A dozen Fortune 500 companies are teaching business skills to their workers, writes Christopher Connell in the Hechinger Report. Often employees can earn college credits as well as promotions, starting them on the path to a degree.
Mark Allen, a Pepperdine University business professor and author of “The Next Generation of Corporate Universities,” likens it to the kind of efficient, just-in-time logistics that keep costly inventories low until they’re needed. It’s also a reflection of companies’ impatience with the pace at which conventional higher education adapts to workplace needs.
“What companies like is just-in-time learning that gives somebody a skill they need at the time they need it,” Allen says. “What traditional universities do to a large extent is just-in-case learning.”
Starbucks workers earn credits from City University of Seattle for “Barista Basics” and “Barista 101” and higher-level management courses.
Jiffy Lube University teaches the company’s standards and culture to franchisees. The University of Farmers also imparts corporate values and culture to Farmers Insurance Company’s agents.
McDonald’s sends 5,000 managers and prospective managers each year to the chain’s Hamburger University for a week of business training.
“Selling hamburgers is what we do. But it’s the business philosophy and leadership that creates success,” says Shelly Hicks, who first came through Hamburger University’s doors when she was a restaurant manager in Nashville and now is one of the 16 “professors” at Oak Brook (Illinois).
McDonald’s store managers can earn up to 23 credits toward associate’s or bachelor’s degrees for the courses they take at Hamburger U, and higher-ups can earn as many as 27 credits; Hicks used hers toward a business degree and went on to get a master’s degree in adult education that helps her in her training role.
Indiana’s Ivy Tech Community College counts 18 McDonald’s training credits toward associate’s degrees. Some Hamburger U students get their transcripts approved by the American Council on Education so they can use the credits toward degrees at accredited universities.
Spring break is a time for community service for a growing number of college students, reports the Indianapolis Star. Even community college students are getting into the act.
During a trip last year to Guatemala to build a daycare, Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington students visited families living in one-room shacks with mud floors and no running water. Malnourished children didn’t have shoes and drank from the same river they used as a toilet, remembered Chelsea Rood-Emmick, the campus’s executive director of civic engagement.
When the group left the families, a student broke down into tears.
“You have students who knew that this would be poverty but didn’t realize how real it was going to be,” Rood-Emmick said.
Ivy Tech will return to Guatemala this year to help local farmers build a middle school.
More remedial students are passing college-level math since Indiana’s Ivy Tech went to the “concurrent” model: Students enroll in a remedial math lab or workshop and a college-level math class. In one workshop, students stack wooden blocks to visualize math concepts, reports the Star Press.
MUNCIE — Paul Jones, a 39-year-old gas station clerk, stacked square, wooden alphabet blocks in his remedial math class at Ivy Tech Community College on Thursday afternoon.
. . . The vast majority of students entering Ivy Tech are adults who hold a job. And 70 percent of them test into one of the remedial math classes, such as “Math 080, Mathematic Principles with Algebra,” a non-credit course.
“Anything to bring them down off the edge,” associate professor Rob Jeffs said of his props, which also include soup cans. . . . “The problem is when you get into the abstract. We are starting out at an intuitive level and trying to build on it. If I’d have put ‘y = mx + b’ on the board, I’d have lost half of them to start with.”
Both math classes use the same textbook, so students save money as well as time.
Ronald Sloan, vice chancellor for academic affairs for Ivy Tech’s East Central Region, calls the concurrent model “the first little light I’ve seen since I’ve been in this business (more than 30 years).”
Ivy Tech launched the new model, which it borrowed from Austin Peay State University and from the Community College of Baltimore County, last semester. The model is also being used by Ivy Tech for remedial English students.
In the past, about half of remedial math students would pass. Some wouldn’t sign up for Math 118, the entry-level for-credit class. Of those who did, only half passed. That meant only 15 to 20 percent of remedial math students made it through college-level math. “Now, it’s almost 60 percent,” said Sloan. “That’s big.”
In the old model, students would forget math skills from one semester to the next, Sloan said.
In the concurrent model, students in the remedial class take the 118 course together, so they know each other and can help each other. Or they can turn for help to non-remedial students in the course.
Community colleges are known for low tuition — and low prestige. A new company called Quad Learning is teaming with community colleges to offer an online honors curriculum, reports Inside Higher Ed. Investors hope students will pay more for an honors degree.
Students enrolled in the program — which is delivered in an online, synchronous format, but with extracurricular and other face time — pay more than they would to enroll in the traditional academic programs at their institutions, but significantly less than they would at most public and private four-year alternatives.
Next year, students will compete for 160 slots in Spokane’s program, paying $5,985 for the year, compared to the normal $3,921 tuition for in-state students.
Colleges will use the extra tuition to pay Quad Learning for its technology and coaching services.
For those extra dollars, students have much smaller classes, significantly more interaction with academic coaches from their colleges and from American Honors, and much more help in college guidance to help them prepare to transfer once they’re done, said Lisa Avery, dean of American Honors and global education at Community Colleges of Spokane.
Community college instructors in the American Honors network will collaborate on curriculum development and set common learning outcomes. However, each college will be able to adapt learning materials and assign its own faculty members to teach the honors courses. Honors graduates will find it easier to transfer to top universities, predicts Quad Learning.
When a college athlete fails or drops a class, there’s a quick, easy, low-cost way to stay eligible, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education in Need 3 Quick Credits to Play Ball? Call Western Oklahoma. The community college offers two-week, three-credit online courses for $387 and “mails out transcripts the day after classes end, allowing players to get back on the field with minimal disruption.”
Nearly half of students in the quickie classes play college sports, the college estimates.
Lately, Western Oklahoma credits have appeared on the transcripts of one of the most highly recruited quarterbacks in the country, basketball players from numerous NCAA tournament teams, and athletes in at least 11 NCAA Division I conferences.
It’s not just the speedy credit that appeals to many players. According to dozens of academic advisers, athletes, and coaches, Western Oklahoma offers some of the easiest classes around. One Division I football player who reads at a fifth-grade level completed a three-credit health class in three sittings, his academic counselor says. Other students struggling to stay above a 2.0 on their own campus have landed A’s and B’s from Western Oklahoma—all in the academic blink of an eye.
Eric C. Liles Jr., a senior linebacker at Dakota State University, “aced” sociology by looking at videos and slides. He never bought the textbook. “In other classes, students who don’t pass an exam the first time are allowed to try again. And none of the exams in the two-week format are monitored.”
In one course, an instructor taught students to use Microsoft Excel by asking them to enter a number on a spreadsheet. Students also learned to create a slide in PowerPoint.
Nutrition is a popular course for athletes. One assignment asks students to “briefly explain why Americans are so obese, and why they themselves do or don’t take vitamins.”
Western Oklahoma State collects more than $2 million a year from online courses.
More than a dozen online programs help athletes meet NCAA eligibility rules, reports the Chronicle.
Ivy Tech Community College, in Indiana, offers 350 online courses to more than 32,000 online students. Brandon Walker, a junior at Franklin College of Indiana, took “E-School” geometry to qualify for freshman football.
”You really didn’t have to read any information or understand what you were doing. You could just keep clicking to the end and take the quiz. Then, if you didn’t get a 75, they would refresh it for you… and make you retake it. Before you retook the quiz, they would give you the answers to every question you missed. Then they would automatically restart the exam, with the same questions and same exact answers. If I got a 60 on some, which I did, it would never show up. Only the ones above 75 got submitted.
“I couldn’t believe it—all the answers were already there for me.”
A few “developmental” online classes provided answers to quiz questions “as a teaching tool,” Ivy Tech officials told the Chronicle. Those courses are no longer offered.
“How to Achieve the American Dream Without a Mountain of Debt” is the subtitle of Thomas J. Snyder’s The Community College Career Track, a guide for high school students and their parents, career changes and displaced workers.
Snyder, president of Indiana’s Ivy Tech Community College system and a former CEO, tells prospective students why they should consider a low-cost community college, how to get scholarships, grants and aid and the pros and cons of online courses. He explains how to prepare for college work, ace the placement test and chart a path to a “great” career by earning a one-year professional certificate, associate degree or bachelor’s degree.
“Everyone should consider a science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), or health care related career,” Snyder writes. Learn math, then do the math: High-tech manufacturing, biotechnology, health care, information technology and energy are growing fields that pay a premium for technical skills.
Snyder also has advice for students who want to use community college as a “smart start” to a bachelor’s degree.
Also new is First in the World: Community Colleges and America’s Future by J. Noah Brown, president and CEO of the American Association of Community College Trustees. Despite increasing visibility in recent years, community colleges remain “woefully underfunded and undervalued,” writes Brown.
Investing in community colleges has been a big part of American prosperity since the end of World War II. Regaining our position of global leadership by increasing educational attainment rates is the way out of our current economic malaise.
Increasingly, community college students drop in and out and back in again, confusing measures of success or accountability schemes, he writes. College leaders must find ways to benchmark student progress to show how well colleges are meeting their multiple academic and vocational goals.
A high school diploma isn’t enough to qualify for a decent job, but that doesn’t mean everyone needs a bachelor’s degree to earn a living, writes Thomas Snyder, president of Indiana’s Ivy Tech Community College. Students need to know there’s a third track to job opportunities: Earn a vocational certificate or associate degree at a low-cost community college.
In 2010-11, entry-level workers with an associate degree earned more than those with a recent bachelor’s degree in 38 of 92 Indiana counties, he writes. (That’s because associate degrees in nursing and other health fields pay quite well immediately.)
Community colleges, affordable and open to all, offer “our best chance of improving the skills of a critical mass of U.S. workers,” Snyder writes. Young people need to understand their full range of options.
A more diverse population will see higher education as within their reach. More employment candidates will emerge, leading to greater economic growth. Our economy will benefit further from lower levels of student debt and higher earnings. Best of all, we will give middle class families hope for a brighter future even when the four-year residential college experience is impractical or out of their reach.
“Two-track vision” isn’t enough to close the skills gap, Snyder concludes.
Controlling college costs was the topic of congressional hearings last week, reports Community College Times.
At Keeping College Within Reach, a House Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee hearing, college leaders discussed performance-based funding, accelerated credential completion, “prior learning” credits and streamlining transfers.
Federal higher education funding increased 155 percent over the last decade, yet students are paying more, said House Subcommittee Chair Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican. “If government subsidies aren’t producing more affordable education in the current system, we cannot keep writing bigger checks,” she said. “We need to look to states and postsecondary institutions for creative solutions.”
Joe May, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, said enrollment has increased by 55 percent over the last five years while state support has dropped by 37 percent.
By merging colleges, nixing redundant courses, aligning programs with market demands, consolidating information technology systems and sharing operations such as payroll and auditing services, the system is saving about $30 million annually, according to May’s written testimony.
. . . When Louisiana examined its transfer process, it founds that students who earned an associate degree were losing 21-24 semester credit hours in the transfer. Today, students who earn an associate degree at any Louisiana community college can easily transfer to Louisiana State University or any of the state’s 14 universities as a junior, May said.
. . . On average, students save $2,117, while the state saves $1,930 per transfer student, May said. In addition, transfer students with an associate degree also use about $2,750 less in federal Pell Grants because it costs them less to earn their baccalaureate.
“Credit-hour creep” — requiring more than 60 credits for an associate degree — was dialed back for all but a few degrees. Students saved time and money — an average of $1,100 — and the state saved $792 per student.
Students who move slowly to a degree usually give up along the way, said Stan Jones, president of Complete College America. Jones also called for collecting data on part-time students, adult students and Pell recipients to determine what would help those students earn credentials.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing, Making College Affordability a Priority, included testimony by Thomas Snyder, president of the Ivy Tech Community College system in Indiana, and Jim Murdaugh, president of Tallahassee Community College in Florida.
Raising tuition every year is not a “sustainable business model,” said Snyder, a former auto industry executive. Ivy Tech has streamlined textbook sales, registration, financial aid and procurement to save time and money, he said.
Ivy Tech’s Associate Accelerated Program (ASAP) lets low-income students earn a transferable degree in one year instead of two. By creating a learning community and including “significant wraparound services,” ASAP has raised completion rates to 75 percent, three times the national average for community college students.
Speeding students to a certificate or degree saves money, said Murdaugh. Tallahassee, which did not raise tuition this year, also requires underprepared students to take a college success course.
Some manufacturers have started their own training programs, reports AP. Some 600,000 jobs are going unfilled nationwide, according to a survey of 1,123 manufacturing executives released last year. Tool and die workers, welders, robot technicians, mechanics and sheet metal workers are in short supply.
In Indiana, AAR is having trouble filling well-paying jobs, despite a 7.9 percent unemployment rate.
“There are just not enough qualified people out there. So what we’re trying to do is grow them ourselves,” said Timothy Skelly, AAR Corp.’s vice president and chief human resources officer.
. . . AAR brings in utility workers at a lower wage and starts them on an 18-month program where they do general labor that doesn’t require a license. Eventually, they move into a program that allows them to try to learn a skill and are assigned a mentor. They’re given more complicated tasks and are tested every six months to make sure they are progressing.
For example, Harper College, a community college in Illinois, last month launched a program where students can earn industry-endorsed certificates in manufacturing. And 54 companies have agreed to hire students from the two-year college as paid interns, as soon as students complete the first level certificate, which, at 16 credits, can be earned in less than four months.
Frustrated with the education system, the Manufacturing Institute created its manufacturing skills certificates with four tiers of competency. Each level of skills serves as a foundation for the next level, making the certifications “stackable.”
The institute’s stackable credentials are designed to match up with curriculums at colleges (as well as high schools at the entry level). And in recent months the industry has signed up higher education partners to strengthen those curricular links.
The for-profit University of Phoenix has created a bachelor of science in management with a concentration in manufacturing that incorporates competencies from the industry’s credential system. Phoenix is working with other industries to create similar degrees.
Rebuilding America’s Middle Class, a coalition of community colleges, met in Indianapolis last week to discuss workforce development policies, affordability and removing regulatory barriers to training community college students for jobs.
“We face a defining moment for America’s future – one that will determine just how committed we are to providing everyone a shot at the American Dream and the middle class,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges and founding member of RAMC.
America’s community colleges provide a pathway to the middle class at a much lower cost than their four-year counterparts, the coalition points out. Students can complete a professional certificate in one to two semesters for $1,500 to $4,000 or a two-year degree for $7,000 to $8,000. An associate degree in nursing, with training time in a clinical setting, averages $10,000. That’s less than half what students pay at state universities.
In a keynote speech, Lumina’s Jamie Merisotis reaffirmed the foundation’s commitment to its “big goal” of raising the number of Americans with high-value college credentials and degrees from 40 percent now to 60 percent by 2025.
Community colleges . . . can be the exemplars for change in the system as a whole. And change is certainly needed.
Without question, this nation needs a more productive higher-ed system—one that enables institutions to meet each student where he or she is and provide the support each student needs to succeed. We need a system that ensures quality by fostering genuine learning, not mere program completion … a system that truly prepares students for work—and for life—in an increasingly global society.
Such a system would allow students to accumulate credits from different institutions over several years to earn a degree, minimizing waste and duplicative learning. It would acknowledge and credit prior learning—skills developed through work or military service and which often reflect a student’s abilities as well as or even better than earning classroom credit. It would also be far more focused on the needs of students and less on the needs of higher education institutions.
And it’s critically important that the system be designed to serve today’s students—the ever-growing number of low-income, first-generation, minority and adult students who constitute the “real world” on campuses and in classrooms these days. To reach the Big Goal, America needs all types of students to succeed, and they must succeed in far greater numbers. That means we need a student-centered system—one that is flexible, accessible, accountable and committed to quality.