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.

Ohio links funding to outcomes

Ohio’s community colleges have shifted to a new funding model, reports StateImpact Ohio. Funding is now linked to student achievement — milestones such as completing a course or earning a credential — rather than enrollment.

Jack Hershey, president of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges, said the new model rewards student growth. Community college presidents designed the model, he said. “No state is doing what Ohio has done, which is to turn it over to the presidents and ask them to solve the problem, because I think the governor realizes that these presidents know their institutions. They’re very smart people, they’re effective leaders for their campuses.”

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.

CCs need new financing models

Community colleges must diversify their funding sources, writes Rufus Glasper, chancellor of Maricopa Community Colleges in Arizona. Public funding is unlikely to rebound, he writes. “We should consider privatization where appropriate, but far from the core missions of access and excellence in teaching and learning.”

More of the costs of education should be “shared with local businesses and industries that depend on the students we train,” Glasper writes.

Privatization suggests more aggressive marketing. Who among us hasn’t asked, or been asked, why we don’t do a better job of telling our astounding stories, from the lives we change to the hope we instill in students and community members?

Leveraging public-private resources, such as joint community libraries, wellness centers and health clinics, allows for community use and provides new and experiential opportunities for our students.

Community college leaders must increase their fundraising and development efforts to bring in new revenue, Glasper concludes.

California underfunds vocational ed

(photo credit: US NAVY)

California is underfunding career technical education at the college level, charges a new study.

“[CTE] is vital to the economic structure, especially in a state like California where there is so much space for jobs that don’t necessarily require an advanced degrees,” said public policy professor Nancy Shulock of California State University at Sacramento.

Five years after earning a vocational associate degree, the median worker earns  $66,600, according to the California EDGE Coalition. That compares to $38,500 for graduates with an academic associate degree.

California funds all programs using the same per-pupil formula, whether the college is providing a classroom to teach Psych 1 or a mechatronics lab to teach advanced manufacturing. That makes it hard to provide CTE.

“Career technical education has the highest earning potential and the highest completion rate hands down,” Van Ton-Quinlivan, vice chancellor of workforce and economic development for the state’s community colleges, told an Assembly subcommittee. Yet CTE’s percentage of community college funding keeps declining.  “You can’t train an emergency room technician without a simulated emergency room.”

Funding has been cut for career tech education at the high school level as well.

‘Corporate colleges’ make money

Employers are outsourcing job training to  “corporate colleges” run by community colleges, reports Inside Higher Ed. These employer-funded programs are money makers for colleges such as Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), located in Ohio, North Carolina’s Central Piedmont College and the Lone Star College System in Texas.

In Arizona, the 10-college Maricopa Community College District has opened Maricopa Corporate College. Marriott International is its biggest client. “We’re starting to market ourselves as a business,” said Rufus Glasper, the district’s chancellor.

Corporate colleges cater to the training needs of companies, including recent hires and workers who need to learn new skills. Programs are typically non-credit and customized based on the employer’s needs. They can be online or in person, and taught either on a college campus or taken directly to a company. Some of the most common programs are in management training, English as a second language, information technology, advanced manufacturing and welding.

Until recently, community colleges have worked with regional employers. In 2007, Tri-C spun off Global Corporate College, a   consortium of more than 50 community colleges and universities. Through Global Corporate, colleges can network to meet the training needs of national companies.

That’s how Maricopa landed Mariott, said Eugene Giovannini, president of the Maricopa Corporate College. “The network will deliver that training across the country.”

Maricopa hopes to triple the $1.5 million in corporate training revenue earned in a recent year, reports Inside Higher Ed. “This is very much a business decision,” said Giovannini.

Obama touts job training, partnerships

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama proposed improving job training programs and expanding apprenticeships. He highlighted partnerships between community colleges and employers, citing Jackie Bray, a single mother in North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic.

“Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College,” Obama said. “The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training. It paid Jackie’s tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant. I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did.”

Obama also promised to simplify federal job training programs, echoing a proposal by his Republican rival, Mitt Romney.

“I want to cut through the maze of confusing training programs, so that from now on, people like Jackie have one program, one website and one place to go for all the information and help they need,” the president said.

The White House provided few details on the apprenticeship plan, reports Inside Higher Ed.

There’s nothing new about community colleges partnering with employers on job training, said David S. Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research at the American Association of Community Colleges. “In truth, it’s something they already do week in and week out.”

A “program-by-program review” of federal job training programs, to be led by Vice President Joe Biden, won’t help, said Baime. “The federal job training programs have been reviewed repeatedly, and so more than another review, we need a Workforce Investment Act reauthorization and greatly enhanced funding.”

President Obama didn’t mention his controversial plan to rate colleges by “value.” Instead, he pledged to “give parents more information, and colleges more incentives to offer better value.”

Roxbury gets new start

Boston’s deeply troubled Roxbury Community College  is getting a fresh start with a new leader, writes Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson. Bunker Hill Community College, which is trying to raise student success rates, also has a new president.

Valerie Roberson

Valerie Roberson

Valerie Roberson has taken charge of Roxbury after years of “scandalous mismanagement.” Only 39.5 percent of students graduate or transfer within six years.

Pam Eddinger, who immigrated from Hong Kong when she was 11, hopes to raise the 47.1 percent graduation-or-transfer rate at Bunker Hill.

Both are women who hate to lose, writes Jackson.

A decade ago, Roberson was appointed interim president of Olive-Harvey College in Chicago. There was talk of closing the community college. The faculty went on a three-week strike. “After firing some full-time faculty, Roberson said she worked on stabilizing faculty relations and boosting scholarship and honors programs,” writes Jackson. She stayed as president for five years.

Roxbury’s “need for healing” is “like nothing she’s ever seen,” Roberson told Jackson. She’s started by “spiffing up the grounds and healing frayed relations with both community organizers and the business community.” And, she’s continuing an audit of the college’s tangled finances.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and the Legislature are putting more funding into community colleges and offering incentives for colleges that improve graduation and transfer rates and help close the state’s skills gap, writes Jackson.

But community colleges have rapidly evolved into far more than skill schools. As the price of four-year private colleges spirals past $50,000 a year — and tuition, room, and board at UMass Amherst is $23,000 — less-expensive community colleges take on more ambitious students.

The state is also trying to align community colleges and university courses, so students can more easily transfer their credits. Lack of portability has depressed the state’s community college graduation and transfer rates, says Eddinger. Students are mobile. Their credits need to be mobile too.

Report: California is losing higher ed edge

California is losing its higher education edge, warns a new report.  State universities and community colleges must be redesigned to produce the educated workers the economy needs, said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who commissioned the report.

The percentage of young adults earning associate and bachelor’s degrees in California already is below the U.S. average, warns the Committee for Economic Development, which wrote the report.  The higher education system must be redesigned to serve an increasingly diverse and low-income population, CED advised.

Along with boosting graduation rates at Cal State and community college campuses, which enroll the vast majority of the state’s college students, the study calls for greater collaboration with for-profit private colleges, employers and K-12 schools.

Lead author Patrick Callan, president of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that if the state is serious about meeting its “productivity challenge,” it will need to create “new kinds of institutions that take advantage of innovative instructional technologies and business plans to develop nontraditional ways of providing high-quality postsecondary education programs.”

“Modest injections of funding” and “tweaks in current educational policy and practice” won’t be enough to fix California’s underperforming higher education system, said Newsom.

CC funding improves in most states

Community college funding is recovering, but two-year college systems remain under stress in many states, according a new survey, Halfway Out of Recession But A Long Way to Go. The Education Policy Center of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa surveys community college directors annually.

Only directors in five states — Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana and Wyoming — reported mid-year budget cuts in 2012-13. In 2008-9, two-thirds of states were reporting such cuts.

Looking ahead, most state directors are predicting increases for this year for community colleges, with the average increase projected to be 4 percent. Only five states — Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina and West Virginia — are projecting decreases in 2013-14.

The state directors report considerable worry about the ability of students to pay for college. Most states are projecting tuition increases, and a majority expect state student aid programs to either be cut or to increase at less than the rate of inflation for higher education.

Many directors expect rising enrollments as four-year institutions impose enrollment caps.