Protecting Pell leads ACCT priorities

Maintaining Pell Grants and restoring Pell eligibility for “ability to benefit” (no high school diploma or GED) students seeking job training lead the Association of Community College Trustees’ top legislative priorities for 2013, the National Legislative Summit decided.

To help students train for skilled jobs, the ACCT called for preserving the Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT),  the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act and the Workforce Investment Act.

Investments in direct institutional aid to colleges that serve disproportionate numbers of minority, low-income and first-generation college students are  critical. Congress should continue its support for the Strengthening Institutions, Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges, and Predominately Black Institutions (PBIs) programs.

ACCT also endorsed the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program, which supports science, engineering and math programs at community colleges. “Programs are developed in conjunction with businesses in nanotechnology, alternative energy, advanced manufacturing, and many other critical fields.”

CCs recruit minority STEM students

Community colleges are trying to boost the number of minority students who complete STEM degrees, reports Community College Week.

In Michigan, nine community colleges — Grand Rapids Community College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Kellogg Community College, Lake Michigan College, Lansing Community College, Macomb Community College, Muskegon Community College, Washtenaw Community College and Wayne County Community College District — are working with four state universities to double the number of black and Hispanic graduates in science, technology, engineering and math by 2015. A $700,000, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation is funding the initiative.

According to the College Board, community colleges enroll 55 percent of undergraduate Hispanic students, 47 percent of African Americans, 47 percent of Asians and 57 percent of all Native Americans.

The NSF reports that 50 percent of African Americans, 55 percent of Latinos and 64 percent of American Indians who hold bachelor’s or master’s degrees in science or engineering had attended a community college.

“We are the people’s college,” said LCC President Brent Knight, who’s made  STEM education a priority at his college.

There are jobs for graduates with STEM degrees.

Though battered by the decline of the auto industry, the state is rich in engineering talent and is showing signs of revival and attracting high tech industries.

The state’s advanced battery industry, for example, is growing fast and has the potential to create thousands of new jobs. But job seekers will need engineering degrees and experience for more technical jobs or a manufacturing or skilled trades background for production work, according to the Detroit Free Press. Growth in the industry is nearly assured with higher fuel economy requirements and higher gas prices.

According to a 2010 report by the National Academies of Science, underrepresented minorities “embody a vastly underused resource and a lost opportunity for meeting our nation’s technology needs.”

Even as the STEM field workforce grows rapidly — with more than 5 million jobs and many more anticipated in coming decades — minority participation is lagging.

African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans account for 34 percent of the nation’s population aged 18 to 34, yet earn only 12 percent of undergraduate degrees in engineering. The share of engineering degrees among these ethnic groups declines as the degree level increases: they earn 12 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 7 percent of master’s degrees and 3 percent of doctorates, according to the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering.

. . . “In 2007, underrepresented minorities made up 38.8 percent of K-12 enrollment, 26.2 percent of undergraduate enrollment, and 17.7 percent of those earning science and engineering bachelor’s degrees. In graduate school, underrepresented minorities compromise 17.7 percent of overall enrollment, but are awarded just 14.6 percent of S&E degrees and a minuscule 5.4 percent of S&E doctorates,” the report said.

Most STEM graduates became interested in science and technology when they were young. They did well in math, building a foundation for higher-level learning. With so many community college students starting in remedial math courses, it’s a challenge to boost the numbers who can earn an associate degree or certificate in a technical field, much less transfer to earn a bachelor’s degree.

To educate strivers, improve community colleges

Affirmative action for low-income students won’t make much difference at selective universities, even in combination with race- and ethnicity-based preferences, argue Anthony Carnevale and Jeff Strohl of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce in Rewarding Strivers: Helping Low-Income Students Succeed in College, Instead, strengthen the quality of the schools low-income and minority students attend, “two-year schools and lower-end four-year colleges,” Carnevale tells Inside Higher Education.

. . . most of the action will be up to the states, as they consider rewriting funding formulas to reward institutions based on performance (enrolling and graduating low-income students, etc.), bolstering student services programs at community colleges, and encouraging students to get educated at institutions that cost less, but still have high quality.

“Instead of continuing to struggle to move more students into selective colleges where the high-priced quality programs reside, we may be more successful moving money and quality programs to the community colleges where most of our students reside,” he and Strohl write . . .

The higher education system operates as an “engine of inequality,” Carnevale said. Funding disproportionately goes to selective universities that enroll few low-income students, while community colleges and unselective four-year schools that educate the neediest students get the least money.