Colleges create competency-based pilots

Competency-based programs in information technology are in the works at 11 community colleges. Western Governors University, a pioneer in online competency-based education (CBE), is helping with the pilots with financial support from the U.S. Labor Department and the Gates Foundation, write Sally Johnstone, WGU’s vice president for academic advancement, and writer Thad Nodine on Inside Higher Ed. 

Most of the pilots are starting with certificates in fields such as computer system specialist, business software specialist, networking and programming. Students will be able to build on their certificates to earn degrees.

In competency programs, students progress at their own pace as they demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skills. Learning– not time — is they key variable. At all 11 colleges, faculty members developed the new CBE courses, sometimes working with industry representatives.

For example, faculty at Sinclair Community College revised the curriculum to align with new Ohio standards in information technology and with industry certifications. Working with instructional designers, faculty members “mapped competencies to content and assessment items.”

In comparison, faculty at Washington’s Columbia Basin College are using existing student objectives and textbooks, write Johnstone and Nodine.

“Mapping course objectives to student learning outcomes to achieve student success; that is not new,” said Gina Sprowl, workforce education chair and professor of accounting (at Lone Star College in Texas). “But taking the course and building it to achieve specific outcomes from the outset, that was new.”

Alan Gandy, assistant professor at Lone Star, said . . . faculty are “breaking down the competencies, matching them to the assessments, so the student will see what piece they are working on in the puzzle. They’ll see the big picture, why they’re studying this and how it matches to the overall competency.”

While instructors are “content experts and mentors,”their roles have shifted “from delivering lectures to providing timely academic tutoring and engagement,” write Johnstone and Nodine.

Some colleges are adding support services. At Edmonds Community College in Washington, a “mentor” will check in with each student weekly and serve as a “coach, troubleshooter, strategist and enthusiast.”

‘Corporate colleges’ make money

Employers are outsourcing job training to  “corporate colleges” run by community colleges, reports Inside Higher Ed. These employer-funded programs are money makers for colleges such as Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), located in Ohio, North Carolina’s Central Piedmont College and the Lone Star College System in Texas.

In Arizona, the 10-college Maricopa Community College District has opened Maricopa Corporate College. Marriott International is its biggest client. “We’re starting to market ourselves as a business,” said Rufus Glasper, the district’s chancellor.

Corporate colleges cater to the training needs of companies, including recent hires and workers who need to learn new skills. Programs are typically non-credit and customized based on the employer’s needs. They can be online or in person, and taught either on a college campus or taken directly to a company. Some of the most common programs are in management training, English as a second language, information technology, advanced manufacturing and welding.

Until recently, community colleges have worked with regional employers. In 2007, Tri-C spun off Global Corporate College, a   consortium of more than 50 community colleges and universities. Through Global Corporate, colleges can network to meet the training needs of national companies.

That’s how Maricopa landed Mariott, said Eugene Giovannini, president of the Maricopa Corporate College. “The network will deliver that training across the country.”

Maricopa hopes to triple the $1.5 million in corporate training revenue earned in a recent year, reports Inside Higher Ed. “This is very much a business decision,” said Giovannini.

14 stabbed at Texas college

Using a “razor-type knife,” a Lone Star College student stabbed 14 people till he was tackled and subdued by other students at the Houston college’s CyFair campus. Dylan Quick, 20, told investigators “he has had fantasies of stabbing people to death since he was in elementary school,” a statement from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said. “He also indicated that he has been planning this incident for some time.”

Quick was charged with aggravated assault and held for psychiatric testing. His victims are recovering

Dylan Quick
AP Photo/Harris County Sheriff’s Office

Born deaf, Quick received a cochlear implant when he was 7, according to a blog post last week on “the battles he fought and won,” reports CBS. Quick’s mother enrolled him in the college library’s teen activities program when he was 12 to help him improve his English skills. 

He planned to complete an associate degree at Lone Star and transfer to University of Houston for an accounting degree, according to the post. He also planned to build and host an online international book club.

Spiders show where the jobs are

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.

Student cleared in Lone Star College shooting

Charges have been dropped against Carlton Berry, 22, who was accused of shooting two people at Lone Star College in Houston. Another student, Trey Foster, has been charged with the shooting.

Berry wants an apology from Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

“All I know is, I’m a good person. I don’t run in gangs, I’m not a gang member,” Berry said Tuesday at a news conference in front of the New Black Panthers headquarters. “I go to school to better my future, and that’s what I intend to do from now on.

Berry said he was walking with Foster, a friend since high school, when he began arguing with Jody Neal, 25, who’s in a GED program on campus. Foster allegedly fired 10 shots, wounding Neal, Berry and a maintenance man who was passing by. Law enforcement officials originally thought Berry had shot himself accidentally.

Houston college shooting injures 3

ABC News

Carlton Berry, 22, has been charged with aggravated assault after a shooting at Lone Star College that left him and two others wounded. It’s not known whether Berry was a student.

The gunfire came after two men on the suburban Houston campus became involved in an argument Tuesday morning. One fired a handgun and wounded the other man and a maintenance worker, while panicked students dove for cover . . .

Berry was arrested when he “walked into a local hospital with an apparent and accidental self-inflicted gunshot to his hip,” reports UPI.

Lone Star College is a “gun-free” campus.

Texas completion project loses Gates grant

A group of Texas community colleges have lost Gates Foundation funding for Completion by Design, reports Inside Higher Ed.

. . . the $35-million grant encourages groups of two-year colleges in four states to work together to keep more low-income and young students from slipping through the cracks and to better help guide them on a pathway to graduation. Teams of colleges in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas beat out 27 teams in nine states to participate in the five-year project, which began in 2010.

The five Texas colleges participating, led by the Lone Star College System, enroll one-third of the state’s community college students. The colleges had completed the planning phase, but hadn’t started implementation.

Richard Carpenter, Lone Star’s chancellor, called the move “unexpected and unfortunate” in an e-mail to Lone Star staff.

Gates officials haven’t explained the decision, reports Inside Higher Ed.

Some observers said the relative independence of the state’s community colleges posed challenges for the goals of the foundation, which typically expects visible results. In contrast, a cohesive statewide system, like the one in North Carolina, might be better suited for the level of coordination required by Completion by Design.

Carpenter, in his e-mail to Lone Star employees, said Gates officials had determined that Texas is “too big to succeed.”

Others, however, said the group led by Lone Star deserved some of the blame. One source at Lone Star, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said project leaders from the system were disorganized.

Using state and regional funding the Texas colleges will continue the campaign to boost student success rates under the name Texas Completes.

Completion by Design thinks big

Completion by Design (CbD), a Gates-funded intiative to boost low-income community college students’ graduation rates, is thinking big, reports Community College Week.  For example, one third of community college students in Texas — 289,000 in all — will be enrolled in CbD programs.

Working with the Community College Research Center, CbD colleges in Texas, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida are analyzing data on barriers to student completion, then designing solutions.

Colleges are focusing on students who start in remedial courses and students who’ve earned 30 or more credits but no credential in five years. Miami Dade College will focus on students who speak English as a second language.

Students who’ve earned 30-plus credits without a credential may be waiting for admission into a selective program, such as nursing or other allied health fields, said  Nan Poppe, CbD executive director.

“Students are doing a lot of wandering,” Poppe said, adding that when the colleges took a close look at these students’ transcripts, they found that most of them “had almost no chance of getting into one of those programs.”

“Access without success is a hollow promise,” said Poppe at an Achieving the Dream meeting. Most CdB colleges also are Achieving the Dream colleges. Students need completion-focused pathways that lead to a certificate or degree, she said.

All CbD colleges hope to redesign the entry experience for new students to help them make better choices, according to Poppe. Many propose “mandatory student success courses, individualized education plans, early selection of majors, electronic tracking, early academic warning systems, intensive advising and expansion of dual-enrollment programs.” The Lone Star College System wants to offer “success stipends” for students who complete academic milestones.

Designing a clear pathway to a meaningful credential is a challenge, writes Stacy Holliday, director of campus innovations and student success at Davidson County Community College, part of Completion by Design’s North Carolina cadre, in Community College Times.

. . . completion has to mean something. What labor market value does that credential have?  How does it translate into students successfully pursuing an advanced degree or obtaining a job?

Should we eliminate developmental courses all together, as some have suggested, or should all students complete all developmental classes before moving into their program of study?

“Instead of throwing college course catalogues at students . . . we can provide students with a roadmap that makes it clear where the program will begin and end,” Holliday writes. Students will no longer be overwhelmed by the number of course choices and will make the best choice for their future.”

The “completion agenda” has forced colleges to look at their shortcomings, noted community college leaders who spoke Monday at the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) annual meeting. But completion can’t be the primary goal, said Sandy Shugart, president of  Valencia College, reports Inside Higher Ed. “If students learn well, deeply and intentionally, more will complete,” Shugart said.


The high cost of low tuition

Students may pay a high cost for low tuition at community colleges, I write in U.S. News.

All Californians will pay the same low tuition for classes at Santa Monica College—if they can get off the wait list. Student protests forced the school’s board of trustees to suspend its plan to charge a premium for access to new sections of high-demand classes. The state community college chancellor, Jack Scott, has said that he believes two-tier pricing is not permissible under state law.

But the problem—too many students and not enough seats—remains, both at Santa Monica College and at many community colleges across the country.

Making students wait to get into classes raises the odds they’ll give up before earning a degree — or pay much more at for-profit colleges that expand quickly to meet demand.

In Houston, the Lone Star College system will charge extra for classes that cost more to teach, reports Inside Higher Ed.  For example, “standard tuition at the system is $200 for a three-credit course, but students pay $212 to study dental hygiene and $206 for computer science, according to a differential fee chart.”

Colleges get completion grants

The Gates Foundation‘s Completion by Design grants will help community colleges in Texas, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina develop programs to raise graduation rates.

Lone Star College will lead the Texas effort, reports the Houston Chronicle.  Only 12 percent of Texas community college students complete a credential in three years and 30 percent within six years, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

More than half of college students in Texas — and 71 percent of Hispanics — attend community college.

“We really see higher education as … a way to end the cycle of poverty,” said Suzanne Walsh, senior program officer for post-secondary success with the Gates Foundation.

She said research shows low-income students who haven’t earned a degree or certificate by age 26 are unlikely to ever escape poverty.

Lone Star will work with El Paso Community College, Dallas County Community College, Alamo Community College and South Texas College. Together the colleges serve a third of all community college students in Texas.

In Ohio, Stark State College will take the lead, working with Sinclair and Lorain County colleges.

Guildford Technical Community College will lead North Carolina’s completion campaign, working with Central Piedmont Community College, Davidson County Community College, Martin Community College and Wake Technical Community College.

Miami Dade College, which graduates more Hispanic students than any other community college, also won a completion grant.