Retraining adults for high-demand jobs and improving graduation rates are the priorities for Iowa community colleges, reports the Gazette. Half the students who enrolled in 2009-10 earned a credential or transferred within three years. Colleges are trying to improve that number.
Des Moines Area Community College is among the schools that now requires an orientation course for all students, said Jeremy Varner, administrator of the community colleges division with the Iowa Department of Education. Other colleges are putting resources into more advising and early-warning programs for when students begin to struggle, he said.
“Getting more through to graduation — that’s where a lot of that focus is,” Varner said.
Kirkwood Community College hopes its math “emporium” will improve retention, ’said Math and Science Dean Lori Woeste.
Students work in a computer lab where an instructor is always on hand for one-on-one discussion, and the students work at their own pace. . . . students signs up for the Prep for College Math course, where they demonstrate competency in the “modules” they are confident about and then focus their time on the areas where they need work, Woeste said.
College officials hope state funding will improve next year, easing the tuition burden on students and funding job training. Iowa is focusing on training workers for jobs in nursing, information technology and advanced manufacturing.
Cadavers are making a comeback in medical classes, reports the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
At Cabrillo College in Aptos, 20 students crowd around a cadaver in Robin McFarland’s anatomy class. “Virtual learning” — including 3-D digital models of the human body — “can’t replace the real experience of actually working with the real cadaver,” said Andrew Corson, the program’s director.
The skin on the torso, legs and arms has been removed to show the muscles underneath. On the hands, the skin is intact, beige from preservatives and covered with liver spots. The smell of formaldehyde permeates the lab. A couple of students slip Altoids mints under their tongues to combat the fume-induced nausea.
. . . Most of the students in McFarland’s anatomy class will go into nursing programs, so she thinks of the bodies as her students’ first patients.
The students examine two cadavers, side by side. Next to the 90-year-old who suffered from Alzheimer’s is 11-288, an 84-year-old man and longtime smoker who died of congestive heart failure. The students have spent months comparing the two bodies, understanding not just how they operated in life, but what led to the men’s deaths.
Natasha Frias, a kinesiology student, was shocked by her first cadaver. “This is what I look like on the inside?”
Students use bodies that have been donated to the University of California at San Francisco’s Willed Body Program. At the end of the semester, McFarland’s students write an essay about their experience. One wrote: “I thank everyone dead or alive who made this such a wonderful learning experience.”
Michigan community colleges will offer bachelor’s degrees in specified vocational fields, under legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder. The bill covers four-year degrees in cement technology, maritime technology, energy production technology and culinary arts. Nursing was cut out of the bill in a compromise to overcome opposition from state universities.
Going to college and picking the right major will increase your earnings, but not as much as you think, write Andrew G. Biggs and Abigail Haddad of the American Enterprise Institute. Recent high-profile studies confuse correlation and causation, they argue. “Simply because two things tend to occur together — such as college attendance and higher incomes — does not necessarily mean that one causes the other.”
In a recent study, Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney of the Hamilton Project conducted a seemingly simple cost-benefit analysis: While four years of college today can cost in excess of $100,000, a typical college graduate earns roughly $13,000 more per year than a high school graduate. They conclude that, despite rising tuition costs, the annual “return” to college education tops 16 percent, far exceeding investments such as stocks or bonds.
First, going to college isn’t the same as graduating from college, write Biggs and Haddad. Only 58 percent of people began college in 2004 had graduated six years later. Mediocre students — the sort who aren’t sure whether to go to college or find a job — do much worse.
Second, high school graduates who enroll in college are quite different from those who don’t.
High school students who go on to college took a more rigorous high school curriculum, scored better on tests of reading and math, came from higher-income families, were in better physical and mental health, and were less likely to have been arrested. These are all correlated with higher earnings regardless of whether a person attends college, either because they contribute directly to higher pay or because they proxy for other factors that do. How much a college education increases the incomes of those who attend is a different question than the simple difference in earnings between college grads and individuals with only a high school diploma.
Using the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth it is possible to control for these and other differences between college grads and the rest of us. Once you control for both the risk of not graduating from college and differing personal characteristics, the earnings boost attributable to college attendance is cut in half.
Studies on the best-paying college majors also are flawed, they write. The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University reports that four-year graduates in engineering, mathematics or computer science have median earnings that top $70,000, while graduates in the arts, education or social work earn less than $47,000. The choice of major also “determines unemployment,” Georgetown advises.
However, engineering majors start out ahead of arts majors, Biggs and Haddad write.
. . . high school graduates aiming for high-earning majors such as engineering enter college with higher average SAT scores, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, while those aiming for lower-paying majors have lower average SAT scores. But SAT scores almost certainly are correlated with higher incomes regardless of college major chosen. Similarly, high-paying jobs also entail longer work hours. Numerous studies . . . have found that controlling for SAT scores, hours worked and other factors explains most of the pay differences that initially appear to be driven by choice of college major.
Young people considering their futures need to remember that they’re not average. Individual characteristics — intelligence, work ethic, interests — will determine their future. Bill Gates dropped out of college and did OK. Are you Bill Gates? Nurses with associate degrees make good money. If you faint at the sight of blood, that’s not your best choice.
Unemployed college graduates are heading to community college, writes David Koeppel in Fortune. Instead of pursuing an expensive graduate degree that may not pay off, they’re seeking associate degrees in vocational fields.
Some of the returning students are recent graduates who have found that their sociology or philosophy major has not been enough to find gainful employment. They are now training for careers as nurses, IT specialists, or medical technicians. Radiation therapists and registered nurses with associate’s degrees earn median salaries of $74,200 and $63,800 respectively, according to a 2009 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Many of these students have graduated fairly recently and the job market didn’t pan out the way they expected, says Felix Matos Rodriguez, the president of Hostos Community College in the Bronx. “Some say their initial choice of major was not the right one. For some folks that were laid off, it was a wake-up call.”
In California, 260,000 college graduates under 30 are working in food service, retail and clerical jobs that don’t require education, reports KEYT in Santa Barbara.
“We’re seeing graduates in humanities and some of the arts fields struggling,” said Ian Moats, staffing consultant at Express Employment Professionals.
“A bachelor’s degree used to be a golden ticket into getting a decent middle wage paying job where you could have the opportunity to prove yourself. We’re seeing that that’s not the case so much now due to the competition and the skills gap they’re not getting the opportunity to prove themselves in the job market and they’re resulting and taking lower wage jobs,” said Moats.
Jobs that require “good customer service, interaction, good communication . . . are good preludes” to more responsible jobs, said Raymond McDonald of the Santa Barbara County Workforce Investment Board.
Even in this job market, there are employers looking for qualified candidates: 13 hot careers include nursing (and other health specialties), manufacturing, plumbing, mechanics and trucking.
Virginia has published a database showing recent graduates’ earnings by college attended, degree and major, reports the Washington Post.
“Students and their families should have this information at their fingertips so they can make better-informed decisions about where to enroll, what to major in and how much debt they might comfortably take on relative to their likely earnings,” Mark Schneider, vice president of the nonprofit American Institutes for Research, told Congress last month.
Tennessee, Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada and Texas are working on providing similar data and Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have written a bipartisan bill, the “Student Right to Know Before You Go Act,” which would encourage the trend, reports the Post.
Virginia’s site has limitations: It doesn’t include salary information for graduates who left the state or work in the military or federal government. It also doesn’t track four-year graduates who enrolled in graduate school rather than seeking a job. It may understate the long-term value of a bachelor’s degree.
In the first few years after college, vocational training pays off, according to 2009-10 data. The wages by degree levels chart shows higher median earnings for short-term certificate holders ($30,548) than for graduates with certificates taking more than a year but less than two ($28,490). Graduates with an associate degree designed for transfer students averaged $27,693, while new graduates with an associate degree in an occupational or technical field — nursing is the most common — averaged $36,372. Two-year occupational graduates earned more than four-year graduates ($33,122).
According to the wages by program chart, a two-year graduate in auto mechanics averages $32,521, while a four-year graduate in communications/journalism averages $22,547. A dental hygienist with an associate degree averages $ 52,246, more than a hygienist with a bachelor’s degree.
Instead of requiring all nurses to enter the profession with a bachelor’s degree, nurses should be able to start with an associate degree and make “academic progress” throughout their careers, say organizations including the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Association of Community Colleges, the Association of Community Colleges Trustees, the National League for Nursing and the National Organization for Associate Degree Nursing.
Working together will facilitate the unity of nursing education programs and advance opportunities for academic progression, which may include seamless transition into associate, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral programs.
Community colleges fear “degree creep” could destroy very successful associate degree programs in nursing and other health-care fields, such as respiratory therapy. Nurses with associate and bachelor’s degrees show comparable levels of competence on licensing exams, according to a recent American Association of Community Colleges policy brief.
Pell Grants are celebrating their 40th anniversary, notes Community College Times. In 1972, Rhode Island Sen. Claiborne Pell wrote the law creating college grants for low-income students. Now expanded to moderate-income students, Pell spending is a huge part of the U.S. Education budget.
“It’s absolutely indispensable,” said Félix Matos Rodríguez, president of Hostos Community College (HCC), a City University of New York college. An estimated 5,000 of 7,000 HCC students use Pell aid.
Phi Theta Kappa, the community college honor society, asked members how Pell has helped them. Kimberlee Jenkins, who attends Mesa Community College in Arizona, wrote that the grant enabled her to earn a degree in two years while raising a child.
I had a great career with my first child on the way when the economy took a dive and I was laid off. As a soon-to-be single mother, I was lost and scared. . . . I went to the college looking for information, but realized I couldn’t afford to pay for school, take care of my baby and look for a job. I was directed to look into financial aid and loans—another scary thought: loans with no income! I was extremely excited when I learned I could qualify for a Pell Grant. I am currently on track to graduate this May with honors. Completion time has taken me less than four semesters.
Thanks to Pell aid, Capri Richardson was able to earn a nursing degree at Florence-Darlington Technical College in South Carolina.
The fast-growing demand for health care will create 5.6 million new jobs over the next eight years, according to a study by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. That’s a 30 percent increase by 2020 — whether Obamacare is enacted or not.
The nursing workforce is expected to grow by 26 percent, but nurses will need more education. In 1980, 37 percent of entry-level registered nurses had at least an associate’s degree; by 2008, that figure had increased to 80 percent, the report finds. The rising demand for bachelor’s degrees is “crowding out” blacks and Hispanics.
Health care pays well only for educated workers, notes Forbes.
Aside from nursing, the demand for health care support workers such as home health aides and substance abuse counselors will also increase substantially. And therein lies the catch. Nurses and other healthcare professional are well compensated, but 70% of healthcare support workers earn less than $30,000 and 72% haven’t graduated college. . . . By 2020, 54% of these job will require at least some post-secondary education.
Among health care workers 22 percent are foreign born, compared to 13 percent of all workers nationally. Most foreign-born nurses come from the Philippines, India and China.
The demand for community college training in health fields, especially nursing, is soaring as laid-off workers seek new careers. There’s now an oversupply of new nursing graduates in some parts of the country, though it’s expected to be temporary.