The remediation rate was nearly 80 percent for graduates of New York City public high schools who enrolled in a City University of New York community college last year, reports the New York Post.
A stunning 79.3 percent of city public-school grads who went to CUNY’s six two-year colleges arrived without having mastered the basics, up from 71.4 percent in 2007.
The ballooning numbers come despite the state having raised the requirements to graduate from high school in each of the past five years.
Education officials say the city has raised graduation rates since 2002, sending more students, to CUNY, without significantly raising remediation rates.
“When you increase the number participating and you hold essentially steady on remediation, that means you’re increasing the number who are passing the bar,” said Josh Thomases, deputy academic chief at the DOE. “That said, I don’t want anyone to go to remediation.”
Most remedial community college students need to improve their math skills. CUNY raised its math standards in 2011 and 2012.
City University of New York’s ASAP program is cost effective when measured by dollars per degree, concludes a new study by Henry M. Levin and Emma Garcia. At six community colleges, more than half of ASAP students graduated in three years, compared to a quarter of similar students not in ASAP.
ASAP is designed to help motivated community college students earn their degrees as quickly as possible. Key ASAP program features include a consolidated block schedule, cohorts by major, small class size, required full-time study, and comprehensive advisement and career development services. Financial incentives include tuition waivers for financial aid eligible students and free use of textbooks and monthly Metrocards for all students.
How did Valencia College in Orlando, Florida win the Aspen Prize for community college excellence? President Sandy Shugart has six big ideas about what community colleges should to enable learning, writes Fawn Johnson.
1) Anyone can learn anything under the right conditions.
2) Start right.
3) Connection and direction.
4) The college is how the students experience us, not how we experience them.
5) The purpose of assessment is to improve learning.
Many community colleges enroll huge numbers of students, collect the tuition and then see most of them drop out.
Valencia sacrifices its enrollment numbers (and the accompanying dollars) by turning students away who fail to register before the first day of a class. Research shows that students who register late are more likely to drop out, so Shugart says it makes sense to head those students off.
The college integrates advising with teaching. “Faculty members are expected to participate in plotting their students’ graduation paths, but each program also has an embedded full-time career adviser to track students’ progress,” Johnson writes.
Faculty members test teaching ideas in a three-year “learning academy.” Adjuncts are paid more if they participate in developing their teaching skills.
Valencia invests most heavily in improving 15 to 20 “gateway courses” that make up 40 percent of the curriculum for first-year students.
Planning is required. “When I was in college, the idea was that your freshman and sophomore years was an exploratory time. Totally gone. It is not exploratory,” said Joyce Romano, Valencia’s vice president for student services. “Decide when you’re in the womb what you want to do.”
All students are expected to map out a graduation plan in their first semester. They must “connect” with faculty members, career advisers, tutors, and student-services staffers. Tutors—usually students themselves—know the professors personally and often sit in on classes to seek out students who might feel shy about asking for help. Tutoring centers are located in central campus areas, and they are packed.
Valencia constantly analyzes student-achievement data, but instructors are judged on their teaching, not their students’ test scores.
Unionized professors and staff at City Colleges of Chicago have agreed to performance pay, reports Inside Higher Ed. Instead of receiving annual “step” increases for seniority, faculty members could earn bonuses based on student outcomes, such as graduation and transfer rates, remedial students who go on to college-level courses and graduates’ earnings and employment rates.
The bonuses won’t be linked to individual performance. If the district reaches it goals, all faculty members will receive more money. ”We’re calling it student success pay. It’s a group incentive,” said Laurent Pernot, vice chancellor for institutional advancement.
The American Federation of Teachers represents nearly 1,500 full-time professors and professional staff at the seven colleges.
The contract was passed with the support of 72 percent of voting faculty members and 80 percent of professional staff members. But many faculty leaders opposed the deal and the union leaders at two of the system’s campuses recommended that members vote no.
. . . While a spokesman for the college system spoke about how the contract de-emphasized seniority in favor of accountability, a spokesman for the union insisted that key protections for seniority remained.
A joint faculty-administration committee will discuss ways to set ”meaningful but achievable” goals, said Pernot. For example, one goal is to double the three-year graduation rate in five years, going from 10 percent to 20 percent.
Do your research to pick the best community college in your area, advises CNN Money. There can be big differences in graduation and transfer rates.
“Somebody who is choosing a community college should be as careful as they are in choosing a four-year college,” says Thomas Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Columbia University.
Call the four-year college or university you’d eventually like to transfer to, and ask which community colleges they accept the most students from.
Ask the community colleges you are considering if they have an honors program for which you could qualify. Many community colleges with low or average overall success rates have separate honors programs that graduate or transfer a high percentage of their students, notes Bailey. A list of colleges with honors programs can be found at the National Collegiate Honors Council site.
Ask the community college if they have any guaranteed transfer programs to four-year universities and what course and grade requirements you must meet to qualify. If they don’t have guaranteed programs, ask which universities have “articulation agreements” that will at least give you some guaranteed credits.
Call the office for a specific program you’re interested in and find out about their success rates. “Just because the [community] college’s overall graduation rate is low doesn’t mean their nursing program isn’t great,” says Schneider.
If you’re likely to need basic skills classes in math, writing or reading, ask the college how they teach remedial courses. Is there a way to move quickly through catch-up classes or start at the college level with extra help?
The U.S. Education Department’s plan to include part-time and transfer students in community college success rates is a major step forward, writes Thomas Bailey, who chaired the Committee on the Measure of Student Success and directs the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia. However, the new measures still won’t answer important questions about student success.
The plan will clarify who counts as a “degree-seeking” student and “improve the collection and analysis of data on students who receive federal financial aid,” Bailey notes. It also calls for improved state data systems to track students over time.
However, the federal action plan calculates a “graduation rate” that includes both students who earned a degree and those who transferred without graduating. The two outcomes should not be lumped together, the CMSS recommended. “Transfer is a key outcome for community-college students, but it is not the same thing as graduating,” Bailey writes.
The Department of Education also rejected the CMSS’s suggestion that colleges disaggregate outcomes for community-college students who are deemed ill-prepared for college-level work and are therefore assigned to remedial education. While this might be difficult for colleges to do, it is important—not least because so many students fall into this category. The action plan should recognize the need to develop better information about the success of these students.
Many questions about student outcomes will not be answered by the new measures, Bailey predicts. To really understand student success, we’d need “a data system that would allow us to track individual students over time as they move around the country and among institutions.” Because of privacy concerns, this is a controversial idea. But without individual tracking, “our measures of success will remain frustratingly incomplete.”
Community college success rates are expected to rise significantly when the Education Department completes its plan to include part-time and transfer students, notes Jennifer González in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Currently, students who transfer to a four-year institution before completing an associate degree are considered dropouts. But counting part-timers and transfers could be tricky. The department will have to decide how many credits make a part-time student or a “substantially prepared” transfer.
The department will also have to sort out how long those students will be tracked in order to determine whether they graduate. Will it be 150 percent of the conventional time to graduation (six years) or perhaps 200 percent of the time (eight years)?
Clifford Adelman, a senior associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, said the key “lies in the quality of institutional records and databases, and whether the registrars and institutional research can straighten out some of the sloppiness that has accumulated below the surface of the currently simplistic graduation-rate survey reporting.”
“Making sure everybody can do it the same way, and with consistent results,” he says, “will take a few years.”
State data systems track students who transfer to in-state public universities, but not students who go out of state or choose a private college. More than a quarter of all transfers cross state lines.
Community colleges are working to improve graduation rates and don’t need any help from the American Enterprise Institute, writes the American Association of Community Colleges in response to an AEI report on the high cost of low graduation rates. “The so-called analysis is a pseudo-academic attack on community colleges,” writes the AACC in a statement.
AEI looks at three-year graduation rates (22.1 percent), instead of “more accurate” four-year rates (27.6 percent), AACC writes. And many students who leave college are “stop-outs” rather than drop-outs. “Federal data indicate that 62 percent of those who leave a community college in the first year re-enroll at an institution of higher education within the next five years.”
The report assumes that those who leave a community college earn the same as high school diploma holders, rather than those who have “some college.” By definition, students who start and leave a community college have attained “some college.” In 2011, median weekly earnings for high school graduates were $638 as compared to $719 for those with “some college.” The unemployment rate was also 0.7% lower for those with “some college.”
In addition, the AEI report “dramatically understates” community college transfers and their success rates, AACC charges.
“As graduation rates were bottoming out at the City Colleges of Chicago in 2009, Chancellor Wayne Watson was cashing out” with a $800,000 golden parachute, charges the Better Government Association.
On top of roughly $537,000 in sick- and vacation-day payouts, Watson also was given an exit bonus of $124,615, according to City Colleges records recently obtained under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. What’s more, City Colleges is providing him with free health care coverage for life – costing the system more than $22,000 to date in premiums and reimbursements – and a life insurance policy that he was allowed to cash out for $112,602, records show.
Graduation rates within the City Colleges system – which serves more than 100,000 students at seven main campuses – fell from 13 percent in 1999, Watson’s first full year as chancellor, to 7 percent in 2009, when he left.
“This would be like giving a performance bonus to the captain of the Titanic,” says Andy Shaw, CEO of the BGA.
Watson is now president of Chicago State University, which also has a very low graduation rate. He’s paid $250,000 a year and lives in a university house. His annual pension from City Colleges is nearly $140,000.
Community colleges’ low completion rates will more than double, if colleges are allowed to count students who transfer after earning at least 30 credits.
An advisory committee to the U.S. Department of Education has recommended the change. Currently, students who transfer to a four-year institution without earning an associate degree are considered dropouts.
(Including transfers) would raise community-college completion rates to 40 percent, according to the American Association of Community Colleges—up from the 18 percent of community-college students who now receive a two-year associate degree within three years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The new completion rate would also count students who take up to four years, rather than the current three, to finish their two-year degrees. It is not clear how much further that would raise the completion figures.
I think the change makes sense: Transfers have completed their community college goals. But it would be nice to know how many go on to earn a bachelor’s degree.