U of Arizona wants more transfers

The University of Arizona is trying to increase community college transfers, at the Board of Regents’ request.

Over the last four years, UA has averaged 1,229 transfer students annually from state community colleges. The goal for 2020 is 3,000.

UA is negotiating agreements with individual community colleges on which classes can transfer to the university. Since October, the UA has increased its agreements with Pima Community College from 29 to 146.

Pima fires 2 after veterans complain

Student veterans complained repeatedly about mismanagement and harassment at the veterans’ center at Pima Community College‘s campus in downtown Tucson. Finally, PCC fired two top administrators and reassigned the center’s manager, reports the Arizona Daily Star.

Luba Chliwniak and Jerry Haynes, the campus president and vice president, were fired. Diane-Marie Landsinger, who formerly oversaw the center, remains on the payroll but no longer works with veterans.

Many veterans avoid the center, said Jared Taylor, 30, immediate past president of the PCC chapter of Student Veterans of America. Landsinger, a human resources analyst, had no experience with vets, he said.

Landsinger often tried to censor private conversations between veterans within the center, and would make them shut off the television news, claiming that watching it might trigger their combat stress symptoms, he said.

When challenged, “she gets upset and lashes out,” he said.

“She seemed like she was afraid of us,” Taylor said. “I said, ‘Look, we’re not ticking time bombs. All of us are getting help and we help each other.”

Taylor said Chliwniak once berated him publicly on campus when his service dog was off its leash. The animal is trained to help him cope with combat stress symptoms, he said, by inserting itself between him and others to maintain a comfortable distance.

“I know lots of people with PTSD and they don’t need a dog like that,” he recalled her saying.

Jonah Fontenot, 36, a former Army truck driver and now a member of the student veterans group at PCC, said he made two formal complaints to the college about Landsinger alleging “harassment and a hostile work environment” at the campus.

PCC officials said the veterans center wasn’t the only issue that led to the leadership change.

Suspended student claims anti-English bias

A Pima Community College nursing student claims the Tucson college suspended her for complaining that classmates spoke Spanish in class creating a disruptive and “hostile” learning environment. Terri Bennett, 50, charges the nursing program director called her a “bigot and a bitch.”

Bennett sued the college in Pima County Superior Court, alleging harassment, privacy violations, breach of contract, violations of the Arizona Constitution, retaliation, defamation, discrimination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Pima instructors teach in English, but students translate the lessons into Spanish for non-English speakers, charges Bennett, who does not speak or understand Spanish. Her classmates spoke primarily in Spanish during labs, clinicals and other activities, her filing said.

“During (Introduction to Nursing), the talking, interruptions and distractions, all in Spanish, from her peers increased dramatically, to the point that it impede Ms. Bennett’s ability to concentrate, focus, listen to the lecture, and participate in group studies, clinicals, and other learning activities.

“On or about April 3, 2013, Ms. Bennett participated in an interaction between Spanish speakers and non-Spanish speakers in her class, in which the Spanish speakers were asked not to speak in Spanish in front of non-Spanish speakers. The Spanish-speaking group of students laughed and mocked Ms. Bennett and the other non-Spanish speakers.

Bennett complained to David Kutzler, director of the nursing program. She charges he accused her of “discriminating against Mexican-Americans” and threatened to “write [her] up for a violation of the code of conduct based on discrimination and harassment,” her complaint charges. “He accused Ms. Bennett of being a ‘bigot and a bitch,’ and warned her ‘[y]ou do not want to go down that road.'”

Several weeks later, Bennett was suspended on charges of discrimination and harassment and disrupting class by arguing with an instructor about a test answer.

Bennett claims her suspension violated the Arizona constitution, which establishes English as the state’s official language, and violates her free speech rights. “PCC took extreme disciplinary measures against Ms. Bennett because she expressed her opinion about English being spoken in PCC classrooms,” the complaint states.

Students complained that Bennett was harassing and intimidating them for having private conversations in Spanish, Kutzler told the Daily Caller.  He denies calling Bennett a “bigot and a bitch.”

Pima faces accreditation loss for remedial policy

Threatened with losing accreditation, Pima Community College is expected to open admission to all students, reversing a policy that sent very poorly prepared students to alternative programs. Accreditors also criticized the Arizona college’s leadership problems, including mismanagement by past and present administrators, a “culture of fear” and an allegedly absentee governing board,  reports Inside Higher Ed. In addition, Roy Flores, Pima’s former chancellor, has been accused of sexual harassment.

Eager for Pima to become a four-year college, Flores pushed through tighter admissions standards, arguing that students who test below the seventh grade in reading and math “have little chance of succeeding in a college environment,” Only 5 percent of students in remedial classes advance to college-level work, Flores wrote in the Arizona Star.

The accreditation team said that caused Pima to fail an accreditation test: The “institution’s mission demonstrates commitment to the public good.”

“The college’s decision to change its admissions policy despite community opposition conflicts with its stated mission of developing the community through learning,” wrote Sylvia Manning, the commission’s president, “and demonstrates a lack of understanding of its role in serving the public good in its community.”

In 2011, Pima began turning away students who scored poorly on a placement test, ACT’s COMPASS. The number of full-time remedial students declined by 30 percent that year, leading to a 28 percent cut in faculty slots.

The college’s leadership has recommended that the new admissions standards be dropped.

One year to a two-year degree

Pima Community College‘s Sprint Schedule will let students complete a liberal arts associate degree in one year. Sprinters will take a mix of web-based, classroom and hybrid classes to earn least 23 credits in the fall and spring semesters and 15 credits in the summer semester.  The recommended schedule requires only two days a week on campus at the Tucson college.

If not higher tuition, then what?

To appease angry students, Santa Monica College has suspended plans to charge four times more for quick access to high-demand classes. But demand still exceeds supply of classroom seats and that means some other form of rationing, write Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

What happens if you don’t respond to excess demand by raising the price? . . . We can make people wait in line or we can develop a more systematic method of choosing among eager consumers. That might be through some evidence-based method for choosing those who either need the product most or have characteristics making them most likely to use it well. Or it might be through a lottery of some sort.

…We could fund the institutions better so they could offer enough sections of the necessary courses. We could raise the price for all courses for all students. Or we can ration. But just saying no to a price hike doesn’t settle the question: some process will determine who will get the sought after prize, and you need to figure out what that process will be.

Despite the sharp rise in tuition at California’s community colleges, students still pay less than community college students elsewhere. And they get less in terms of access to classes, paying in time instead of money.

Differential tuition isn’t new at community colleges, writes Paul Fain in Inside Higher Ed. However, colleges typically charge more only for special programs outside the core mission or for courses that cost more to teach, such as engineering or nursing courses that require specialized equipment and small class sizes.

Pima Community College, a large institution in Arizona, this spring introduced differential tuition for high-cost offerings like veterinary technology and dental hygiene. The college studied the cost of delivery for disciplines over four years, according to college officials. To be picked for differential rates, which are 30 or 40 percent higher than standard tuition, courses needed to exceed the median cost for at least two consecutive years.

Some colleges also charge more for online courses, hoping to create a cash cow.

Budget cuts lead to downsizing

In response to budget cuts, community colleges are downsizing, reports USA Today.

Texarkana College in Texas is one of the latest schools to drop intercollegiate sports.

A group of older adults is working to keep alive some version of Santa Barbara City College‘s continuing education division, which offers free classes in subjects such as financial planning and pastry-making.

Starting this summer, Pima Community College in Tucson will no longer offer remediation for incoming adult students who fail a seventh-grade-level test of reading, writing and math.

Community colleges are focusing on improving completion rates and retraining workers who’ve been laid off.

“The challenge of this decade for community colleges is to make hard choices about whom they will serve, and in what ways,” says Kay McClenney, director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas.


Arizona college to require 7th-grade skills

Pima Community College in Tucson will restrict admission to high school graduates or GED holders with at least seventh-grade proficiency in reading, writing and math, starting in 2012. The new admissions standards will encourage success, writes Roy Flores, the college president, the Arizona Star.

“Students who test below this level have little chance of succeeding in a college environment,” Flores writes. Only 5 percent of students in remedial classes advance to college-level work.

Pathways to Pima will replace PCC’s lowest-level developmental education classes with counseling, diagnostic testing and “self-paced, computer-based or face-to-face learning modules” that will prepare low-skilled students to meet the seventh-grade standard and start college. Students in Pathways programs will not earn college credit or be eligible for federal aid.

Of 35,000 students at PCC, about 2,300 students — 6.3 percent — test below the seventh-grade level.

Pima is abandoning its mission to save money, argues Pamela Powers in the Tucson Citizen.

With the new entrance procedures and the elimination of remedial classes, Pima will cut approximately 200 adjunct professor positions.

PCC has done little to help low-skilled students, writes Greg Hart, a former adult education dean at the college. A 2000 task force recommended replacing remedial classes with a “skill-mastery model,” but nothing was done.


We can’t do everything

Overwhelmed by unprepared students who fail remedial classes, Pima Community College in Arizona is limiting admissions, writes Chancellor Roy Flores in Inside Higher Ed.

In 2009, 89 percent of new students were placed in remedial math, 35 percent in remedial reading and 51 percent in remedial writing.  Pima spends more than $20 million a year on “developmental education” at its six Tucson campuses.

Outcomes are terrible: Only 4.1 percent of low-level remedial math students in 2004 completed an associate degree by 2009. Only 2.2 percent of students in the lowest remedial reading level in 2004 had taken a single college-level reading class by 2006; only 6.1 percent had taken any college-level class.

In summary, students testing into the lowest levels of developmental education have virtually no chance of ever moving beyond remedial work and achieving their educational goals. For those students and their families, developmental education is expensive and demoralizing.

Pima is looking at other community colleges’ promising approaches to improving remedial education, but the college also is redefining its open-door admissions policy.

Arizona law mandates that admission be granted to any person who “demonstrates evidence of potential success in the community college.” But, as our outcomes data show, some people who come here simply have not received the education needed to succeed in college. To admit those men and women – some of whom have the equivalent of no better than a middle-school education — and accept their tuition payment, knowing that they have virtually no chance of becoming college-ready, is callous at best.

The college thus intends to amend its open admissions policy for degree- and certificate-seeking students 18 and older to require a high school diploma or its equivalent, and to require appropriate scores on assessment tests. Only students who score at the very bottom will not be admitted.

Pima will refer students who don’t meet admissions standards to adult education.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has proposed a 56 percent reduction in state funding for community colleges on top of a 30 percent cut in state aid over the past two years. “The state is sending us an explicit message,” Flores writes. “You must drastically reduce programs and services.”

The college also receives local funding, but property tax revenue is down because real estate prices have plummeted.

Pima is faced with funding remedial classes with a poor track record or putting the money into desperately needed job training programs, which have proven far more successful.

Flores hopes the new new admissions policy will “spur an honest examination of education in Pima County.”  Why are so many high school graduates unprepared to succeed at community college?

How do you know who’s dangerous?

It’s easy to say Pima Community College should have “done something” to get Jared Loughner into mental-health treatment, writes Community College Dean. But it’s remarkably hard to do more than suspend a student who appears to be mentally ill.

Like many, my college established a Threat Assessment Team after the Virginia Tech massacre. The team has faculty, counselors, student affairs leadership, an academic dean, and the head of security on it. It examines cases brought to it by concerned members of the college community about people on campus who are exhibiting signs of being dangerous.

. . . Okay, a student is pale and withdrawn, young, male, socially awkward, sometimes angry, and frequently in his own world. Is he dangerous or just weird? How do you know? That same student writes a paper in which he admits fantasizing about buying an Uzi, driving to the worst part of town, and “doing some justice.” (I’m describing a student I had in one of my classes about ten years ago.) Is he a mass murderer in the making, or just someone who has watched way too many action movies? How do you know?

It’s easier in Arizona than in most states to get a judge to order a mental-health evaluation. College officials, the sheriff’s department or  Loughner’s parents could have done it. If they had, it probably would have saved the lives of six people. But what’s clear in hindsight is not so clear at the time.

A former student has sued Brooklyn College charging she spent two weeks in a psychiatric hospital after reporting suspicions that her roommate or landlord had planted a video camera in her bedroom.

The new lawsuit alleges that when (Sophia) Eze went to Brooklyn College’s security office to voice her suspicions, a college psychological counselor was summoned. The counselor asked her a “series of personal questions pertaining to her psychological state of mind,” the suit said, including whether she was suicidal, heard voices or ever suffered from mental illness.

The lawsuit said that Ms. Eze answered all the questions in the negative, but that the counselor called an ambulance anyway and that Ms. Eze was “forcibly led into an ambulance.”

Eze already has won $110,000 in a lawsuit against the psychiatric hospital.

Few community colleges have psychiatrists on staff, notes Inside Higher Ed.