Black and Latino males start community college with lofty goals, but few achieve their dreams, reports Aspirations to Achievement. Black and Latino males are less prepared for college-level work than their classmates, the Center for Community College Student Engagement report found. They also face stereotyping that can undercut their confidence.
Eighty-seven percent of black and Latino males enrolled at community college are seeking an associate degree, compared to 80 percent of white males. Within three years, 37 percent of white men — but only five percent of black and Latino men — have completed a degree.
It’s not that black and Latino males aren’t trying. Compared to white males with similar GPAs, they are less likely to skip class and more likely to use tutoring, computer labs and study skills courses. They sign up for orientation, learning communities and first-year experience programs. But it’s not enough.
Helping students build relationships with mentors can increase persistence, the report stated. For example, Jackson College in Michigan raised the retention rate for black males through an intensive mentoring program called Men of Merit. At most North Carolina community colleges the Minority Male Mentoring Program, which provides academic advising, study skills courses and service learning opportunities, has raised retention rates.
Improving remedial education also can help minority males succeed. Austin Community College in Texas created Developing Mathematical Thinking to prepare students for college math or statistics. The course “emphasizes math skills that students will use in the future and increases their confidence.” Success rates increased dramatically for all students.
Remedial college courses are facing a new test in Florida, reports the Wall Street Journal. Under a new state law, students can decide whether to start in developmental ed or in for-credit, college-level courses. Most are skipping remediation.
More than half of community-college students in the U.S. take at least one remedial class. Success rates are very low. “States are trying alternatives, from adding basic tutorials to college-level classes to weighing high-school grades in addition to test scores,” reports the Journal. Florida has gone the farthest by making placement tests and remedial classes optional for recent state high school graduates and active-duty members of the military.
In a white-walled classroom here at Miami Dade College, students on a recent afternoon pondered the absolute value of 19. After a silence, instructor Carlos Rodriguez offered a hint: “How far is it from 0?”
Such algebra class work, which is typically done at the high-school level, is front and center at this community college, where about 12,000 students enrolled in remedial classes last spring. But enrollment in catch-up classes has fallen about 24% since the legislation took effect this year.
The failure rate will soar, predicts Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón. “You’re not able to test students [who opt out of the remedial program] and know where they are,” said Padrón. “When you don’t have the tools to guide them, it’s very, very difficult.”
Brooke Bovee, who teaches college-level English composition and literature, says just six of her 26 students came in prepared for the class, noting that for four of her students, this will be their third try. For an additional six students, this is their second attempt.
Now, with the new state law, she also has at least one student who tested into a remedial class but chose the higher-level class instead.
“A lot of discussion among English faculty is how to keep standards high,” said Ms. Bovee, who acknowledges the need for changes to the system. “Students ask me what a paragraph is now. What’s next? Maybe, what’s a sentence?”
Miami Dade is adding counselors, but instructors say it won’t be enough.
Colleges spend nearly $7 billion a year on remedial education, according to federal data. Eight states — and many school districts — are offering “transitional” math and English courses to help students catch up and avoid remediation in college, reports Education Week.
Seventy percent of Tennessee high school graduates place into remedial math in college. Only five percent of community college students placed in remedial math earn a two-year degree in three years.
Chattanooga State Community College developed the SAILS model, short for Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support. High school teachers and community college instructors developed a self-paced math course for low-scoring students with college aspirations. Students learn online in a school computer lab with a teacher on hand. College instructors come in once a week.
The idea is catching on, reports the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia. Twenty-five states, and districts in another 13 states, assess 11th graders’ college readiness to give them time to improve in 12th grade. More than a dozen states are planning similar programs.
The transitional curricula being offered by states and districts typically consist of a course, a set of instructional units, online tutorials, or other educational experiences offered no later than 12th grade to students considered at risk of being placed into remedial college courses, according to the Teachers College report.
These programs are designed for students who don’t quite meet college-readiness benchmarks, but who aspire to college and need some extra instruction. Students take the transitional courses during the school day, usually for high school credit with the goal of entering credit-bearing college courses upon matriculation.
Tougher Common Core standards will reveal the “huge readiness gap,” said Megan A. Root, a senior associate with the Southern Regional Education Board. The SREB is piloting math and literacy courses for struggling high school students in seven states. The curriculum is available online for free.
Core to College, backed by the Lumina Foundation, Gates Foundation and others, is funding collaboration between colleges and high schools in 12 states. As states implement Common Core standards, they’re aligning expectations and assessments, so college-prep classes really will prepare students for college demands.
Collaboration between K-12 and higher education is very important, say school district and college leaders in an edBridge survey. However only a third say they collaborate effectively.
“Undermatching” — disadvantaged achievers may not apply to selective colleges — was the focus of President Obama’s higher education summit. But the most effective way to help low-income students is to improve community colleges, writes Thomas Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Teacher’s College Columbia, in Inside Higher Ed. “The reality is that even in a perfectly matched world, millions of low-income, minority, first-generation, and immigrant students will continue to enroll in community colleges.”
Community colleges have been extremely successful at opening the doors to college for disadvantaged students, but thus far, they have had less success in helping them graduate. Less than 40 percent of students who start in community colleges complete a credential in six years. The success rates are worse for low-income and minority students.
In the past, reform initiatives “have focused too narrowly,” writes Bailey. It’s not enough to change remedial education or the first semester. What’s needed is “comprehensive and transformative reform.”
What the CCRC calls the “guided pathways model” provides structure and guidance in “all aspects of the student experience, from preparation and intake to completion,” Bailey writes.
The model includes robust services to help students choose career goals and majors. It features the integration of developmental education into college-level courses and the organization of the curriculum around a limited number of broad subject areas that allows for coherent programs of study. And, importantly, it stresses the strong, ongoing collaboration between faculty, advisers and staff.
Initiatives such as the Gates-funded Completion by Design and Lumina’s Finish Faster are advancing such comprehensive reforms by helping colleges and college systems create clear course pathways within programs of study that lead to degrees, transfer and careers.
The new Guttman Community College at the City University of New York (CUNY) is experimenting with a full range of reforms, including the guided pathways model, concludes Bailey. CUNY’s holistic ASAP program has improved completion rates significantly.
A new analysis by the University of Michigan’s Michael N. Bastedo and Allyson Flaster questions key assumptions behind undermatching research, reports Inside Higher Ed. What’s far more important than enrolling in a more or less selective four-year institution is whether a student enrolls in community college, write Basteo and Flaster. Starting at community college significantly lowers the odds of earning a bachelor’s degree, they write.
Community college tuition could be free to high school graduates in Tennessee, Mississippi and Oregon.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam proposed making two years of a community or technical college education free in his State of the State address. “Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future, priceless.”
“We just needed to change the culture of expectations in our state,” the governor told the New York Times. “College is not for everybody, but it has to be for a lot more people than it’s been in the past if we’re going to have a competitive work force.”
Community college costs only $3,800 a year in Tennessee, just above the national average. With help from Pell Grants, most students pay little or nothing in tuition and fees. However eliminating tuition would enable lower-income students to use their Pell aid to pay for books, supplies, transportation and living expenses.
The “Tennessee Promise” will have a psychological impact, Haslam predicted. Many people don’t realize community and technical colleges are affordable. “If we can go to people and say, ‘This is totally free,’ that gets their attention.”
The plan would cover Tennessee’s 13 community colleges, which grant academic degrees, and 27 technical colleges, which provide job training. The technical system is nationally known for high success rates.
The net cost to the state isn’t really zero, but Haslam estimated diverting lottery revenue would cover the $34 million a year.
Mr. Haslam also called for Tennessee’s public colleges to make a new effort to recruit the state’s nearly one million adults who have some college credits but ended their educations without earning degrees or professional certificates. And he proposed expanding a program that gives particular help to struggling high school students so they can go to college without needing remedial classes that do not earn college credit; studies have shown that students who take remedial courses are far less likely to graduate.
High school graduates in Mississippi could attend community college for free for two years under a bill being considered in the Legislature, reports the Clarion-Ledger. Scholarships would be available to students younger than 21 who enroll full-time and maintain a 2.5 grade point average.
The idea started at Meridian Community College, which began offering what it calls a “tuition guarantee” in fall 1996, using privately donated money.
Oregon legislators also may study whether it’s feasible to let high school graduates attend community college for free. “If we get this right, I think we can unleash a tremendous amount of motivation within these young people, giving them the motivation to stay in school, to get a certificate, to achieve that additional learning that can make a difference in terms of their economic success,” Gov. John Kitzhaber told the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee.
It’s a “big fact” that the economic returns to college are high, write Clive Belfield and Davis Jenkins in a Community College Research center paper. It’s a “big myth” that the “college affordability crisis is actually an efficiency crisis caused by wasteful spending by colleges.” That’s especially true for community colleges.
Neglect of this fact and acceptance of this myth have impaired policymaking, resulting in reduced state funding and new practices (more adjuncts, larger classes, online courses) that cut spending and lower quality.
If colleges invest in improving quality, they’ll improve efficiency as well, write Belfield and Jenkins.
Community colleges serve many underprepared students who need substantial support, they point out. Educating college-ready students is cheaper and easier.
Reforms to remediation, which likely require more (not less) resources, are therefore essential, as are reforms that provide a better articulation between high school and college. Much of the potential efficiency gain would come from improvements at the high school level.
For students already in college, barriers to completion include no-credit remedial courses, college-level courses that don’t meet degree requirements at transfer destinations and “the earning of extraneous credits outside a program area.”
Reforms should include creating more educationally coherent program pathways that lead to student end goals, building on-ramps to help students get into a program of study quickly, and tracking student progress and providing feedback using information technology and reorganized advising.
Low-income and first-generation students, who disproportionately enroll in community colleges, need more information on the returns to college, write Belfield and Jenkins. They also need more “structure and guidance” to succeed in college.
For-profit career colleges have much higher graduation rates than community colleges, writes Matt Reed, who’s worked in both sectors. Here’s how for-profits get more students to completion.
It starts with minimal or no remediation, writes Reed. At DeVry, very few students started in remedial courses. When he moved to County College of Morris in New Jersey, he was surprised to see a majority of students placed in remediation.
Since I taught freshman comp at DeVry for a while, I can attest that the placements weren’t because the students were all fully polished upon arrival. They were not. 101 was a punishing course to teach, since you had to try to meet students where they were.
Math was a different issue, but even there, there was a premium on putting students in the highest level class they could conceivably pass.
For-profit colleges take the eat-dessert-first approach, writes Reed. Students don’t have to wait to start training for jobs.
Students at for-profits are there to get jobs. . . . And since many students have had checkered academic pasts, they’re sensitive to revisiting scenes of earlier failures.
Most traditional colleges force students to eat their vegetables — basic math, English, and the usual distribution requirements — before getting to what the students recognize as the reason they’re there.
. . . DeVry, and apparently other for-profits . . . offered a lot of A.A.S. degrees — associate’s of applied science, as opposed to associate of science or associate of arts — to reduce the amount of gen ed. And the gen ed courses it did require were spread evenly through the program, or even backloaded. Students started with dessert, and only got to the veggies at the end.
DeVry required a “college success” course, like many traditional colleges. It also required a “career development” course that covered how to write a resume, how to handle an interview and how to dress on the job. Those were things most students didn’t already know.
At Holyoke Community College where Reed is vice president for academic affairs, “eat dessert first” means linking developmental math to students’ intended major. ”We’ve moved career advising to the first semester, to help students identify goals before they choose majors,” Reed writes. “And we’re looking at ways to help students get through developmental coursework more quickly, so they don’t just throw up their hands in frustration and walk away.”
Complete College America thinks 2014 will be a “tipping point” for the completion agenda. Twenty-six states are implementing performance funding; 22 states (and the District of Columbia) are trying to accelerate remedial education. In addition, 15 states are deploying “15 to Finish” campaigns and 11 are developing plans for either structured schedules or Guided Pathways to Success.
The Game Changers report identifies “the five best college completion strategies.”
At the White House summit on expanding college opportunity, 23 Alliance of States members committed to ensuring more remedial education students succeed in gateway math and English courses, writes Bruce Vandal. These “are STATE commitments that have the potential to impact hundreds of thousands of students enrolled at all of the participating states’ public institutions.”
In 2009, President Obama pledged the U.S. would lead the world in college graduates. Much has been learned since then, writes Vandal.
We did not understand that only a fraction of the 50% of all college students who are placed into remedial education each year make it to a college level gateway course, much less pass that course and proceed to a postsecondary credential. Second, in 2009, states and institutions had little idea how to increase success rates in gateway college courses . . .
In 2014, research has shown “corequisite” remediation — placing most students in gateway courses with academic support — can increase success rates dramatically, writes Vandal.
The White House higher education summit sidelined community colleges and other institutions serving low-income students, complain critics, reports Katherine Mangan in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Most were excited that the issues they’d long grappled with were taking center stage. But some couldn’t help pointing out that many ideas emerging from the White House summit—targeted scholarships, better test preparation, summer enrichment programs, fast-tracked remedial education—were old news on their campuses, which nonetheless continue to see low completion rates.
More than 100 colleges made the guest list. Only 10 community colleges participated, even though most lower-income college students attend community colleges.
Colleges had to commit to new efforts to serve needy students, said Patricia A. McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University. ”If you’re an institution like us, where 80 percent of the students are eligible for Pell Grants and the median family income is $25,000, there’s hardly any room to do anything new or more than we’re already doing.”
Much of the discussion at the White House meeting was about the phenomenon of “undermatching,” in which many high-achieving, low-income students who would qualify for admission to selective colleges instead end up at institutions that are beneath them academically, and typically have lower graduation rates. More-selective colleges, the thinking goes, tend to offer better support—small classes, tutoring—to students unfamiliar with the demands of college.
Not surprisingly, many educators bristle at the suggestion that the colleges that enroll most of the nation’s low-income and underrepresented students aren’t up to the task.
Achieving the Dream, which focuses on raising community college completion rates, committed to dedicating a day of its annual institute to workshops on helping the least-prepared students. ”While our colleges have been working for a long time to try to improve outcomes, they’ve deepened their commitment in light of the call from the White House,” said Carol A. Lincoln, senior vice president at Achieving the Dream.
College leaders were “inspired” by the summit, reports the Chronicle in another story.
“We want to restore the essential promise of opportunity and upward mobility that’s at the heart of America,” President Obama said at a White House summit on higher education. “If we as a nation can … reach out to [low-income] young people and help them not just go to college, but graduate from college or university, it could have a transformative effect.”
The “story of opportunity through education is the story of my life,” said First Lady Michelle Obama, who grew up in a working-class family and went to Princeton.
The administration asked colleges and universities to encourage low-income students to apply to challenging schools, start college preparation earlier, expand college advising and improve college remediation.
In California, the three branches of the higher education system – community colleges, state universities, and the University of California – will jointly reach out to seventh-graders in the state to encourage them to prepare for college and understand financial aid options.
Only 1 in 4 community college students in remedial classes go on to earn a degree, notes the White House report, Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students. Summit participants have committed to “strengthening instruction, using technology, better supporting students in remediation, and reducing the need for remediation.”
Achieving the Dream, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and Jobs for the Future will work with community colleges and other higher education groups to develop and implement promising practices that accelerate progression through remediation and gateway courses.
Update: It was “a productive meeting,” Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the Virginia Community College System, told Community College Daily. “It will be the broad access institutions that will play the big role — not the nation’s elite universities. There needs to be more focus on leveraging the nation’s community colleges to promote access and college/university completion at more affordable rates.”
“The summit helped to reframe the current rhetoric around higher education, away from the issues of rating and affordability, to issues of access for low-income students, our importance for economic competitiveness, and the need for increased public and private investment in our work,” said Karen Stout, president of Montgomery County Community College (Pennsylvania). “The administration has clearly recognized our role in workforce development. I am pleased that our important role in transfer was recognized today in such a public way, by so many, including our university colleagues.”