New college students will enter a structured program, reports Community College Times. Even high school students in dual enrollment programs will be encouraged to enroll tuition-free in a pathway that leads to a technical or bachelor’s degree.
The system also used research and analysis to identify and address “momentum loss points”—points where students become bogged down and too often pulled off course in their goals toward completion. In community colleges, that usually happens in a student’s first semester or first academic year, particularly in developmental education programs.
“We found too many students entering developmental education without exiting, which is why we have completely redesigned our efforts in North Carolina,” Ralls said.
The colleges tapped expert math and English faculty members across the state to re-engineer curriculum to shorten the length of courses and to develop modules to let students get the courses they need.
The state system also worked with high schools to align career and college readiness testing. Now students will know early whether they’re on track to take college-level community college classes.
Eighty technical programs in in transportation, energy, manufacturing, environment and construction now offer “stackable” credentials. A student can earn a certificate, leave college for the workforce and return later to add an advanced credential.
Success doesn’t always mean a degree or certificate for community college students. “Skill builders” who complete a few vocational courses can raise their earnings by as much as 15 percent, concludes The Missing Piece. The LearningWorks brief is based on a study by Peter Riley Bahr, a University of Michigan associate professor.
California community college students raised their pay by passing one to three courses in water and wastewater technology, criminal justice, electronics, information technology or manufacturing, the study found.
One in seven first-time California community college students enroll in six or fewer credits per semester. Most do well in their courses, but they don’t earn a credential or transfer. These students are considered failures. But some are skill builders who have other goals, such as earning an industry certification or state license, moving to full-time work and raising their pay.
As more states seek to link funding to student outcomes, colleges need ways to evaluate skill builders’ gains, Bahr concludes. Success can’t be measured solely by certificates and degrees.
Massachusetts is betting that funding community colleges based on performance will close the job skills gap, reports Governing. Most states with performance funding link less than 10 percent of higher education to results. Massachusetts will tie half of its community college funds to results. Only Tennessee goes that far.
Massachusetts also increased its community college funding by $20 million after years of cutbacks. It dropped a funding formula that gave some campuses nearly $6,000 per full-time student while others received only $2,500.
In addition to Massachusetts and Tennessee, 11 states have added performance criteria to community college (and sometimes university) budgets. Four other states are moving in that direction.
Demands for accountability are rising, says Richard Kazis, vice president of Jobs for the Future, which promotes workforce development. “There’s a sense that we shouldn’t just fund institutions for getting people to sit in seats briefly; we should fund them for succeeding and moving people forward. How do you make the most out of each dollar?”
Massachusetts will tie funding to each community college’s ability to improve graduation rates, contribute to the state’s workforce needs and help more minority students succeed. Within three years, half of each college’s funding will hinge on these benchmarks. The other half will be determined by course credits completed.
Community college presidents accepted performance funding “as the price of getting a rational funding formula,” says Bill Messner, president of Holyoke Community College.
South Carolina jumped to 100 percent performance funding for colleges and universities in 1996. The system used dozen of metrics.
“They built a system they couldn’t deliver,” says Kazis of Jobs for the Future. The funding formula was never embraced by university faculty and administrators, who were not included in the process of designing it. Administrators who tried to implement the program were overloaded with unfamiliar demands. After seven years, the program was abandoned.
Massachusetts and Tennessee going slow and collaborating with the higher education community, notes Governing.
To prevent colleges from boost success rates by limiting access, both states award points for outcomes achieved by low-income, adult or minority students.
During the first two years of the new performance funding system, all but one of Tennessee’s 13 community colleges increased the number of associate degrees awarded to low-income students. At the state’s nine universities, all succeeded in increasing the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to low-income students.
Rewarding enrollment growth and ignoring results sends the wrong message, says Richard Freeland, higher education commissioner in Massachusetts. “It leads to too many students coming in the door and dropping by the wayside.”
Most employers say college graduates aren’t prepared for work, reports Bridge That Gap: Analyzing the Student Skill Index, a Chegg survey. Half of college students said they felt very or completely prepared for work in their field of study. Thirty-nine percent of employers said recent graduates they’d interviewed were well-prepared.
Students overvalue their mastery of “business basics,” according to employers, notes Inside Higher Ed.
Those include “creating a budget or financial goal” and “writing to communicate ideas or explain information clearly” (each show a 22 percentage-point gap), and “organization” (25 percentage points). In the widest gap, at 27 percentage points, 77 percent of students but only half of hiring managers reported preparation for “prioritizing work.”
Students fared the best at “making a decision without having all the facts.” About 47 percent of students said they were prepared to do that, and 37 percent of hiring managers said the same of recent graduates.
More than 90 percent of hiring managers are looking for graduates who’ve shown initiative and leadership. They also look for extracurriculars, internships and work related to applicants’ field of study. Only a third of college graduates have spent time gaining experience in their field.
Chegg also looked at “Office Street Smarts” by asking five questions:
1. Can graduates make a persuasive argument to convince others to adopt their ideas?
2. Can they write to encourage action or make a specific request?
3. Were they able to communicate with authority figures and clients?
4. Can they collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds?
5. Can they complete a project as part of a team?
Again, students “have an over-inflated sense” of their communications and collaboration skills.
STEM graduates were “slightly better prepared” to explain information and solve problems through experimentation, employers said.
Higher education and job training won’t revive the economy, write Arthur M. Cohen, Carrie B. Kisker and Florence B. Brawer in The Chronicle of Higher Education. We’re not facing a shortage of skilled workers. We’ve got a shortage of skilled jobs.
The article is adapted from the new edition of their book, The American Community College.
Full-time employment declined by 5.7 million from November 2007 to November 2011, they write. That doesn’t include people who gave up looking for a new job.
Sixty percent of jobs lost during the recession paid mid-level wages up to $21.13 per hour. Only 22 percent of “recovery” jobs pay as much. Some 58 percent of new jobs pay $7.69 to $13.83 per hour. In addition, there are more temporary workers than ever before.
Productivity gains in other countries are linked to apprenticeships and short-term technical and vocational training, not to additional years of schooling, they write.
The U.S. has few corporate-training and apprenticeship programs. That “creates a niche business opportunity for postsecondary institutions—community colleges and for-profit enterprises, especially—to provide worker training and curricula to upgrade skills.”
The completion agenda — 55 percent of Americans with college degrees by 2025 — boosts enrollments at community colleges and for-profit institutions, they write. “Businesses gain skilled workers at little or no cost.” But do workers really these these certificates and degrees?
The Current Population Survey administered by the U.S. Census Bureau classifies more than 60 percent of all jobs as postsecondary, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports half as many: 31 percent. This wide discrepancy is because the CPS tallies the education levels of people who are currently working in various jobs, whereas the BLS statistics reflect the entry-level education requirements for those jobs (a classification that seems to change from year to year). Thus, the job held by a college-educated barista would be classified as postsecondary by the CPS but not by the BLS.
. . . The Economic Policy Institute’s review of job data shows that 52 percent of employed college graduates under the age of 24 are working in jobs that don’t require college degrees. Put another way, of the 21 million workers earning less than $10.01 per hour, 3.57 million hold college degrees and an additional 5.46 million have some college.
Higher education has many benefits, the authors write. “The individual learns to reason scientifically and think critically and gains a sense of historical perspective, an appreciation for aesthetics and cultural diversity, and access to training for the professions that require credentials.”
But it’s a myth that “all jobs will require higher education” by 2018, as an ad on the rear of Los Angeles buses now proclaims. “The sponsor? A local nonprofit group promoting its chain of preschools.”
Nineteen percent of U.S. workers say they’re overeducated for their jobs, notes Jordan Weissmann in The Atlantic. That’s below the average in developed countries, according to an OECD report. In Japan and the UK, 30 percent say they’re overeducated. Italy is the lowest at 13 percent.
However, the report concludes that “most workers who claim to be overqualified for their jobs are probably well suited for them” in terms of their literacy skills, Weissmann points out.
There’s “no money” in ranking community colleges, Washington Monthly editor Paul Glastris tells Amy Sullivan, director of the New Economy Project, in The Atlantic. The Monthly‘s community college guide is a first.
Most people go to the closest community college to them. And no one was holding those schools accountable. We thought that community colleges are damn near as important as four-year schools. There is just as much variation in community colleges as in regular colleges. If you look at most of them, though, they may have noble missions, but their graduation rates are not great.
The magazine analyzes the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, which tracks teaching practices.
. . . how often do students work in groups, how many books and papers are they assigned, how often do professors and students talk outside of class? We know from research that these practices are correlated with higher levels of learning.
Community college administrators don’t get much respect, says Glastris. “We desperately need a reputation and reward system that says to a community-college administrator: You’re taking care of working-class kids with moderate SAT scores, and that’s serving your country.”
Different community colleges succeed based on different strategies and different missions. Some of the schools at the top of our list are great at providing a sound education for students who are going to transfer to a four-year school. Cascadia College in Seattle is a classic example of this. Our No. 1 school this year, St. Paul College in Minnesota, has a different strategy. It used to be a vocational and technical college. The school increased its academic rigor without losing its technical focus; that combination really is the wave of the future.
We used to think of vocational education as purely mechanical—helping people learn how to fix a car. It also used to be a way to track minorities into low-paid jobs or jobs that were going to be off-shored. A lot of people turned against it for those reasons. But the new thinking is that if you combine technical training with an applied academic curriculum, then you create graduates with not only technical skills but also the ability to think through problems, work with colleagues—all of the skills that are required by the modern workplace.
The Monthly’s college rankings focus on whether colleges are “recruiting and graduating kids of modest means and having them become better citizens,” says Glastris. “We’ve factored in an outcome measure as well—the capacity of students to pay off student loans. We hope we’ve created an incentive system to produce affordable degrees that mean something in the marketplace.”
Texas community colleges are creating stackable credentials for oilfield workers, reports Inside Higher Ed. Oil and gas workers can qualify for an entry-level job, then return to college for more training.
Community colleges are working hard to keep up with petrochemical companies’ demand for workers. The jobs pay well, and many associate degree-holders earn $50,000 to $70,000 a year right out of college.
Students can start at one college, move to follow the jobs and enroll at a new college without losing credits.
Several community colleges have teamed up to create a central core of 36 credits toward a 60-credit associate degree aimed at oil and gas workers. Those courses, which include 15 credits’ worth of accreditor-mandated general education requirements and 21 credits of specialized soft and mechanical skills training, are designed to transfer around the state.
Each credential “stacks” on the one before. “Courses for shorter-term certificates count toward degrees,” notes Inside Higher Ed.
A “marketable skills achievement award,” which takes 9 to 14 credits, leads to an entry-level job.
Next up is a “level one” certificate, which usually takes a year to complete. For example, a basic certificate in process technology at Brazosport is 15 credits. Others can be more involved, with 18 or more credits.
Level two certificates follow. They tend to be somewhat-specialized 30-credit programs. Eventually students can wrap up 60-credit associate degrees in production or processing technology.
That’s not even the last step. Some community colleges have partnered with four-year institutions to create transitions to bachelor’s programs for oil and gas workers. Brazosport, for example, has a transfer agreement with the nearby University of Houston at Victoria for a bachelor’s in applied technology.
Large employers, such as Chevron and Dow Chemical, require an associate degree for new hires. But they’ll hire interns who are working on a degree for as much as $22 an hour.
Texas colleges plan to create stackable credentials for other fields, such as allied health careers and information technology.
North Carolina’s community colleges have created a “green jobs” pathway.
High-tech start-ups are retooling college instruction, writes venture capitalist Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, in The New Republic. We need to “make certification faster, cheaper and more effective too,” he writes.
. . . a diploma is essentially a communications device that signals a person’s readiness for certain jobs.
But unfortunately it’s a dumb, static communication device with roots in the 12th century.
We need to . . . turn it into a richer, updateable, more connected record of a person’s skills, expertise, and experience. And then we need to take that record and make it part of a fully networked certification platform.
There’s a lot more to college than earning a diploma, responds Michael Gibson, who works for the anti-college Thief Foundation, in Forbes. To lower the debt to party ratio, we need to consider “all the friendships formed at school, the esprit de campus, all the networks.” What about beer pong?
College consists of: the clock tower, the stadium, the frat/sorority house and the admissions office, Gibson writes.
Taken together this is like an awful cable TV package. To get HBO, you also need to pay high prices for all those unwatchable stations like the Hallmark Channel. The future of higher education will involve unbundling this package and offering cheaper, higher quality substitutes.
The clock tower represents the amount of time spent studying a subject.
Classes are measured in hours per week; exams are given in hour length chunks; and students need some requisite number of hours in any subject to signal mastery. It is remarkable that we still use the hour as a substitute measure for learning to this day.
. . . we are on the cusp of having the technology to unbundle and decentralize this piece of the college puzzle. Coursera, Udacity, and other massively open online courses are only getting started in their effort to demolish the clock tower and provide the customized certification Reid Hoffman describes. What the fireplace, another medieval invention, is to the cold, the clock tower is to learning: proximity used to matter. And now it doesn’t. Central heating is better.
The stadium represents the tribal experience, which is very important to alumni. The frat house represents the friendships that lead to future networking. The admissions office confers status. These will be harder to replace than the clock tower, writes Gibson.
In the near future, the residential college experience will become a luxury item, I predict. Most people will decide it makes more sense to hang out with their friends, play beer pong, root for a professional football team and earn a low-cost career credential.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, 35, probably will discourage his kids from going to college when they’re old enough, he said in a discussion sponsored by the New America Foundation. “Recent college grads… come in with no skills that are usable to us, with the exception of programmers,” he said.
Buzzfeed president Jon Steinberg agreed that a college degree represents “a lot of debt and not necessarily a skill set.” He added, “I don’t want my children to go to college unless they … desperately [want to be] scholars… Otherwise, I’d much prefer them to do an internship.”
Anne-Marie Slaughter, president of the foundation, said her son, a junior in high school, has “learned more from the [free educational site] Khan Academy, in many ways, than he has in class.” Today’s teens think they “can learn what I need to learn online,” said Slaughter. “That sense that, ‘If I don’t go to college between 18 and 22, I won’t make it,’ is really changing.”
Online learning may work for the children of the elite, but ”first-generation college students want to learn face to face, writes Stacia L. Brown in The Atlantic. She teaches at an ethnically diverse community college in Baltimore. Each day, her students choose to sit at desks facing her rather than computer tables.
Their desire to sit shoulder-to-shoulder, facing me, is essential. It means, whether they realize it or not, that their concept of college is driven by human interaction. The Internet, which many of them access nonstop through smartphones, is a secondary resource in our classroom. I, the live person, smiling encouragingly as they expound on a thought, am the first.
Thirty percent of first-year college students are the first in their families to go to college, writes Brown.
First-gen college students find it difficult to adjust to most post-secondary learning without dedicated mentorship. Low-income first gens are four times more likely to leave college after the first year than their multi-generation peers. And a study by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board noted that the state’s first-gen drop-out rate for those in face-to-face, on-campus classes was 18 percent, as opposed to 25 percent for distance learners. Students like mine could not be tossed into the deep end of MOOC without having first spent whole semesters sitting at shared desks, raising their hands, and exchanging their writing among teachers, tutors, and peers.
Online instruction is “valuable and convenient” for some, but isn’t enough for first-generation students, concludes Brown.