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.”
Massachusetts will link community college funding to improvements in graduation rates, job training and minority student success, reports Marcella Bombardieri in the Boston Globe. Half of each college’s budget will hinge on performance when the program is fully phased in within a few years. That’s one of the most ambitious performance-funding programs in the nation.
Every community college president endorsed the plan, a turnaround from less than two years ago when reform proposals from Governor Deval Patrick and others met with outrage among community college leaders.
A $20 million boost in funding from the Legislature, after years of budget cuts, helped make the idea palatable, and no campus is losing money this year, so they have time to adjust to the new standards.
The change also redresses huge imbalances that left the best-funded community colleges — topped by the scandal-plagued Roxbury Community College — getting more than double the money per student than the most starved campuses received.
The state’s 15 community colleges educate about half of public college students in Massachusetts.
Nine states have linked some higher education funding to performance, typically 5 to 10 percent of the budget. The outlier is Tennessee, which linked all higher education budget to performance three years ago. Performance is improving, reports the Globe.
. . . an earlier wave of state performance funding initiatives failed to help students do better, said Kevin Dougherty, a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, in part because the amount of money that states put on the line was too small.
The idea also carries risks, he said. To boost their statistics, colleges could quietly cut back on recruiting at weaker high schools whose graduates are often ill-prepared, or encourage students not to enroll in difficult classes they are less likely to pass.
Massachusetts and other states are designing benchmarks more carefully and putting more money on the table, said Dougherty. ”A more effective form of performance funding may be emerging, but I think we want to be cautious.”
The Massachusetts plan starts every community college with an operating subsidy of $4.5 million. Half of the remaining allocation will be distributed based on student credit hours completed, weighted for the cost of teaching in different fields. Colleges won’t get any money for students who drop classes.
The other half of the remaining funding will be based on the numbers of students who earn degrees or certificates, or transfer with a certain number of credits. Colleges will get extra credit for degrees in fields with high workforce demand, such as science, health care, and technology, and or the successes of African-American, Latino, and low-income students.
Under the old funding scheme, Bristol Community College, based in Fall River, and Quinsigamond Community College, in Worcester, received less than $3,000 per student in 2010, while Roxbury Community College received more than $6,000 per student, according to the Boston Foundation. This year, Bristol is getting a 21 percent boost and Quinsigamond is getting 26 percent more.
The Hechnger Report’s Jon Marcus discusses performance funding with two Massachusetts community college presidents on WBUR, a Boston radio station.
More community colleges are providing housing “in an attempt to replicate a four-year college experience and boost graduation rates,” reports USA Today. More than a quarter of community colleges offer on-campus housing, most of which has been built in the last decade.
Des Moines Area Community College expects to add housing on or near its main campus here that could accommodate several thousand students by the end of the decade. About 300 lived on campus last year, and that number will jump to about 1,000 this fall when two apartment complexes open across the street from the campus.
“I just really like walking to class,” said Stacey Bruch, 19, of Audubon, Iowa. She otherwise might be driving 90 minutes each way get her associate degree in agribusiness.
Students pay an estimated $12,000 in room and board to live in campus housing.
Whittney Reinier’s building touts a fitness center and movie room with theater-style seating. Rooms feature granite counter tops and 42-inch flat-screen TVs. While the amenities are nice, Reinier raves about the “college experience” of living away from home for the first time with people her own age.
Is it worth the cost? “If you are borrowing to live that lifestyle, you really need to keep in mind you have to pay that back,” said Heather Doe, a spokeswoman for the Iowa College Student Aid Commission.
Some states, such as Illinois, have restricted community colleges from building dorms on campus. However, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education changed the rules to allow campus housing, saying some studies suggest living on campus can boost retention and graduation rates.
While Massachusetts colleges and universities say they’re trying to hold down costs, they’ve increased the number of administrators three times faster than enrollment growth according to an analysis of federal data by Jon Marcus for the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.
Over the last 25 years, enrollments have grown by 26 percent, on average, while the ranks of full-time administrators have risen 75 percent. Nationwide, four-year university tuition went by 85 percent in real dollars in the same period.
“Where is that money going? It’s going to fund these bureaucratic empires,” said Andrew Gillen, research director at Education Sector.
University officials said administrators are needed to deal with government regulation and greater requirements from students for support services, such as remediation and mental health counseling.
Even community colleges added administrators, though at a slower rate than four-year institutions.
With the help of Labor Department grants, community colleges are accelerating job training programs aimed at adults and “stacking” workforce credentials, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Working with employers, Massachusetts’ 15 community colleges have accelerated training for jobs in health care, advanced manufacturing, information technology, biotechnology, green energy and financial services.
In addition to prior-learning assessment and competency-based education, colleges are creating stackable credentials. Students can earn a short-term certificate, find a job and return later to add a higher credential.
For advanced manufacturing, the final product was a pyramid of competencies employees should ideally master to work at various job levels. The colleges worked with manufacturers statewide to develop those standards.
For example, in the precision machining field, entry-level jobs like assemblers or warehouse workers should have skills in five major areas: shop math, blueprint reading, metrology, problem solving and workplace readiness. But further up the pyramid, supervisors and managers should hold certificates and degrees in manufacturing technology, as well as more learned skills, such as programming, and a minimum number of hours working in the industry.
Stacking also works well for health-care credentials, said Ana Sanchez, the “career and college navigator” at Springfield Technical Community College. “Everybody wants to be a nurse,” but not everyone has the math and science skills needed. In one or two semesters, students can earn a certificate as a patient care technician or medical admin. It can be a quick route to the workforce and, for some, the first step on the path to a nursing degree.
Massachusetts’ 15 community colleges are working with industry on workforce development with the help of a $20 million federal grant, reports Worcester Business Journal.
The Massachusetts Community Colleges and Workforce Development Transformation Agenda (MCCWDTA) is redesigning degree and certificate programs in six high-demand industries: health care, biotechnology and life sciences, advanced manufacturing, clean energy and sustainability, information technology and financial services.
Students will brush up on academic skills while training for jobs, said Assistant Secretary of Labor Jane Oates in a speech at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester. “They cannot sit in a classroom for two semesters because they need to brush up on fractions and decimals,” Oates said.
College and career navigators will help students enroll in courses and use the One‐Stop Career Center on each campus under the new initiative. Industry representatives, college administrators and faculty will design job training programs together.
In tough times, frugal students are starting at community colleges in Southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts’ Merrimack Valley, reports the Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, MA.
Kaila Nicholson of Kingston wants to join a SWAT team. Dayanna Martes of Lawrence is studying business. Aja Metcalf of Salem is majoring in exercise science.
The Northern Essex Community College students are looking forward to the day when they can start their new careers — without being burdened with thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
Students expect to save at least $20,000 in tuition, room and board by starting their path to a bachelor’s degree at a local community college.
Martes was offered an $18,000 scholarship to Newbury College, but calculated living at home and attending NECC was more affordable.
Nicholson, who is studying criminal justice, said she’s now paying $5,000 a year, compared to $30,000 a year at Southern New Hampshire University, where she attended for one semester. NECC is smaller and provides more individual attention, she said. “I think it’s a good school and the teachers here are really good,” Nicholson said. “And it’s cheaper.”
Ever since the recession began several years ago, community college officials in New Hampshire and Massachusetts say they are seeing significant increases in enrollment as students and their families struggle to foot the rising costs of higher education.
News coverage of rising college costs has scared students and parents, said NECC spokesman Ernie Greenslade.
New Hampshire graduates owed an average of $32,450, the largest debt load in the nation, according to The Institute for College Access & Success. Massachusetts ranked 14th at $27,181.
Massachusetts “lawmakers are tightening state control over community colleges, tying budgets to academic performance and giving education officials greater say over choosing and evaluating college presidents,” reports the Boston Globe.
Nearly half of public college students in Massachusetts attend the state’s 15 community colleges, but graduation rates are low.
The plan comes with added financial support. The state will increase spending on the two-year schools by $11 million, including $5 million for a grant program focused on raising graduation rates and consolidating administrative tasks across campuses. Another $2.3 million will help schools develop job-training programs to meet changing workforce needs.
Gov. Deval Patrick pushed for the measure, but didn’t get state control over college fees which will continue to be set locally.
Radio Boston asks whether the legislation will improve accountability or add another layer of bureaucracy.
Should public colleges focus on academics or vocational skills? The battle lines are drawn in Massachusetts, where Gov. Deval Patrick wants community colleges to be drivers of workforce and economic development, writes Melissa Goldberg on the Workforce Strategy Center blog. But Is it the right debate? she asks.
In the Boston Globe Magazine, Jon Marcus asks whether higher education’s purpose should be knowledge or vocation.”
(Bob) Britt had watched as friends and relatives went to college only because it was expected. “They were 18, and so they went,” he says. “And when they got out, there wasn’t anything for them.” So when Britt enrolled at North Shore Community College, it was for a new kind of program that is being closely watched by industry executives and policy makers alike. It’s a program connected to the real world of work that all but guarantees its students something universities and colleges are being pressed to provide in exchange for their spiraling costs, and at a time when employers complain they can’t find workers for high-tech jobs in a fast-changing economy: useful skills.
Britt’s two-year associate’s degree program in manufacturing technology is a collaboration between the college – which furnishes faculty for classroom work – and General Electric. GE needs highly trained machinists to replace the large number of employees nearing retirement at its River Works aircraft engine plant in Lynn, which has been chugging along while recovering from the 1980s recession. GE pays the students while they learn and covers the costs of their academic courses in advanced manufacturing. That’s a high-growth field, one in which Britt is virtually assured a job after graduation that pays an average of $62,400, with ample opportunity for advancement.
“It’s not a dead end,” Britt says.
Employers want workers with an academic foundation andworkplace skills, writes Goldberg. It’s not either or. ”Everyone will need some opportunity to gain practical experience through internships, apprenticeships, or perhaps working their way through college” whether they pursue a technical or liberal arts degree. The question is: How do we enable young people to learn academic and workplace skills?
Here’s a sobering statistic: “For the first time in history, the number of jobless workers age 25 and up who have attended some college now exceeds the ranks of those who settled for a high school diploma or less,” reports Investors Business Daily.
Instead of wait lists and closed classes, Santa Monica College in California wants to offer premium-priced sections of crowded courses, reports the Los Angeles Times. Students could pay as much as $200 a unit for high-demand courses; the regular rate will be $46 per unit by summer.
Students would be able to use financial aid to pay for the classes, and college officials hope to raise private funds to establish scholarships for needy students.
The 34,000-student Santa Monica campus has one of the highest transfer rates to four-year universities in the state and a reputation for innovative programs that are a model for other community colleges. But some say higher-priced classes are tantamount to privatizing the public institution.
Administrators say the plan is a reaction to drastic state funding cuts, which have forced the campus to pare more than 1,000 class sections since 2008. In the current year, funding was reduced by $11 million. The campus could lose an additional $5 million in the 2012-13 budget year if a tax initiative on the November ballot fails.
The plan is unfair to low-income students, critics charge. And it’s not at all clear that it’s legal, although the college plans to create a nonprofit foundation to run the program.
Premium pricing is not a new idea, notes Community College Dean. Two years ago, Bristol Community College in Massachusetts contracted with a for-profit provider to offer nursing classes at a premium price to students who didn’t want to wait to get into low-cost sections. “It’s the academic equivalent of a next-day shipping option,” the dean writes.
Community colleges offer services far below cost, using state and local subsidies, the dean explains.
The theory behind the subsidies is that the entire population benefits from having an educated workforce and citizenry, so it’s fair to have the entire population kick in some money.
. . . But when the subsidies don’t track enrollments — which they absolutely have not for many years now — growth is a problem for a college. In the Massachusetts case, student fees didn’t come close to paying for the cost of more nursing seats. In the California case, incredibly enough, the low tuition that students pay goes entirely to the state; the college keeps none of it. In that system, new enrollments are pure cost.
The “express shipping” option already exists for students from wealthy families, who “can buy their way into undistinguished private colleges,” the dean notes. Public colleges are supposed to be the alternative.
Many low-income and minority students enroll in for-profit colleges, which aren’t subsidized and therefore charge much higher tuition than community colleges or public universities. It’s a form of premium pricing. Since for-profit colleges make money from new students, they add courses immediately to meet demand. Students pay more — nearly always with federal aid — and get the classes they need. At the two-year level, for-profit students have much higher completion rates than community college students, so the premium may be worth it. That’s not true for four-year for-profit programs, which have lower completion rates.