Remedial college courses are facing a new test in Florida, reports the Wall Street Journal. Under a new state law, students can decide whether to start in developmental ed or in for-credit, college-level courses. Most are skipping remediation.
More than half of community-college students in the U.S. take at least one remedial class. Success rates are very low. “States are trying alternatives, from adding basic tutorials to college-level classes to weighing high-school grades in addition to test scores,” reports the Journal. Florida has gone the farthest by making placement tests and remedial classes optional for recent state high school graduates and active-duty members of the military.
In a white-walled classroom here at Miami Dade College, students on a recent afternoon pondered the absolute value of 19. After a silence, instructor Carlos Rodriguez offered a hint: “How far is it from 0?”
Such algebra class work, which is typically done at the high-school level, is front and center at this community college, where about 12,000 students enrolled in remedial classes last spring. But enrollment in catch-up classes has fallen about 24% since the legislation took effect this year.
The failure rate will soar, predicts Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón. “You’re not able to test students [who opt out of the remedial program] and know where they are,” said Padrón. “When you don’t have the tools to guide them, it’s very, very difficult.”
Brooke Bovee, who teaches college-level English composition and literature, says just six of her 26 students came in prepared for the class, noting that for four of her students, this will be their third try. For an additional six students, this is their second attempt.
Now, with the new state law, she also has at least one student who tested into a remedial class but chose the higher-level class instead.
“A lot of discussion among English faculty is how to keep standards high,” said Ms. Bovee, who acknowledges the need for changes to the system. “Students ask me what a paragraph is now. What’s next? Maybe, what’s a sentence?”
Miami Dade is adding counselors, but instructors say it won’t be enough.
Quad Learning‘s American Honors is creating a national transfer network to help high-achieving community college students earn bachelor’s degrees at selective colleges and universities, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Twenty-seven colleges and universities, including Amherst, Swarthmore Colleges, Purdue and UCLA, have agreed to recruit and enroll honors college transfers. Last week, New Jersey’s Mercer County Community College and Union County College joined Community Colleges of Spokane and Indiana’s Ivy Tech Community College in starting American Honors programs.
The American Honors vision is to wrap a rigorous academic honors program developed and delivered by the host community colleges themselves within a bundle of American Honors-provided advising and other services that exceed what financially strapped two-year institutions usually manage themselves. (For instance, the programs have one academic adviser for every 100 or so students, compared to a ratio of about 1,000-to-1 normally.)
Quad Learning, a for-profit company, doesn’t develop the curriculum and has no plans to seek accreditation for American Honors, said president Chris Romer.
The curriculum is delivered in a blended format, with both on-ground and synchronously delivered online courses; academic and other advising is delivered both online and in person, and mandatory “transfer coaching” is done face-to-face.
Spokane’s first graduates have been accepted at institutions such as the University of Washington, Cornell, Stanford and Vanderbilt. The program, which has tripled its enrollment, is drawing students who wouldn’t have considered community college without an honors option, said Lisa Avery, vice provost for strategic partnerships at Spokane.
Ivy Tech also is expanding American Honors to more campuses.
“From what we’ve seen, these American Honors students are going to be really good students who are well prepared and can persist and graduate,” said Kasey Urquidez, associate vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at the University of Arizona, which is joining the program.
State universities often have agreements with community colleges in their own states to automatically admit transfer students who meet certain academic standards, and to accept certain credits. But those deals generally do not cross state lines or apply to private colleges, which organizers say makes the new alliance the first of its kind.
A handful of universities in the group will offer automatic admission to some American Honors graduates, though the criteria for that, like grade point average, will vary by institution. None have pledged to accept all of the students’ community college credits, but administrators say they have committed to accepting as many as possible.
Some community colleges already have honors programs. Miami Dade College‘s program was a model for American Honors.
American Honors students pay more than the normal community college tuition but considerably less than they’d pay at a four-year institution.
“Stopping out” — taking a semester or more off — is very common for Texas community college students, according to a new study, reports USA Today. Ninety-four percent of community college students who first enrolled in 2000 stopped out at least once, Toby Park, a Florida State professor, found.
Of students who completed a degree, 76 percent were one-time stopouts. Taking two or more breaks sharply cut the odds of completion.
Mentoring and personal relationships were what kept Tim Semonich, now a junior at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., enrolled at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem on his second try.
Semonich dropped out his first semester, thinking that college wasn’t for him. After working for two years, he decided to give college a second chance.
“The second time, I put more effort in and made connections with professors and deans,” Semonich says.
The more he got involved with school activities, such as speech team and student government, the more he enjoyed it. Semonich later went on to earn a full scholarship to Moravian.
Taxpayers spent nearly $4 billion from 2004 to 2009 on community college students who dropped out after their first year, reports USA Today.
Celeste Brewer stopped out of the University of Florida and Santa Fe Community College (Florida). ”If I was offered work, then I would skip class because I had to pay my bills,” she says. She got a third chance at Miami Dade College, where she’s close to a degree in aviation administration.
After one year at the University of California, Michelle Willens stopped out. Forty years later, she’s working on a bachelor’s degree. In The Atlantic, she writes about what it’s like to be a middle-aged college student.
Reorganizing and coordinating resources can raise college enrollment — especially among African-American and Latino students, concludes a five-year pilot program. The Postsecondary Success Collaborative, which operated in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Miami-Dade County, “asked participants to coordinate academic programs, align K-12 curriculums with postsecondary and workforce requirements, and engage community groups,” reports Inside Higher Ed.
An independent analysis by the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning found the initiative bucked national enrollment trends. From 2009 to 2012, 12 percent more students from the initiative’s target high schools enrolled in college. Among black and Latino students at high schools that were deemed to have strongly implemented the initiative’s recommendations, that number rose to 39 percent, boosted by a 69 percent increase among black students in Miami-Dade County. Among students who enrolled in college, the analysis also found a 16 percent increase in students who continued as sophomores.
In Miami, an advisory board started with “marathon” financial aid sessions, funding field trips to universities across the state and math courses to prepare students for college work.
In Philadelphia, two similar advisory boards found that the high school English curriculum was out of alignment with the kind of writing skills expected from college freshmen.
. . . the advisory boards created “instructional rounds,” where high school teachers and college professors visited each another’s classrooms to better understand what was being taught in them.
The youngest and fastest growing population group in the U.S., Latinos now account for more than 20 percent of K-12 students. However, in 2012, 21.3 percent of Latino adults had earned an associate degree or higher compared to 40.1 percent of all adults. Excelencia in Education‘s national initiative, Ensuring America’s Future by Increasing Latino College Completion, is focusing on community colleges, because that’s where most Latinos start — and end — their pursuit of higher education.
In a new report, “Supporting Latino Community College Students: An Investment in Our Economic Future, Excelencia and Single Stop USA describe how innovative community colleges are changing financial aid and studentservices to help low-income students — including many Latinos — stay in college.
. . . many Latino students are the first in their family to attend college and make choices to contain costs by enrolling at community colleges, attending part-time, and working more than 20 hours per week while enrolled. Unfortunately, data show all these practical choices by students hinder their college completion.
Too few Latino students know there are resources available to assist with college costs. They are also less likely to access financial resources like tax credits, food assistance, and public health insurance that can enable them to maintain a stable family budget while enrolled. Single Stop USA and its community college partners connect thousands of students to millions of dollars in existing benefits and services that immediately reduce the financial strain faced by Latino students.
Single Stop sites at 17 community colleges help students file their taxes, apply for government benefits, and receive financial and legal counseling. Thirty-eight percent of students served in 2012 were Latino.
The report recommends:
Federal policy makers can utilize Higher Education Act reauthorization to incentivize colleges to implement student services that are well aligned with retention, completion and employment outcomes, such as the models being developed by Single Stop.
Complement investments in financial aid by providing student support services that address multiple barriers that can thwart Latino student completion.
Improve targeting of information regarding financial aid by intentionally developing dissemination strategies that will more effectively reach Latino, low-income and other post-traditional students.
Address antiquated eligibility rules that disqualify needy students from receiving aid that can help them complete college and attain self-sufficiency.
“America’s future economic success is deeply connected to Latino college completion,” says Eduardo J. Padrón, president of Miami Dade College, which is working with Single Stop.
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.
Helping veterans get college credit for skills learned in the military – speeding their way to a degree or credential — is the aim of the Maps to Credentials project, reports Community College Times. The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), the American Council on Education and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) are working with three community colleges to develop a prior learning assessment model.
Inver Hills Community College (IHCC) in Minnesota evaluated the most common military occupations for Minnesota National Guard members and “cross-walked them to our coursework,” said Anne Johnson, dean of business and social sciences, at an AACC Workforce Development Institute in San Diego.
. . . a combat engineer might get three credits for the supervisory techniques in a business course at IHCC and three credits for construction management. A unit supply specialist could get three credits each for introduction to computers, introduction to business in society, and principles of management.
The average veteran or active military student is awarded 6.8 prior-learning credits, listed on the transcript by the community college course titles.
Miami Dade College (MDC) gives credits for military experience toward associate degrees in criminal justice, electronics engineering technologies and office administration, as well as certificates in medical assisting. More degrees will be added.
Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC), located near Fort Bragg, North Carolina, has mapped military occupational specialties to courses in general education, culinary arts, surgical technology, radiography and emergency medical science.
Since FTCC started this program in fall 2010, veteran enrollment has increased 40 percent. The college awarded 214 degrees to veterans last spring, compared to just three in spring 2010.
Faculty are finding that “service members are great students,” said Bridget Petzold, program coordinator for business administration/operations management. “They participate in class. They are excited about learning, they bring a lot of experience to the classroom and they bring the discussion up a notch.”
Community college museums can “raise the college’s profile, help attract donors, strengthen ties to the community and enhance educational programs,” writes Community College Times.
A museum at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Kansas focuses on contemporary and Native American art.
The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York has a collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories, some of them hundreds of years old.
Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art + Design presents exhibitions of notable artists and complements the college’s art galleries.
The Dinosaur Museum at Mesalands Community College in New Mexico combines fossils with artwork.
JCCC’s art museum has “brought extraordinary national and international visibility to this campus,” said Bruce Hartman, director of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. “An enormous number of people have come to campus that otherwise wouldn’t have set foot here,” Hartman said. “Some of those people have become donors or we’ve been able to otherwise engage them.”
Actor Vincent Price, known for his roles in horror films such as “The Fly,” donated 2,000 works of art to what’s now known as the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College (ELAC). Now part of ELAC’s Performing and Fine Arts Complex, VPAM’s inaugural show in the new building featured eight ELAC alumni who have become well-known artists.
Welding is a STEM job, says Traci Tapani, CEO of a Minnesota sheet-metal company that’s training its workers, rather than relying on local community colleges, writes New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Wyoming Machine works on armoring Humvees.
“Many years ago, people learned to weld in a high school shop class or in a family business or farm, and they came up through the ranks and capped out at a certain skill level. They did not know the science behind welding,” so could not meet the new standards of the U.S. military and aerospace industry.
“They could make beautiful welds,” she said, “but they did not understand metallurgy, modern cleaning and brushing techniques” and how different metals and gases, pressures and temperatures had to be combined.
Moreover, in small manufacturing businesses like hers, explained Tapani, “unlike a Chinese firm that does high-volume, low-tech jobs, we do a lot of low-volume, high-tech jobs, and each one has its own design drawings. So a welder has to be able to read and understand five different design drawings in a single day.”
Unable to find qualified applicants, Wyoming Machine hired a trainer. But it was hard to find trainees with sufficient math and science skills, says Tapani.
“I can’t think of any job in my sheet metal fabrication company where math is not important. If you work in a manufacturing facility, you use math every day; you need to compute angles and understand what happens to a piece of metal when it’s bent to a certain angle.”
Many community colleges and universities can’t keep up with employers’ needs, Friedman writes.
Miami Dade College makes workforce training a priority, collaborating with more than 100 companies, says Eduardo Padrón, the president. “Every program that we offer has an industry advisory committee that helps us with curriculum, mentorship, internships and scholarships.”
Immigrants used to take an unskilled job and work their way into the middle class, Padrón says. “That is no longer possible.” Education is a necessity, not a “luxury for the few.”
Angel Gavidia worked low-skills jobs. He tried community college, but dropped out after a year. Then he discovered a learn-and-earn partnership linking an IT-services company called Atrion with classes at Community College of Rhode Island, reports Jon Marcus of Hechinger Report.
The year-long program, in which Gavidia was paid to work as an apprentice at Atrion while taking on-campus courses in networking and other IT subjects, gave him the kind of real-world skills employers say they want but often can’t find in college graduates.
Gavidia, who now works full-time at Atrion as an associate engineer, says it was the apprenticeship part of the program that taught him not just theoretical knowledge, but skills he could actually use on the job. “I came into this position feeling like, we didn’t learn this in school, and we should have,” he said.
Community colleges have a long history of job training partnerships with employers, but universities are slow to adapt to employers’ needs, writes Marcus.
Eduardo Padrón runs Miami Dade College, the second-largest U.S. higher-education institution with more than 174,000 students.
“What I hear from business leaders who come to us is that the universities place before them all kinds of excuses,” said Padrón, whose institution has hundreds of partnerships with business. The universities “want to take three years to put a program together, and then they have all these excuses for not doing it the right way. It’s part of a tradition that’s not changing with time,” he said.
Corporations such as Farmers Insurance Group, Dunkin’ Donuts and Walt Disney World, do their own college-level training and education. Many others partner with community colleges on workforce development.
A growing number of jobs reuire “middle skills” — a certificate or associate degree, but not a bachelor’s degree. ”Nearly half of all jobs in the U.S. now require an associate degree — a greater proportion than call for a bachelor’s degree,” reports Marcus.
However, few CEOs or policymakers attended community colleges, points out Karen Elzey, director of Skills for America’s Future. “They’re four-year grads. All the people they know are four-year grads. They don’t have experience with community colleges.”