Thirty states will spend more on high er education in the current fiscal year, but overall state spending is down 0.4 percent, according to an annual survey by Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers. Since fiscal 2008, state higher education spending has declined nearly 11 percent.
New Mexico will spend a measly 0.1 percent percent more: energy-rich Wyoming will boost spending by nearly 14 percent. But Florida will cut higher ed spending by 8 percent.
In California, where state money for colleges fell nearly 6 percent from the year before, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has proposed increasing state funds for the public-college systems by 4 percent to 6 percent in the coming fiscal year. As in many other states, that proposal came with the expectation that state colleges will keep tuition flat and increase their efficiency in producing graduates.
During the past five years, more than a dozen states have cut college funding by more than 20 percent. Arizona (37 percent) and New Hampshire (36 percent) have cut the most.
“Barring a further downturn in the economy, the relatively small overall change … suggests that higher education may be at the beginning stages of a climb out of the fiscal trough caused by the last recession,” says a news release accompanying the survey data.
However, a new report from Moody’s Investors Services predicts tough times for higher education with stagnant state funding, student resistance to tuition increases and a declining number of high school graduates.
Recent four-year college graduates are struggling in the job market, but it’s a lot worse for job seekers with only a high school diploma or associate degree, concludes a Pew report.
Before the recession, just over half of young adults with a high school degree (HS) were employed, compared to almost two-thirds of those with an associate degree (AA) and nearly three-fourths of those with a bachelor’s degree (BA).
Job losses during the recession made existing employment gaps even worse. The employment declines for those with HS and AA degrees were 16 and 11 percent, respectively, compared with 7 percent for those with a BA degree.
Pew did not find “a sharp increase” in four-year graduates taking low-skill or low-wage jobs — or going to graduate school.
Older, returning students who require remediation are straining Florida’s community colleges, reports the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. From 2004 to 2011, Florida’s remedial education costs rose from $118 million to $168 million. The vast majority of “developmental” students have been out of school for at least a year or two: In the 2010-11 school year, 85 percent of students taking remedial classes were age 20 or older.
The recession accelerated the trend.
Laid-off workers and those . . . who want to train for new lines of work or bolster their résumés, have been flooding onto college campuses. It isn’t just the weak job market that has been encouraging them to do this. The federal government is providing record amounts of financial aid.
Most have rusty academic skills, especially in math. Four of every five first-year, full-time students over 20 had to take remedial math courses. For those 35 and older, the rate increased to 90 percent.
Hunter R. Boylan, director of the National Center for Developmental Education, says older students’ need for remedial math is natural. “You read every day, but when was the last time someone said, ‘Excuse me, Can you help me solve a polynomial equation?’ ” Boylan said. “It’s a skill that atrophies quickly and because it is not used regularly, it goes away.”
President Obama has promoted easier access to education for disadvantaged students and expanded Pell Grants by more than $15 billion. In Florida, the number of students receiving federal financial aid and taking remedial classes more than doubled from 2007 to 2011.
Older students taking remedial courses said the availability of financial aid was a determining factor in deciding to go to college.
José Ramos is one of them. Ramos is a phlebotomist — that’s the person who takes blood samples for health tests. A Pell Grant enabled Ramos, 46, to pursue a nursing degree at St. Petersburg College. “Being the only provider in a household and for what I make, you can’t survive and go to school,” said Ramos, a father of four. “Normally, right now, I wouldn’t be in school. I’d be working two jobs supporting my family and not able to see my son grow up like I did my daughter.”
. . . Financial aid allowed Ramos to reduce his hours at work and concentrate on his studies. But his education has also taken longer than he anticipated due to his need for remedial math. Ramos didn’t score high enough in math on the entrance exam to take college-level algebra.
Patricia Smith, who oversees the campus learning lab, says many older students don’t make it through the remedial sequence. A 2007 state analysis estimated half of remedial students drop out before qualifying for college-level classes. The rate is higher for older students, instructors say. In some cases, laid-off workers find new jobs. In others, students are pulled away from college by family problems, part-time jobs and, for veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder.
Older students who stick with it are “more focused,” says Smith. “They will help bring up the younger students in the class and actually act as nurturers and be great role models for younger students.”
College enrollments declined by 1.8 percent in fall 2012 — 3.1 percent at community colleges, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. For-profit colleges took the biggest hit with a drop of 7.2 percent. Enrollment fell by 0.6 percent at four-year public colleges and universities, and rose by half a percentage point at four-year private nonprofit colleges.
College enrollments typically rise and fall with the unemployment rate, notes Inside Higher Ed.
So the fact that the enrollment boom that colleges enjoyed as the economy tanked in 2008 and 2009 has begun to reverse itself is in many ways to be expected.
But that suggests that the philanthropic and government efforts to get significant numbers of adults to go to college (or to return there) to pursue President Obama’s goal of driving up the number of Americans with a postsecondary credential may not be bearing much fruit.
Enrollment declines were bigger for full-time students, compared to part-timers, and for those aged 24 and older (-3.4 percent) compared to traditional-aged students (-0.7 percent).
After seven boom years, community college enrollment growth is slowing, writes Victor M. H. Borden, a Indiana University professor of educational leadership and policy studies, in Community College Week. Full-time student enrollment declined by 6 percent in the past year, while part-time enrollment increased by .5 percent.
. . . full-time enrollments had been growing at a faster rate than part-time enrollments between 2008 and 2010, that is, during the most difficult economic years. The more recent decline, as well as the even larger decline in enrollments among the even more vocationally focused for-profit sector, may be a sign of slightly better economic conditions this past year.
Community colleges have been under heavy pressure to meet increasing demand, Borden writes. That pressure could ease. However, some worry that the enrollment decline will slow the Obama administration’s campaign to “increase the number of adults with college degrees and provide businesses with skilled workers.”
Chandler-Gilbert Community College, located southeast of Phoenix, for example, has known nothing but growth since it first opened its doors in 1987 and this year tops Community College Week’s list of fastest-growing community colleges with enrollments of more than 10,000 students. According to a CCWeek analysis, the number of degree-seeking students at Chandler-Gilbert CC jumped by 14.1 percent between 2010 and 2011.
Across the country, Wake Technical Community College, near Raleigh, N.C., ranks second among large colleges with an enrollment increase of 12.2 percent. In 2012, Wake Tech surpassed 20,000 in enrollment for the first time.
. . . On Election Day, voters in Wake County approved $200 million in bonds to expand the college, which currently has a waiting list of 5,400 students unable to get into desired classes.
Both colleges are located in areas with rapidly growing populations.
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.
One-third of the nation’s 25- to 29-year-olds have completed at least a bachelor’s degree, according to a Pew study. That’s a new high. Sixty-three percent have completed at least “some” college. And 90 percent have a high school diploma or GED.
With fewer job prospects, young adults are staying in school, Pew reports. In addition, many more people believe a college education is necessary to get ahead in life. In a 2010 Gallup poll, 75 percent said a college education is “very important,”up from 36 percent In 1978.
However, the U.S. higher education system is no longer the best in the world, according to a 2011 Pew survey of college presidents. ”College presidents are concerned about the quality, preparedness and study habits of today’s college students,” Pew reports. Fifty-two percent say college students today study less than their predecessors did a decade ago; just 7 percent say they study more.
Manufacturers want skilled workers now — not in two years. The unemployed want jobs now too. In Minneapolis, Right Skills Now offers a fast track to employment, reports USA Today. Studying at two-year colleges, students spend 16 to 18 weeks learning to run computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines.
MINNEAPOLIS — For decades, Mike Hummon, an unemployed substitute music teacher, was frustrated in his quest to become a school band director.
Now, he good-naturedly endures frustrations of a different sort as a 53-year-old student in an accelerated manufacturing class here. In the classroom one day recently, the tiny hole he punched in a small block of metal was a few ten-thousandths of an inch off center. Hummon accepted he’d have to start over and carve a new block.
“It’s OK,” he says. “It’s just (a matter of ) getting a feel for how to use the machine.”
He isn’t just seeking a new career as an operator of computer-controlled factory machines. Hummon, a dishwasher, two social service workers and several laid-off manufacturing and construction workers are on the front line of a campaign to close a puzzling gap in the labor market that has many U.S. employers struggling to find skilled workers despite the 7.8% jobless rate.
Right Skills Now graduates are “virtually assured a job in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area at a starting wage of about $18 an hour after a six-week paid internship,” reports USA Today.
“We can’t wait two years or four years,” for students to graduate college, says Darlene Miller, CEO of Permac Industries, a contract manufacturer in Burnsville, Minn., who promoted the idea for the program last year when she was unable to find seven CNC operators. “We need people now.”
Students can earn industry certification at Dunwoody College of Technology, which is private, and South Central College, which is public. The vast majority of graduates in the first session found jobs quickly.
Miller, a member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, worked with the Manufacturing Institute to develop Right Skills Now, which has spread to Nevada and will launch soon in Michigan. Courses in welding, production and other factory skills are also planned.
Eighty percent of manufacturers said they couldn’t find enough skilled workers last year, according to a survey by the institute and Deloitte. Manufacturing has regained only 500,000 of the 2.3 million jobs lost in the recession. But many laid-off workers lack high-tech manufacturing skills.
Employers are working with community colleges to train military veterans for high-tech manufacturing jobs, writes Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE.
College enrollment declined by .2 percent in the fall of 2011 — the first drop in 15 years — according to preliminary U.S. Education Department data.
Enrollment dipped 2.23 percent at community colleges and 7 percent at for-profit two-year programs.
During recessions, laid-off workers often enroll in college to learn new skills or wait for the economy to improve, notes Inside Higher Ed.
So it’s possible that enrollments are leveling off (and shrinking slightly) now because the economy had begun rebounding enough by fall 2011 that some of those who had flocked to higher education during the recession began finding jobs. It’s also possible that college tuition levels — which have continued to rise in recent years, driven in part by cutbacks in state support and other traditional sources of colleges’ revenue — are pricing more students out of higher education.
According to the new data, fewer whites are in college, but more minorities. Latino enrollment is up 6.42 percent.
For-profit colleges have lost students in the face of scrutiny about graduation rates, graduates’ job prospects and loan defaults.
The community college decline could be linked to long wait lists at California community colleges.
The drop in community college enrollment could be “the canary in the coal mine . . . a sign that higher education is losing its ability to serve as the primary vehicle for economic mobility,” warns Joni Finney, a Penn education professor, on The Quick and the Ed. ”It is hard to imagine that increased employment opportunities are the cause” of the shift from full-time to part-time studies, she writes.