Latinos narrow graduation gap

The Latino college completion gap is narrowing for full-time students, reports Excelencia in Education in a new report. The gap fell from 14 percent in 2012 to 9 percent in 2014: 41 percent of Latinos graduate in 150 percent of the normal time compared to 50 percent of all first-time, full-time college students.

However, almost half of Latino college students are enrolled part-time. Their completion rates remain very low.

Miami Dade College, South Texas College, El Paso Community College, East Los Angeles College and Florida International College enroll the most Latino students. “Four of the top five are predominantly community colleges,” said Deborah Santiago, chief operating officer and vice president of policy at Excelencia.

Miami Dade, El Paso and South Texas also rank in the top five for awarding associate degrees to Latinos, along with Valencia College and University of Phoenix Online. “We are seeing the closure in the achievement gaps in some states, but not all,” said Santiago.

ASSOCIATE DEGREES: Top 5 Institutions Awarding to Hispanics, 2011-12

Rank Institution State Sector Grand Total Hispanic Total % Hispanic
1 Miami Dade College FL 4yr Public 11,959 7,958 67
2 El Paso Community College TX 2yr Public 3,790 3,244 86
3 University of Phoenix – Online 4yr Private For-Profit 39,341 2,424 6
4 South Texas College TX 4yr Public 2,292 2,138 93
5 Valencia College FL 4yr Public 7,974 2,129 27

California, which has the highest numbers of Latino students, lags in graduating them: Only 15 percent of the state’s Latino students completed a degree or certificate in 2010-11.  “Why does California, the state with the largest Latino population in the nation, not have a single college break into the top five nationally for awarding degrees to Latinos?” asked Santiago.

Florida does much better in enrolling — and graduating — Latinos.

Latinos make up 22 percent of K-12 students and 17 percent of the population, reports Excelencia.  The median age for Latinos is 27, compared to 42 for non-Hispanic whites.

Twenty percent of Latino adults have earned an associate degree or higher compared to 36 percent of all adults.

For needy students, a Single Stop for aid

Homeless, Jason showered at the gym at Borough of Manhattan Community College. After class, he did his homework in the library, then slept in a quiet corner. When the library closed, he rode the subway all night. Failing three of his four classes, he asked for help at Single Stop, which connects low-income people with a wide array of government benefits.  Deborah Harte got him off the streets, reports the New York Times.

She got him enrolled in SNAP, the federal food stamp program, and health insurance. He got financial counseling — “I want to be an accountant, so I want to make sure my credit’s O.K.,” he said. He did his taxes and filed a FAFSA — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. She got him a work-study job. (He was already working part time as an usher at Radio City.) Most important, Harte called someone she knew who worked in real estate and got him a room he could afford, with a shared kitchen and bathroom, in a house in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Jason expects to graduate soon. 

Community colleges “are largely second-chance schools for striving low-wage workers — an engine of economic mobility,” writes Tina Rosenberg. Single Stop is partnering with community colleges in eight states to help strivers get the aid they need to stay in school and achieve their goals.

“Community college administrators have always known students leave, and their No. 1 job has been keeping them,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, an associate professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin, who is carrying out evaluations of Single Stop. “They’ve always wanted to do more — but the issue is: with what resources?”

Now they have a new financial motivation to find resources. State funding of community colleges is increasingly tied to their retention or graduation rates — six states did so in 2011, and now 34 states are in the process of adopting that reform or have already adopted it.

The B.M.C.C. office has a financial counselor, a health care navigator and, one day a week, an attorney. Students can get free tax preparation: They must file a return to qualify for federal student aid and the earned-income tax credit.

Can Single Stop keep students in school?

Goldrick-Rab analyzed the early data from CUNY colleges Kingsborough (Single Stop’s first community college program) and LaGuardia. She compared retention rates of Single Stop clients to a group of other students considered economically disadvantaged who didn’t use the service. Although the Single Stop students were most likely much poorer, a year after the program began their retention rates were 32 percent higher — 66 percent of other students re-enrolled the next semester, but 98 percent of the Single Stop students did. LaGuardia showed similar results.

On average, community colleges contribute 43 percent of the cost of a Single Site office on campus.

Miami Dade College has hired 28 counselors to provide one-stop advising — including financial aid, student services and eligibility for benefits — to all students. All will be trained by Single Stop.

Remedial courses face new test


 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.

Colleges join ‘honors’ transfer network

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.

Stopout rate is 94% at 2-year colleges

“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.

College prep initiative shows success

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.

Many students enrolled at collaborating institutions such as Temple in Philadelphia, Miami Dade College and the City College of San Francisco.

Supports help Latinos stay in college

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 FutureExcelencia 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.

Structured paths lead to success

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.

Prior-learning credits help vets graduate

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.”

College museums draw donors

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.