In a few years, high school graduates in North Carolina will earn diplomas showing their readiness for university, community college or careers, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. Each seal requires a minimum 2.6 grade point average, basically a C+.
To earn the community college readiness seal, graduates must have completed Algebra II or integrated math III.
In February, the community college board decided graduates with a minimum 2.6 GPA can skip placement tests and start in college-level courses. The system’s research showed that 20 percent of students placed in remedial courses could have succeeded at the college level. High school grades are the best predictor of college success, the study concluded.
To earn the career readiness seal, students must
take four career/technical courses, score well on ACT’s WorkKeys exam, or have an industry-recognized credential, such a car repair certificate, Microsoft suite certification, or SAS programmer credentials.
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.
Credits that don’t count cost transfer students time, money — and often the opportunity to complete a degree, according to the Hechinger Report.
“One of the most common complaints a legislator gets from a constituent about higher education is, ‘My credits don’t transfer,’” says Davis Jenkins, senior researcher at Teachers College, Columbia University, who has studied the issue.
“This is so common, but it’s heart-rending,” Jenkins says. “And it also pisses me off as a taxpayer.”
A third of students transfer at least once, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center says. Most lose credits along the way. Full-time students average 3.8 years to earn a two-year degree and 4.7 years to get a four-year degree, according to Complete College America. An associate degree requires 60 credits, but the average graduate has earned 80, the advocacy group estimates. Bachelor’s degree graduates average 136.5 credits for a degree that requires 120.
Part of the problem is that public universities are largely funded based on their enrollment, not on whether students actually graduate. So while an institution has a financial incentive to take transfer students to fill seats left vacant when other students drop out, it may not have a financial incentive to help them successfully finish college and move on.
Karen Hernandez started at St. John’s University in New York and transferred after a year and a half to Nassau Community College, with 27 of the 36 credits she’d earned and paid for. After another year and a half, she received an associate’s degree. Then she transferred to Columbia University with 55 of her 63 credits. After three years in college, she faces another three years to complete a bachelor’s degree in art history and human rights. (And, if she graduates, she’ll have a hard time finding a job and paying off her college loans with an art history and human rights degree.)
University faculty often question the quality of courses taught at other institutions.
“Everybody feels that the way they do it is the right way,” says Janet L. Marling, director of the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students at the University of North Georgia. “To admit that somebody else does it equally well can chip away at their foothold.”
Sometimes students are told their credits will transfer, but don’t realize they won’t count toward their major. They end up with too many electives credits that don’t help them complete a degree. Others don’t learn if their credits transfer for a semester or more.
Some states have passed laws to guarantee associate degree graduates can transfer all their credits to a state university. But it’s a slow process.
It took Florida 10 years to bring its universities and colleges into line on transfer credits, for example. An analysis by a technical college in North Carolina found that only one of its English courses was accepted for core credit by all 16 of that state’s public universities. And some legislative efforts to make universities fix the transfer process have slammed up against the culture of competition.
Almost three years after California legislators demanded that anyone who earns an associate’s degrees at a community college be guaranteed transfer into the California State University system, for instance, students in two-thirds of all majors still don’t qualify, college and university officials there concede.
As more students take online courses, getting credits counted will become even more important. I predict that learning assessment will boom in the coming years as universities come under heavy political pressure to raise graduation rates by crediting what students have learned at other institutions, online, on the job, in the military or whatever.
Early college for all is the new goal of Duplin County schools in rural North Carolina, reports Education Week.
After (Duplin County Superintendent) Austin Obasohan visited Duplin Early College High School on the campus of James Sprunt Community College in Kenansville, N.C., he was inspired.
The academic expectations for students were high there, and nearly all students were graduating from high school—most with an associate degree.
“We want a unified commitment to give every child the same opportunity,” says Obasohan, who came on the job in July 2010.
Teachers will begin creating a “college-going culture” starting in kindergarten. Students in all five district high schools will have a chance to take college-level courses.
The county’s high school graduation rate has risen from 71 percent in 2009-10 to 80.7 percent in 2011-12. Enrollment is divided about evenly between white, Hispanic, and African-American students. About 70 percent qualify for a subsidized school lunch.
A bipartisan group of legislators has introduced a bill that would require college coursework as a condition of graduating from high school. The move would increase the number of students going to college, make their degrees more affordable and encourage students not considering college to continue in higher education, said Sen. Mark Hass, a Beaverton Democrat who is the bill’s chief sponsor.
Oregon students must pass 24 high school classes to earn a diploma. In its current form, Senate Bill 222 would require six of those classes earn college credit, starting with the class of 2020. It promises funding — how much is unstated — to train high school teachers to teach college-level courses.
It’s nice to know Oregon students are so accomplished that all can be expected to complete high school work in three years and move on to college work.
A North Carolina bill backed by Gov. Pat McCrory would create a “career ready” diploma in addition to a “college ready” diploma. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and is headed for the House. “Career and technical teacher licensing requirements also would be revised to help develop more teachers in those fields,” reports AP.
Community colleges will get $500 million in federal grants to fund job training. The Labor and Education departments will work together on the program, which will focus on ”skills development and employment opportunities in fields such as advanced manufacturing, transportation and health care, as well as science, technology, engineering and math careers through partnerships between training providers and local employers.”
“Many employers are currently unable to fill well-paying jobs because applicants lack the skills,” says JFF President and CEO Marlene B. Seltzer. “Today’s good jobs require education beyond high school and training that prepares workers with practical skills that employers need. Accelerating Opportunity focuses on educational programs that lead to the credentials workers need to secure a family-sustaining job and long-lasting career opportunities.”
Accelerating Opportunity hopes to create career pathways leading to “marketable, stackable, credit-bearing credentials” in at least 40 community colleges by 2014.
North Carolina community colleges have consolidated “green” jobs’ programs, creating stackable credentials that let students move easily between jobs and advanced schooling, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Using employer feedback on core skills and competencies, the 58-college system created 47 new courses, revised 219 and dropped 92.
“Our goal was not to create one-off programs” at individual campuses, said Scott Ralls, the system’s president. “It’s a curriculum that cuts across 58 colleges.”
. . . The program, named the Code Green Super Curriculum Improvement Project, affects academic areas related to building, energy, environment, transportation and engineering technology. More than 80 curriculum standards were consolidated into 32 revised ones, based on “career clusters” like architecture and construction technology (see box).
In many cases, students can earn an industry-recognized certificate with 12 to 18 credits, find a job and return later to any community college in the state to work toward a higher-level certificate or degree.
In addition to technical courses, the new energy credentials include “employability competencies,” such as working in teams.
The early-college model is raising high school graduation rates in Guilford County, North Carolina, reports Education Week.
Four of the schools, which allow students to earn college credits while still in high school, boasted 100 percent graduation rates this past school year, and another three had rates higher than 90 percent.
. . . Once they take college classes, students realize they have the skill set and work ethic to make it, said (Regional Superintendent Terry) Worrell. “No one is holding them back,” she added. “They start to know they are smart.”
Guilford has adopted different variations of the early-college model: Some schools focus on high achievers, while “middle colleges” are designed for students who haven’t done well academically. The district works with Guilford Technical Community College and with private colleges and universities.
With a ninth early-college school opening this fall in Guilford County—this one focused on science, technology, engineering, and math subjects—the district now has the largest concentration of early-college programs in the state, which leads the nation with 74 of them. Guilford has increased high school completion rates overall, from 74 percent in 2006 to 84.5 percent this year. The graduation rate in 2011 for all high schools in North Carolina was 77.9 percent and 91.2 percent for the early-college models, according to the North Carolina New Schools Project, a public-private venture, which supports early-college policy and strategy.
The accelerated Early College at Guilford is located on a private college campus. In 11th and 12th grade, students take classes taught by professors and earn 60 credits.
The district’s middle colleges typically work with 11th and 12th graders who are considered dropout risks and need a fresh start. At the Greensboro College Middle College, Principal Jamie King works to build a family environment and engage students.
“You can’t just fade away here and hide at the back of the classroom,” said Mr. King. “Classes are small, and you have to be part of it.”
The district also offers all-male and all-female options.
The new STEM Early College will open this month at North Carolina A&T, a historically black college. Students will focus on renewable energy, biomedicine or engineering.
Competing for new jobs in a bad economy, states are paying employers’ training costs, reports the New York Times. North Carolina is a leader, using its strong community colleges to design and teach customized curricula.
KERNERSVILLE, N.C. — Some of Caterpillar’s newest factory workers are training inside a former carpet warehouse here in the heart of tobacco country. In classrooms, they click through online tutorials and study blueprints emblazoned with the company’s logo. And on a mock factory floor, they learn to use wrenches, hoses and power tools that they will need to build axles for large mining trucks.
The primary beneficiary is undoubtedly Caterpillar, a maker of industrial equipment with rising profits that has a new plant about 10 miles away in Winston-Salem.
Yet North Carolina is picking up much of the cost. It is paying about $1 million to help nearly 400 workers acquire these skills, and a community college has committed to develop a custom curriculum that Caterpillar has valued at about $4.3 million.
Caterpillar is one of dozens of companies, many with growing profits and large cash reserves, that have come to expect such largess from states in return for creating jobs. The labor market is finally starting to show some signs of improvement, with the government reporting on Friday that employers created 200,000 jobs in December.
There’s no guarantee the jobs will be permanent. North Carolina spent nearly $2 million to train workers for a Dell factory that closed after five years. Some of those workers are now training to work at Caterpillar.
Caterpillar is investing $426 million in the new factory in Winston-Salem, where unemployment is 10 percent. The state offered a $51 million package of incentives, including the training, to get the factory.
The state is also paying to train workers for a new Honda Aircraft factory in Greensboro, an expanding Siemens plant in Charlotte and an existing call center in Winston-Salem for US Airways, which relocated 200 jobs from Manila last year.
According to the state, North Carolina spent about $9.4 million to train workers as part of projects that created nearly 4,500 jobs in the 12 months through June 30. (The total cost per job rises sharply beyond the $2,000 in training because of voluminous tax breaks and other incentives.)
One of the first new Caterpillar workers is Dante Durant, a 42-year-old former Dell employee. He attended a Caterpillar job fair at Forsyth Technical Community College, took a series of tests administered by staff at Forsyth Tech and passed training classes taught primarily by Forsyth Tech instructors.
Caterpillar will create 392 full-time jobs with an average annual salary of $40,000 in Winston-Salem, company executives predict.
Four North Carolina community colleges will not let students apply for federal student loans, fearing they’ll run up debts they won’t be able to repay. Other colleges in the state are considering pulling out of the loan program.
North Carolina legislators passed a law requiring community colleges to participate in the loan program, then reversed the mandate. Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed the reversal, but the veto was reversed in a special session late in the year.
Central Piedmont Community College started offering the federal student loan program in July. Some 3,168 students have run up $5 million in student loans.
“Our concern is if students take a large amount of debt, once they do finish school it will impact their ability to do things like buy a house or a car,” said Jeff Lowrance, assistant to the president at CPCC.
Leaders are also concerned about new federal laws. In a couple of years, the schools could lose all federal aid, including Pell grants, if a large percentage of their students default on the loans.
“There is no screening process. There is no way to tell if a student is in a good position to pay back those student loans,” Lowrance said.
North Carolina ranks last in the nation in community college students’ access to financial aid, says Debbie Cochrane of The Institute for College Access and Success. There’s little risk community colleges could be barred from Pell Grants because of loan defaults, Cochrane says.