Creating structured pathways to graduation will help more community college students achieve their goals, said presenters at the American Association of Community Colleges meeting in San Francisco.
Completion by Design, a Gates Foundation initiative, is working with community colleges on mandatory student advising and structured course sequences, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. College leaders from North Carolina, Ohio and Florida discussed their efforts.
Jobs for the Future‘s completion campaign focuses on getting students into college-level classes as quickly as possible.
Many students who end up in remedial courses don’t need to be there, but they don’t realize the importance of the tests that colleges often use as the sole placement criterion, said Gretchen Schmidt, a program director at Jobs for the Future. ”They didn’t prepare, they had kids in the hall running around, or they rushed through the test to get back to work … and as a result they ended up two levels down” in developmental courses.
Students who start in remedial courses rarely earn a degree. Recent research has shown students placed in high-level developmental courses do just as well at the college level.
North Carolina now lets high school graduates with a 2.6 grade point average or better skip community college placement tests and start at the college level.
A new Connecticut law limits state funding for remedial education to a single course.
Florida may “cut off nearly all support for stand-alone remedial education,” reports the Chronicle.
Lenore P. Rodicio, director of Miami Dade College‘s Completion by Design effort, worries that’s going too far.
“Seventy percent of our students come in needing some kind of remedial education, many of them from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and this could close the door to them,” she said.
Her college offers a one-week boot camp for students who place into remedial education to allow them to zero in on the skills they need to improve, and it’s looking at other ways to get students into credit-bearing courses faster.
In another session, California Community Colleges chancellor Brice Harris discussed the state’s new “student-success agenda,” which includes encouraging students to develop a study plan, dropping reliance on a single remedial placement test and giving new students priority for registration over perennial students who aren’t moving toward a credential.
Students in “early-college high schools” are more likely to complete high school and go on to college, reports Jobs for the Future. Ninety-three percent of students in JFF’s network – 246 early-college schools with 75,000 students — complete a high school diploma in four years, compared to a national average of 75 percent, according to the JFF report. Seventy-six percent of network graduates enroll immediately in college, compared to a national rate of 68 percent.
At early college high schools open for at least four years, 23 percent of students earn a college certificate or associate degree along with their high school diploma. The average early-college graduate earns 36 college credits. That’s equivalent to more than a year of college — if all credits are accepted for transfer.
Saving money on college is a big issue for early-college students and their parents, reports JFF. More than half of early-college students come from low-income families, more than two thirds are Latino, black or Native American and xx percent are the first in their family to attend college.
The early-college model appears to be working, reports College Bound.
Allowing students to take even one college-level class in high school can significantly increase the chances of going to and completing college, research from JFF last fall revealed.
The American Institutes for Research has evaluated the Early High School College Initiative and found students in these schools outperform their peers on state standardized assessments and have higher on-time graduation rates than students in surrounding districts.
To reach students with the most need, JFF is shifting early colleges from a small schools model to a “systemic high school reform strategy, writes Joel Vargas on the JFF blog. With a five-year, $15 million federal Investing in Opportunity (i3) grant, JFF will partner with Denver Public Schools, Educate Texas, Brownsville ISD, and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD to spread the early college design to 30,000 new students.
In a fast-moving economy, spiders are showing colleges where the jobs, so they can target job training, writes the Hechinger Report. Artificial-intelligence spiders “crawl through search engines” to read online “help wanted” ads daily. Colleges can update — or eliminate — job programs quickly.
Federal labor data can be two years out of date or more, said John Dorrer, a program director at Jobs for the Future. Without current information, “We’re training people for jobs that don’t exist, and not training people for jobs that do.”
Based on real-time labor-market information, the Lone Star College System in Texas will close three programs next fall, in aviation management, hospitality management and computer support. It found that employers prefer four-year to two-year degrees in the first two cases, and were outsourcing work in the third. But it is adding programs to train oil and gas drillers and CT-scan technicians, for which there is burgeoning demand.
. . . Cabrillo College in California thought its program in medical assisting was doing well—until spidering technology showed there wasn’t much hiring going on in the field, and a survey of graduates confirmed that fewer than 30 percent had jobs in it. So the college raised the program’s standards to a level employers told them they needed.
Archana Mani took time out of the workforce to raise her children and discovered her master’s in information systems wasn’t enough to qualify for a job. She enrolled in Oakland Community College near Detroit, which was offering an accelerated course to train programmers to build and test new software applications. Once spiders told the college about the demand, it took only three months to create the course. Mani completed the program and was hired by a quickly expanding branch of Hewlett-Packard in Pontiac, Mich.
Louisiana has shifted adult basic education from high schools to community colleges: Unemployed and underemployed adults can train for skilled jobs while studying for a GED through the Louisiana Community and Technical College System’s (LCTCS) Work Ready U, reports Community College Times.
Most Work Ready U students are training for jobs in construction trades and welding or health care jobs, such as nursing assistants, phlebotomists and pharmacy technicians.
Delgado Community College (DCC) now has 2,500 students in adult basic education, compared to 500 in 2007-08. DCC is one of 10 Louisiana community colleges in Jobs for the Future’s Accelerating Opportunity program. “There is no reason why a student should need a GED before they start on a career pathway,” said Barbara Endel, national project director for Accelerating Opportunity.
Traditional adult ed courses didn’t provide enough structure and support, said LCTCS Chancellor Joe May.
When ABE was administered by the K-12 education system, it was run on an “open-entry, open-exit approach,” May said. That didn’t work so well with people who had dropped out of school, so there were high attrition rates.
. . . Work Ready U programs limit the number of people who come in at any one time and provide extra counseling and social services. Also, switching GED courses to community colleges allowed for more flexible scheduling, including evening hours, which are more convenient for adults with families and jobs.
“Pushing someone to get a GED requires a ton of effort, particularly for adults with families,” said DCC Chancellor Monty Sullivan. However, it’s worth the effort. More Work Ready U students are enrolling in credit-bearing courses. On average, they are less likely to drop out than regular students.
Last year Congress dropped Pell Grant eligibility for high school dropouts who passed an “ability-to-benefit” test. To keep Work Ready U on track, DCC turned to foundations to fund tuition aid.
College remedial education requires ”transformation,” not just tinkering, concludes a national coalition of higher education groups. Core Principles for Transforming Remedial Education recommends scrapping most remedial courses. Instead, most poorly prepared students would be placed in college-level, for-credit courses with extra support, such as tutoring, computer labs and extra classroom time.
The report was issued by the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas, Complete College America, Education Commission of the States, and Jobs for the Future.
“Half of all America’s undergraduates and 70% of its community college students begin college in at least one remedial course, and only one in four remedial community college students ever make it to graduation day,” said Stan Jones, president of Complete College America.
For every 10 students assigned to three or more semesters of remedial English, fewer than three ever complete a college-level English class. Only one in 10 students assigned to three or more semesters of remedial math passes a first-year college-level math course.
The report also calls for changing requirements so students take the subjects they need for their program of study, but don’t have to take irrelevant courses. That means not everyone would take algebra.
“This is especially important in math, which is the most significant barrier to college success for remedial students,” said Uri Treisman, director of the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin. “Too many students today are required to pass college-level algebra when statistics or quantitative literacy would be much more appropriate preparation.”
In a joint statement, the groups called for “immediate, large-scale changes” to turn remediation from a barrier to a gateway.
Texas students who completed even a single college class in high school were significantly more likely to attend college and eventually graduate compared to similar students who weren’t in dual enrollment programs, reports Jobs for the Future in Taking College Courses in High School: A Strategy for College Readiness.
Dual enrollment students were more than twice as likely to enroll in a Texas two- or four-year college: 54.2% of dual enrollment graduates earned a college degree, compared to 36.9% of non-DE grads, and 47.2% of DE graduates earned a bachelor’s degree, compared to 30.2% of non-DE grads.
All groups did better, including students from low-income families and black and Hispanic students.
“A big question in education reform has been: ‘How do we increase the college readiness of those most likely not to go?’” said Joel Vargas, report coauthor and vice president of JFF’s High School Through College team. “Dual enrollment is a strategy states can use to help answer that question.”
The report also urged policymakers to support bearly college high schools that target minorities and low-income students. Texas has 49 early colleges, serving over 10,000 students statewide, and more than 90,000 students in dual enrollment.
University education is free in Switzerland, but most students choose vocational training, Time reports.
Take Jonathan Bove. This spring, after he completed his three-year business training at an insurance company, the 19-year-old was hired by a telecommunications firm; his job as a customer care representative offers a starting salary of $52,000 a year, a generous annual bonus, and a four-week paid vacation – no small potatoes for the teenager who is still living at home and has no plans to move out. “The idea of university never appealed to me,” he says. “The vocational training is more hands-on and the path to a good job is shorter.”
After completing nine years of required schooling, two-thirds of 15 and 16 year olds choose Vocational Education and Training (VET), which combines three years of part-time classroom instruction with training at a company. The youth unemployment rate in Switzerland is less than 3 percent.
VET apprentices generate more revenues than they cost in salaries and instruction, so most companies profit from VET participation, even if they train more apprentices than they need. On average, VET graduates start at $50,000 a year.
Most young Americans won’t earn a college degree, says Nancy Hoffman of Jobs for the Future in a Nation interview with Dana Goldstein. A Swiss-style apprenticeship system would motivate young people and qualify them for good jobs, she argues.
Volkswagon is starting a European-style apprenticeship program in Tennessee, but for high school graduates. . . . You probably have to start with more internships and apprenticeships at the community college level than in high school, because most people in this country just don’t believe that 16-year-olds can be productive workers—though there is plenty of evidence they certainly can be.
Goldstein asks: Should we worry if the vocational track really is the track for working-class kids?
America’s system — College for all but failure for most — provides less economic mobility than the apprenticeship model, Hoffman argues. “The really strong countries have pathways from vocational education straight through to technical colleges,” she adds. In Switzerland, 42 percent of the highest-scoring students enter the vocational system. “If you want to be an engineer, work in IT or any of these high-tech jobs, you’re going to be much more likely to get a job after real work experience.”
Community colleges will get $500 million in federal grants to fund job training. The Labor and Education departments will work together on the program, which will focus on ”skills development and employment opportunities in fields such as advanced manufacturing, transportation and health care, as well as science, technology, engineering and math careers through partnerships between training providers and local employers.”
“Many employers are currently unable to fill well-paying jobs because applicants lack the skills,” says JFF President and CEO Marlene B. Seltzer. “Today’s good jobs require education beyond high school and training that prepares workers with practical skills that employers need. Accelerating Opportunity focuses on educational programs that lead to the credentials workers need to secure a family-sustaining job and long-lasting career opportunities.”
Accelerating Opportunity hopes to create career pathways leading to “marketable, stackable, credit-bearing credentials” in at least 40 community colleges by 2014.
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.”
A high-poverty, nearly all-minority district near the Texas-Mexico border, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo had a high dropout rate. Now dropouts and high-risk students are finishing high school while they start career training. All students can take rigorous “early college” courses and the college-going rate doubled in three years, according to a new report from Jobs for the Future.
Superintendent Daniel King came to PSJA from nearby Hidalgo, where he’d pioneered early college and career pathways for all students. “The dropout rate was horrendous,” King said. In partnership with South Texas College, the district created the College, Career, and Technology Academy to help former dropouts complete high school and “seamlessly transition into college courses” when ready. The dropout recovery campaign’s slogan: “You didn’t graduate from high school? Start college today!” Now students who lack the credits to graduate on time can go to CCTA the summer or fall after their four-year graduation rate, instead of returning to high school for a fifth year or dropping out.
PSJA then opened an early college high school with a STEM focus, again partnering with South Texas College. PSJA will become an Early College High School District, writes King on the JFF blog. Eventually, the college-going culture will start at the elementary level.
We have increased expectations for all students. Our goal is not just to hand out high school diplomas, but to see that our students have the skills they need to move onto college, obtain a college degree and have a prosperous life and career.
Through Early College coursework, students can graduate from high school with at least 12 college hours, a technical certificate, or even an Associate’s degree that prepares them for high-wage employment.
Virtually all PSJA students are Hispanic and 90 percent come from low-income families. Most parents are not well-educated.