California could tie a percentage of university funding to performance, if Gov. Jerry Brown gets his way, reports the Los Angeles Times. Brown’s plan calls for raising the number of community college transfers who earn a bachelor’s degree in two years and boosting the four-year graduation rate at University of California and California State University campuses. The governor also wants to freeze tuition and fees for four years.
Cal State officials expressed concern about Brown’s focus on four-year graduation rates rather than the six-year standard they use. (Mike) Uhlenkamp said it may be unrealistic for remedial students, working students who attend part time and students in demanding fields like engineering to achieve a degree in four years.
Brown’ s plan faced criticism at a legislative hearing last week.
Several legislators and university officials said they feared that the plan unfairly forced campuses to chase unrealistic and arbitrary goals when the real problem remained the deep budget cuts schools suffered during the recession.
Some said they feared Brown’s ideas could backfire by encouraging campuses to water down graduation requirements and directing students to easier majors as a way to meet Brown’s targets, which also include boosting the number of transfer students from community colleges.
The Brown administration said it was open to changes, such has evaluating Cal State by both four- and six-year graduation rates.
Despite record enrollments, community colleges don’t get much respect, notes College Bound. In a recent Gallup Poll, only one in five people “strongly agreed” that community colleges offer high-quality education.
Community college leaders can improve the sector’s image by taking responsibility for student outcomes, writes J. Noah Brown, president of the American Association of Community College Trustees, in First in the World: Community Colleges and America’s Future. Brown calls for measuring the success rates of a variety of students, including part-time students.
Brown also encourages community colleges to communicate their results and better orient new students. If schools are indeed good stewards of the public dollar, he writes, their success should be rewarded by the government. The new Voluntary Framework for Accountability is part of that effort.
Government funding for community colleges is at the lowest point in 20 years, notes College Bound.
Veterans are having trouble using the GI Bill at state schools, if they’ve moved frequently, reports AP. New rules that took effect in August say vets can collect up to $17,500 a year at private colleges but only the cost of in-state tuition at public institutions. That makes state residency an issue.
A Missouri native, Justin Curley was a medic in the Air Force. He left the service in 2009, settled in New Orleans and applied to the nursing program at Delgado Community College. Denied in-state status, he borrowed $3,000 a year to pay out-of-state tuition. But a friend persuaded him to protest.
“Essentially, because I constantly moved with the Air Force, the Louisiana Community and Technical College System is taking away the veterans benefits I rightfully earned in favor of unwritten policies that are left up to the discretion and judgment of the board and chancellor,” he wrote. “To me, that says I’m a resident of nowhere. All because of my service.”
In October, Curley met with newly installed Chancellor Monty Sullivan. Not only did Sullivan grant Curley the in-state rate, he refunded his money back to fall 2011.
The graduation rates of veterans using the GI Bill will be reported publicly, announced Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs.
“The best measurements of success are completion rates,” Mr. Shinseki told a crowd of several hundred student veterans. “Degrees, certificates of completion, certifications, licensing—that to me is how you measure. Not who goes in the front door, but who completes the program.”
In the fall-2012 semester, 480,000 students were enrolled under the GI Bill, Shinseki said. The department will work with the National Student Clearinghouse to track graduation rates, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. Student Veterans of America, which has 700 campus chapters around the country, brokered the agreement.
Community colleges are being asked to help Americans earn associate degrees, vocational certificates and industry-recognized certifications, but many college leaders say they don’t have the money to do the job, reports Workforce Training in a Recovering Economy 2012 by the University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center.
Many of those surveyed said funding cuts will make it hard to add high-cost training programs or to raise graduation rates.
Community college leaders said increasing the number of vocational certificates was a priority. Many said their colleges are under pressure to offer or expand “quick” job-training programs in non-credit areas.
. . . state community college leaders believe high unemployment has strained the available workforce training capacity at community colleges in many states, as budget woes limit the development and maintenance of programs to prepare individuals for high-skill, high-wage jobs.
Federal workforce training programs should create a “formal preference” for community colleges, the report recommends.
Massachusetts “lawmakers are tightening state control over community colleges, tying budgets to academic performance and giving education officials greater say over choosing and evaluating college presidents,” reports the Boston Globe.
Nearly half of public college students in Massachusetts attend the state’s 15 community colleges, but graduation rates are low.
The plan comes with added financial support. The state will increase spending on the two-year schools by $11 million, including $5 million for a grant program focused on raising graduation rates and consolidating administrative tasks across campuses. Another $2.3 million will help schools develop job-training programs to meet changing workforce needs.
Gov. Deval Patrick pushed for the measure, but didn’t get state control over college fees which will continue to be set locally.
Radio Boston asks whether the legislation will improve accountability or add another layer of bureaucracy.
The U.S. needs a more efficient and effective higher education system, concludes a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report which rates the states on college access, success, efficiency, meeting workforce needs and transparency. Here’s the map showing grades for two-year public colleges.
Business leaders worry the U.S. will run short of educated, skilled workers, the report says.
At the community college level, only one state has a three-year graduation rate greater than 50 percent. Thirty-three states have two-year completion rates at or below 25 percent and less than 15 percent of community college students graduate in three years in 13 states.
All of this attrition is costly at a time when public and private resources are scarce. Thirty-three states spend more than $50,000 in education and related expenses to produce a credential at a two-year college; 13 spend more than $65,000. Although tuition remains low at most two- year colleges, this low sticker price masks considerable state and local spending per degree.
The report urges states to “move away from funding formulas that are based too heavily on student enrollment,” instead basing some funding on student success. In addition, “states could improve degree completion by removing the obstacles students often face when they wish to transfer credits between institutions.”
“States must find better ways to measure not only the quantity of degrees, but also their quality,” the Chamber believes.
Higher levels of postsecondary attainment will drive economic growth only if students are really learning something—and if the additional credentials earned in a state have value in the labor market.
Every state should follow the lead of the handful that have successfully linked postsecondary data to employment and wage records collected by other state agencies. These linkages are a key component of emerging state-of-the-art longitudinal data systems that follow students from K–12 education through college and then into the labor force. Such systems not only allow for better measurement of graduation rates, transfer outcomes, and time to degree; they also present an opportunity for policymakers to compare return on investment, in terms of graduates’ future employment and wages, across programs and institutions.
Finding ways to do more with less will require states to track the cost per degree across institutions, the report notes. Students and their parents, business leaders, policy makers and taxpayers need information on outcomes at individual colleges and universities.
Finally, states should test education innovations, such as online and “blended” learning, to find ways to serve more students at lower cost, the report recommends.
Use Caution When Ranking Community Colleges writes Mandy Zatynski on The Quick and the Ed. Community colleges have very different missions and attract different kinds of students.
College Measures’ success ratings are based on the percentage of full-time, first-time students who graduated or transferred in three years. That leaves out the majority (59 percent) of students who attend part-time, Zatynski points out.
Can graduates get a job after they graduate? Do low-income or minority students perform at the same levels as their peers? Job attainment and equitable outcomes are some of the indicators considered for the Aspen Prize in Community College Excellence, which seeks to highlight stellar two-year institutions that are outpacing their counterparts across the nation.
But how, then, to appropriately identify poor-performing programs? The American Association of Community Colleges has taken a step toward this by instituting a Voluntary Framework of Accountability, which asks colleges to publicly report student progress and outcomes measures. So far, 72 community colleges have signed on, but that’s just 6 percent of the nation’s total.
Of course, for most community college students the key factor is location, location, location, Zatynski concludes.
I’d add that looking at success rates for the average student doesn’t tell much about whether any individual will succeed or fail. Motivated, hard-working and college-ready students will beat the averages.
Concerned about low graduation rates at community colleges, a growing number of states are experimenting with performance-based funding models, writes Richard Kazis on the Jobs for the Future blog.
Dubbed “Performance Funding 2.0” because they are trying to improve upon the limited success of higher education performance funding models of earlier periods, these new models allocate some percentage of state support on the basis of institutions’ progress on improving student retention, progression, or completion of credentials, not just on enrollment levels.
However, it’s not clear “whether performance-based funding can move the needle on student completion.”
When community college students drop out, they lose future earnings and taxpayers lose their investment in the heavily subsidized system, write Mark Schneider and Lu Michelle Yin in a Los Angeles Times commentary. Raising graduation rates would raise graduates’ earnings and income tax revenues. But how?
One important step to reducing the number of dropouts would be to streamline remediation programs so that students can more quickly get to a level where the classes they take earn them college credits.
Expanding online courses would let instructors reach more students, allow courses to start “any day of any week and any week of the year” and lower costs, they add.
Another way to reduce the number of dropouts would be to replace a system that awards degrees based on “seat time” with a system that rewards subject mastery. This would allow students to move at their own pace through a course of study, progressing from one concept to the next after passing assessment tests. Competency-based models would allow for the certification of prior learning, speeding time to graduation.
Finally, community colleges should learn from for-profit institutions, which are “leading the way in developing innovative online learning platforms and redefining an approach to curriculum development and faculty training to encourage uniformity in instruction across multiple sites and instructors,” Schneider and Yin writes. Graduation rates at two-year for-profit institutions are almost three times higher than at community colleges.
For-profits aren’t a model, responds Daniel LaVista, chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District, who complains that for-profit colleges charge much more than community colleges, burdening students with debt. (Of course. For-profit colleges are funded entirely by tuition, while community colleges are funded primarily by taxpayers.)
But LaVista doesn’t offer an opinion on whether community colleges could learn anything useful from for-profit colleges’ approach to online learning, curriculum development or faculty training and compensation.
Career colleges place students in the courses needed to reach their goals with no waiting and no wandering through electives. Many, many more students earn a certificate or associate degree. Nothing to learn or even discuss?
Federal civil rights investigators are expanding their reach, reports Education Week. For the first time, the Office of Civil Rights is looking at a community college with low graduation rates as a possible violation of students’ rights.
In the 21 months since U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stood on an iconic bridge in Selma, Ala., and pledged to aggressively combat discrimination in the nation’s schools, federal education officials have launched dozens of new probes in school districts and states that reach into civil rights issues that previously received little, if any, scrutiny.
In addition to the community college inquiry, 14 OCR reviews look at “whether students have equal access to college-preparatory curricula, advanced courses, and other advanced-learning opportunities.”