education. Elevator construction mechanics start at $67,565.


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“The best training is on-the-job training,” says Linda Poage, program manager at the Apprenticeship and Journeyman Training Center at Spokane Community College. Community College Daily looks at existing college-linked apprenticeship programs and plans for expansion with new federal dollars.

What’s in a name?

Henry Ford Community College is rebranding itself as Henry Ford College. The 75-year-old college in Dearborn, Michigan hopes to start offering a four-year degree in culinary arts.

Almost 40 colleges have dropped “community” from their names in the past decade,reports the Wall Street Journal.

“We’re seeing more and more community colleges offering bachelor’s degrees, which is the associated phenomenon,” said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow with the left-leaning Century Foundation. “Shedding the word ‘community’ is an important step toward attracting a broader cross-section of students.”

Henry Ford College has launched a marketing campaign with a new vision statement—”First Choice. Best Choice.”

. . . the school faces big challenges. Its graduation rate within three years for first-time, full-time students typically hovers in the single digits, compared with around 20% nationally for public two-year institutions. A school spokesman said Henry Ford is working to improve its graduation rate as well as its transfer rate—the rate at which students jump over to four-year institutions, which was 39% in 2012, according to federal data.

This fall, three community colleges in Seattle will drop “community” from their names.

In Florida, where community colleges now offer workforce-related bachelor’s degrees, most have switched to “college” or “state college.”

$10K degree isn’t impossible after all

When Gov. Rick Perry challenged Texas’s public universities to craft four-year degrees costing no more than $10,000, many said it was impossible, recalls Thomas K. Lindsay, director of the Center for Higher Education at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Three years later, 12 Texas universities have announced $10,000 bachelor’s degrees and the idea has spread to Florida, Oklahoma and Oregon.

The rapid expansion of $10,000 degree offerings has not satisfied the “It’s impossible” critics. They note that the fledgling programs are limited to a few subject areas, mostly the applied sciences, and argue that the same model cannot work in other fields. Moreover, they point out, a number of the new offerings charge students $10,000 but do not actually reduce their schools’ cost of instruction and materials.

That’s a valid critique, writes Lindsay. The current $10,000 degree programs reduced the price charged to the student but ignored Perry’s suggestion to cut costs by using online learning and competency-based exams.

However, that’s changing.

Three higher-education partners — Texas A&M University-Commerce, South Texas College, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) — just launched the “Affordable Baccalaureate Program,” the state’s first public university bachelor’s degree combining online learning and competency-based standards. Developed by community-college and university faculty . . . a new degree in organizational leadership can cost as little as $750 per term and allows students to receive credit for as many competencies and courses as they can master each term.

According to THECB’s website, students arriving “with no prior college credits should be able to complete the degree program in three years at a total cost of $13,000 to $15,000.” Students who enter having already satisfied their general-education requirements can complete the degree in two years, while those entering with “90 credit hours and no credential” can complete the degree “in one year for $4,500 to $6,000.”

Nationwide, college tuition and fees have risen 440 percent over the past 25 years, roughly four times the rate of inflation and nearly twice the rate of health-care cost growth, writes Lindsay. Total student-loan debt has risen to $1.2 trillion. Increasing federal subsidies so students can borrow more to pay higher tuition is fiscally unsustainable. So is increasing state subsidies for higher education.

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.

CCs add 4-year degrees, but face pushback

Twenty-three Florida community colleges now offer four-year degrees in high-demand vocational fields, but a bill in the Legislature would prevent colleges from adding bachelor’s degrees without legislative approval. Currently, the state education board authorizes new four-year degrees at two-year colleges.

With tuition two-thirds cheaper at a community college compared to a state university, the lawmakers behind the bill warn that it’s unfair competition. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), said many community colleges are offering more than just specialized bachelor’s degrees, such as nursing and public safety, and are competing with state universities to offer more general degrees, like history, at less cost.

Gov. Rick Scott thinks competition will help students. He’s challenged community colleges to offer four-year degrees with a price tag of $10,000. Daytona State College will be the first with a $10,000 bachelor’s in education.

Students are enthusiastic about the four-year option, writes Jon Marcus for the Hechinger Report.  At Florida community colleges — now called state colleges — more than 30,000 students are pursuing bachelor’s degrees.

It’s cheaper and more convenient than attending a four-year university, especially for working parents and part-time students, who make up a large proportion of community college attendees.

The cost of a baccalaureate course at St. Petersburg College is $118.70 per credit hour, compared to $211.19 at the nearby University of South Florida. . . .

Universities are resisting the trend in many states. Community colleges typically are limited to degrees in vocational fields.

Colorado legislators approved letting community colleges offer four-year degrees only after satisfying Colorado State University and the University of Colorado — whose lobbying was blamed for killing a previous version of a proposal — that they would be limited to career and technical fields such as culinary arts and dental hygiene.

In Michigan, similar legislation was passed over the concerted, years-long opposition of that state’s public universities, which said letting community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees was mission creep, blurs the distinction between different branches of higher education and raises quality concerns. In the end, the community colleges were limited to baccalaureate programs in maritime studies, culinary arts, energy production and concrete technology.

California legislators have rejected four-year degrees at community college three times since 2009, but a new proposal has a good chance of success.

How to earn a low-debt bachelor’s degree

Starting at a community college will cut the cost of a bachelor’s degree, but students have to be savvy to make it work, writes Lisa Ward in the Wall Street Journal.

Transferring credits can be be “complicated and confusing,” she writes. Students and parents should research whether their state has coordinated community college and state university credits.

For example, California, Louisiana and Texas guarantee admission to a four-year state university to any student who earns an associate degree at an in-state community college. Florida has the same guarantee for an associate of arts, but transfers will need high grades and prerequisites to get into popular majors at prestigious schools.

Some states, including Texas and Florida, use the same numbering system for community college and state university courses. Psych 101 is the same at every school, making it easier for students to know which credits will transfer.

Hybrid degree programs also help transfers earn low-cost bachelor’s degrees.

 Houston Community College and University of Texas at Tyler designed a program where students can earn an associate’s degree in engineering from HCC and then enroll at UT Tyler, as long as their grade-point average is 2.5 or higher. The program sets the student up for a bachelor’s degree in mechanical, electrical or civil engineering.

“It costs $19,000, for all four years, if you live in-state,” says David Le, who is enrolled in the program. “No one ever believes me when I tell them how cheap it is,” says Mr. Le, who lives at home because the program is taught entirely at HCC’s campus.

Earning college credit in high school also cuts the cost of a degree. Most schools offer Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses that enable students to earn college credit. Increasingly, students can earn credits through “dual enrollment” or “early college” classes, which often are taught by community college instructors.

“In many cases, dual enrollment and early college are the absolutely cheapest way to earn college credit because it’s free,” says Dilip Das, assistant vice provost at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.