First Generation Student, a new web site, provides sensible advice for students who will be the first in their families to go to college. Jaimie Krause writes about developing academic resiliency. In another post, Mark Kantrowitz offers financial aid tips, starting with finding a mentor.
It’s also important to connect with other students on sites such as First Generation Student and I’m First, writes Kantrowitz. For example, Garret Juliano, who’s studying business and accounting at Western Piedmont Community College in North Carolina, can serve as a role model.
However, Kantrowitz warns first-generation students to start at a four-year college or university if their goal is a bachelor’s degree.
A community college program is an inexpensive way to obtain a certificate or an associate degree. However, if your goal is to obtain a bachelor’s degree, taking a detour through a community college to save money may mean that you never reach your destination. Half of first-generation students who begin their higher education at a four-year college intending to obtain a bachelor’s degree earn that degree within six years of enrollment, compared with a quarter of those who start their studies at a community college.
Parents who aren’t college educated have trouble understanding how much college will cost, write Susan Dynarski Judith Scott-Clayton in The Future of Children.
Calculating the net price of college for a given family requires understanding their finances as well as the rules of the Pell Grant, student loans, the tuition tax credits, state grant programs, and aid offered by individual colleges.
Students “are quite poor at estimating net prices,” they write. Some don’t apply for financial aid because they don’t realize they’re eligible.
Colleges and universities awarded 5.1 percent more degrees in 2011-12, despite a 1.6 percent dip in enrollment, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Community colleges lost 250,000 students, but granted 8 percent more associate degrees. The number of bachelor’s degrees rose by 4.3 percent.
Community colleges and other broad-access institutions are under pressure to graduate more students while cutting costs, write Community College Research Center researchers Davis Jenkins and Olga Rodríguez in Access and Success with Less: Improving Productivity in Broad-Access Postsecondary Institutions. But completion-boosting strategies may not be cost effective and the most commonly used cost-cutting strategies, such as hiring adjuncts and raising class sizes, may raise the cost per completion.
Some believe that redesigning courses to make use of instructional technologies will lead to better outcomes at lower cost, although the evidence is mixed. Recently, a growing number of institutions are going beyond redesigning courses and instead changing the way they organize programs and supports along the student’s “pathway” through college. These efforts are promising, but their effects on cost per completion are not yet certain. Meager funding has so far hampered efforts by policy makers to fund colleges based on outcomes rather than how many students they enroll, but some states are beginning to increase the share of appropriations tied to outcomes.
The push to lower the cost per graduate could provide incentives to lower academic standards, warn Jenkins and Rodríguez. They urge colleges and universities to “redouble efforts to define learning outcomes and measure student mastery.”
Community college leaders are trying to double the number of graduates by 2020 to meet President Obama’s targets. It’s not easy, writes Stacy Collett in Community College Journal.
For administrators at Harper College in Illinois, 10,604 is the magic number—it’s the college’s share of the 5 million additional community college graduates President Obama challenged the nation’s two-year career and technical institutions to contribute to the economy by 2020. (That’s in addition to the college’s current trajectory of 21,000 credentialed students by 2020.)
Harper started by reaching out to students who were a few credits short of an associate degree. Some already had earned those credits at other institutions; others just needed a few classes. Now that the low-hanging fruit has been picked, raising the number of graduates will get harder.
“Many people working in community colleges still do not understand how abysmal our graduation rates or our student retention rates or course completion rates are,” says Angela Oriano, associate director at the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) at the University of Texas at Austin.
Completion rates are up 125 percent at Snead State Community College (SSCC) in Alabama since it started a campaign encouraging students to “finish what you start.” The college redesigned orientation, eliminated unneeded requirements, such as speech and computer training, and even dropped a $15″cap and gown” fee.
When Cindy Miles became chancellor at California’s Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District (GCCCD) in 2009, a dismal 3 percent of the 4,000 freshmen who entered the college in 2006 had earned a degree, yet 1,900 had successfully transferred to a four-year university by 2009.
“High numbers of transfer students who come to us don’t care if they get that degree,” Miles explains. “We’re trying to ascertain what the student’s version of success is, and we’re now trying to show value in the associate degree before they transfer.”
Four-year graduation rates are much higher for students who transfer with an associate degree.
The Roadmap Project at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in Pennsylvania helps students plan their college career and understand all the support services available. The first-year experience initiative includes mandatory orientation and success seminars, help from a success coach and access to walk-in “math cafés” staffed by faculty volunteers.
Tracking students through college and into the workforce is an idea whose time has come back, reports Inside Higher Ed. The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act revives a controversial idea opposed by privacy advocates and adds a federal “unit record” database administered by the Education Department.
Colleges would make information public about students’ salaries by major and program; graduation and remediation rates; success rates for students who receive a Pell Grant or veterans’ benefits; and other benchmarks not currently collected in such detail.
. . . A unit record database has long been the holy grail for many policy makers, who argue that collecting data at the federal level is the only way to get an accurate view of postsecondary education. But privacy advocates, private colleges and Congressional Republicans, all of whom oppose the creation of such a database, teamed up in opposition the last time the idea was proposed, by the Bush administration in 2005. Then, the opponents succeeded; the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act included a provision specifically forbidding the creation of a federal unit record data system.
Nearly every advocacy group, think tank, committee and panel has called for a federal unit record system, reports Inside Higher Ed. States are developing databases to track their own students, but the federal government’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System still ignores part-time students and counts many transfers as dropouts. As more young people “swirl” from one campus to another and yet another, IPEDS data is increasingly inadequate for policymakers.
Privacy is a phony issue, writes Reihan Salam on National Review. It’s easy to make the data anonymous. Students and their parents really do have a right to know the odds of success before they write the first tuition check, writes Salam. Reliable data on student outcomes would threaten colleges and universities that offer a substandard education and leave students in debt and without marketable skills.
Hispanic high school graduates are now more likely than whites to enroll in college, the Pew Research Hispanic Center reports. In the class of 2012, 69 percent of Hispanic graduates and 67 percent of whites enrolled in college that fall.
Latinos are less likely to complete a high school diploma, but that’s improving too, reports Pew. In 2000, 28 percent of Hispanics 16 to 24 years old were high school dropouts, according to federal data. That fell to 14 percent by 2011. The Hispanic graduation rate rose to 78 percent in 2010, up from 64 percent ten years earlier, other research shows.
College graduation rates are lower for young Hispanics, however. Only 56 percent start at a four-year college, compared to 72 percent of whites. Hispanics are less likely to attend a selective college and more likely to enroll in community college. They’re also less likely to be full-time students.
Poor job prospects may be persuading more Hispanics to stay in school, Pew speculates. Since the onset of the recession at the end of 2007, unemployment among Latinos ages 16 to 24 has gone up by seven percentage points, compared with a five percentage point rise among white youths.
Latino families strongly value a college education. In a 2009 Pew Hispanic Center survey, 88 percent of Latinos ages 16 and older agreed that a college degree is necessary to get ahead in life today compared to 74 percent of the general population.
Stephanie Stewart, an honors student at Borough of Manhattan Community College, was pregnant and due to deliver before the end of spring semester last year. Her professor said she wouldn’t be able to make up tests or assignments missed due to medical appointments or labor and delivery. A dean advised her to drop the class.
Stewart was taking a women’s studies class, notes Slate. After her son was born, she discovered that Title IX requires schools to let pregnant students reschedule exams. With the help of the National Women’s Law Center, she sued the City University of New York system for pregnancy discrimination and won. CUNY agreed to reinstate her scholarship, reimburse her for the make-up class and adopt a policy on the rights of pregnant students and parents.
Stewart will graduate this spring and enroll in New York University in the fall.
A blogger called The Feminist Breeder has spread awareness of pregnancy discrimination, says Lara Kaufmann, NWLC’s senior counsel and director of education policy for at-risk students.
About 15 percent of CUNY students are parents and 58.4 are women. Nationwide, women who have children after enrolling in community college are much less likely to graduate than female students who don’t become pregnant.
Federal aid is subsidizing colleges with low graduation, loan repayment and employment rates, writes Judah Bellon on Minding the Campus. Instead of singling out for-profit higher education, regulators should scrutinize the outcomes of all colleges and universities that rely on federal loans and grants.
For-profit colleges enroll more black, Hispanic, low-income and older students than public and nonprofit institutions. Their no-frills programs attract working students who need a flexible schedule, writes Bellon. Technical training is the strong suit of for-profit colleges, which adjust quickly to employer demand. For-profit students are more likely to complete certificates and associate degrees than community college students.
However, for-profit students are much less likely to complete four-year degrees and much more likely to default on student loans. That inspired the U.S. Department of Education’s attempt to enforce “gainful employment” rules limiting aid to programs whose graduates don’t earn enough to pay back their loans.
Regulate the bad applies, writes Bellon. But don’t single out for-profit higher education. If students are failing to graduate for jobs or unable to pay back their loans, it doesn’t matter if they attended a for-profit, private nonprofit or public institution.
Community colleges are developing programs to recruit and retain black men, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. At the American Association of Community Colleges meeting in San Francisco, Marilyn Riley described Mesa Community College‘s summer program for high school students.
To help familiarize students with support services like advising and tutoring, groups of students are sent off with a list of a half-dozen offices with instructions to interview someone there and report back to the class.
. . . Students take two required courses during the summer, each of which earns them three college credits. One covers basic college-success skills, like time management and study techniques.
About half the participants end up enrolling at the Arizona community college.
“African-American Pride and Awareness” tries to persuade black males they belong on campus and “can control their own destiny,” said Karen Hardin, chair of the counseling department. Successful graduates are recruited as peer mentors.
LaTonya Jones, a student adviser at Houston Community College, described its community-service and bonding activities for black men. On Chivalry Day, Men of Honor participants tutor local schoolchildren, wear their club shirts and ties and pass out carnations to women. Jones is working on a plan to gear college classes to the needs of black men.
An economics class, for instance, might cover financial planning for black men, while a history or English class would encompass black history and literature.
“If we can get them through the core,” she said, “they’ll graduate.”
Black men often lack the confidence to speak up in class, said San Diego State Professor J. Luke Wood, who runs the Minority Male Community College Collaborative. In addition, “a lot of men are reluctant to ask for help because it makes them look weak,” he said.
AACC lists 77 minority-male success programs on its Web site, but Wood estimates there are 70 more.
Community college officials were urged to commit to “beta-testing” the Voluntary Framework of Accountability at the American Association of Community Colleges meeting in San Francisco. The new measure will be introduced in November. The federal data system tracks only full-time students, who make up a fraction of community college students. The AACC, the Association of Community College Trustees and the College Board are designing the VFA to satisfy demands for accountability and give colleges the information they need to improve, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The VFA aims to measure students’ progress not only in terms of who gets a degree, but, for example, if they pass out of developmental courses, how quickly they earn academic credit, and if they transfer to another institution. Beyond credit-bearing academic programs, the tool will track such data as students’ pass rates for licensure examinations and the employment rates among those who enrolled in adult basic education.
“If you’re going to measure us, measure us by what we do,” said Sandra L. Kurtinitis, president of the Community College of Baltimore County, which plans to start using the tool in the fall. Sinclair Community College also intends to sign on, said Laura Mercer, director of research, analytics, and reporting at the Ohio institution.
About 80 colleges are testing the VFA. Pennsylvania adopted it last year to assess its 14 community colleges, and other states may follow suit. But some college officials worry about the cost of collecting data — or what the numbers may show.
For now, the development of the VFA has focused on student progress and outcomes. Its two other components, tracking community colleges’ performance on “work-force, economic, and community development” and on “student-learning outcomes,” are in their early stages. Collecting state wage data and defining learning outcomes have proved difficult, presenters at the meeting said.
The VFA will track the progress of all students in credit-bearing courses, not just those who are seeking a degree, said Karen A. Stout, president of Montgomery County Community College, in Pennsylvania, and co-chair of an AACC accountability team. That may depress completion rates, she conceded.