Texas creates 3-year ‘affordable’ bachelor’s

three-year bachelor’s of applied science degree will cost $13,000 to $15,000 for Texas students, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. The competency-based degree was developed by South Texas College and Texas A&M University at Commerce under the aegis of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Students will mix online and face-to-face learning.

The degree emphasizes organizational leadership, the board said, adding that the program “will culminate with a digital-capstone experience where students will apply their knowledge and skills to real-world business problems.”

The coordinating board said that the new offering was “a faculty-driven initiative, developed by community-college and university faculty,” but “we also listened to what national and regional employers are saying they really want: graduates with critical-thinking skills who are quantitatively literate, can evaluate knowledge sources, understand diversity, and benefit from a strong liberal-arts and sciences background.”

Shirley A. Reed, South Texas College’s president, said in a statement that the new degree “is a transition from colleges measuring student competencies based on time in a seat to now allowing students to demonstrate competencies they have acquired in previous employment, life experiences, or personal talents.”

Two years ago, Gov. Rick Perry called on the state’s colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees that would cost students no more than $10,000 each, notes the ChronicleUT-Permian Basin offers a $10,000 bachelor of science four-year degree, while UT-Arlington and UT-Brownsville offer similar programs, developed through partnerships with community colleges and school districts.

The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program is supported by the College for All Texans Foundation and by a two-year, $1-million grant from Educause and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Online instruction will upend the economics of higher education, according to The Economist.

What will college cost?

What will college cost? The U.S. Education Department’s updated College Affordability and Transparency Center shows institutions with the highest and lowest tuition prices and net prices (cost of attendance minus financial aid).

Students can find the community colleges with the lowest net prices. Those with the lowest tuition are all in New Mexico and California. Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque is the cheapest at $675 a year.

University of Pittsburgh-Titusville tops the list of the most expensive community colleges with tuition of $11,118 a year.  New Hampshire community colleges also are costly, averaging more than $7,000 a year. Florida Keys Community College posts the highest net price at $22,933 a year because of high local living costs.

There’s also an option to search for job training programs, but it’s not very complete. College Navigator is a better source.

Students can track which colleges are raising tuition and net prices the fastest. For example, Fort Berthold Community College in North Dakota tripled its net price from $2,163 in 2008 to $6,675 in 2010. South Texas College more than doubled tuition from $2,148 to $5,160 in two years. Of course, even community colleges that have hiked tuition or net price rapidly are still cheaper than most for-profit or four-year alternatives.

Collaboration means less remediation

Community colleges can reduce the need for remediation by collaborating with feeder high schools to prepare students, reports Inside Higher Ed. 

In California, Long Beach City College faculty worked with Long Beach Unified teachers to align high school and college courses. By using high school grades, not just placement tests, to decide who can start in college-level courses, LBCC dramatically lowered remediation rates.

For example, 53 percent of the group took transfer-level English courses in their first semester, while only 5.5 percent of students from the same high school district took the courses the previous year – meaning they were 10 times more likely to jump directly into credit-bearing English. And their passage rate of 62 percent was roughly the same as the college’s typical passage rate in English.

Fully 60 percent of the students in the program, which is dubbed “Promise Pathways,” placed into transfer-level English courses, compared to 11 percent of the college’s overall student population.

LBCC now places 31 percent of Promise Pathways students in college-level math, compared to 7 percent of students overall.

South Texas College, located near the U.S.-Mexican border, has works closely with high schools to prepare students for college.  Sixty-eight partner high schools offer dual enrollment programs, giving students a head start on an associate degree.

. . . the high school partnerships have helped drive down remedial placement rates to 17 percent, an extremely low number for a college that serves a largely lower-income, first-generation college population. The remedial placement rate has dropped by 45 percent since 2004, and Shirley A. Reed, the college’s president, credits dual enrollment as being a big part of that improvement.

“The high schools have accepted responsibility for college readiness,” Reed said. “Now we share in the responsibility.”

Preparing students for college success is the high schools’ job, write Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers in an Ed Week blog.

Disabled students need help with college, jobs

Disabled students need more help transitioning to college and jobs, concludes a Government Accountability Office report. Students can apply for tutoring, job training and assistive technology help, but there’s little coordination between federal departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Social Security Administration, said the GAO. Once they leave high school, “it’s easy for these same young people to flounder in a maze of bureaucracy,” reports Ed Week.

Texas is helping disabled students navigate college and employment, report AP.

McALLEN, Texas (AP) — When Gabriel Rios began classes at South Texas College last month, he was dealing with worries beyond those that confront most incoming college freshmen.

Rios, an 18-year-old student who is deaf, was nervous about the college-level curriculum and advanced reading and writing levels he’ll need when he pursues a certificate in auto mechanics. But Rios knows older friends who are deaf have struggled adjusting to college, a challenge that puts college graduation rates for deaf individuals far below the national average.

But Rios is among a dozen students with disabilities who will receive the support services they need at STC through a five-year program designed to help them graduate and later secure employment.

Project HIRE — or Helping Individuals Reach Employment — will provide 50 Texas high school students with college and career coaches who will provide an array of services, including on-campus counseling, life skills training and job placement.

Project HIRE is helping South Texas College evaluate and improve services for students with disabilities, said Paul Hernandez, the college’s dean of student support services. Currently, the college offers lecture notes, sign language interpretation and extended time for tests to 300 students who’ve self-identified as disabled.

Colleges open door to high school dropouts

Community colleges are working with dropout recovery programs to help uneducated youths get back on track, reports Community College Times.

Back on Track, which offers academic and social supports, is a project of  Jobs for the Future (JFF), YouthBuild USA, the National Youth Employment Coalition(NYEC), and the Corps Network, with support from the Gates Foundation and Open Society Foundations.

In Ohio, faculty from Columbus State Community College (CSCC) teach courses at a YouthBuild school. The college has also worked out an articulation agreement with the program to provide for a smooth transition, said Mike Snider, former provost of CSCC who now works with the Ohio Association of Community Colleges.

Public two-year colleges in Ohio are “proud of our open door system,” Snider said, “but that’s not good enough. We’re moving the door out into the community.”

“Dropouts are an untapped asset,” he added. “We cannot afford to lose potential productive citizens.”

Back on Track students “are graduating from high school, enrolling in postsecondary education and persisting in the first year at two to three times the rate of their peers,” according to JFF.

NYEC, which provides education, work experiences and counseling to drop-outs, also claims a high success rate. Eight community colleges are working with NYEC programs in partnership with community-based organizations.

In Texas, the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District has partnered with South Texas College to create the College, Career and Technology Academy, which allows former dropouts to complete their high school diplomas while taking community college courses. The program targets youths up to age 26 who lack five or fewer credits or failed their high school exit exam.

The 31,000-student school district has reduced the number of dropouts from 485 in 2005-06 to 42 in 2010-11.

On time or not at all

Ending late registration will improve success rates, predict officials at San Jacinto College in Texas. But it will cut tuition revenue and state funding. Failure rates are significantly higher for students who enroll late, notes Inside Higher Ed.

“When you’re funded based on the twelfth day of class, it encourages you to drive enrollment and just keep trying to focus on enrollment,” said Brenda Hellyer, San Jacinto chancellor. “But you’ve just got to go with your values. And one of our values is student success. We know we’re going to see results from this.”

Last fall, San Jacinto didn’t allow late registration for remedial courses.  Enrollment grew by 1 percent compared to a 7.5 percent increase for other courses.

Some would-be late registrants enrolled in the college’s “Take 2″ courses, compressed courses on 12-week schedules that start later in the semester.

This fall, no late registration will be allowed. That could affect hundreds of students.

The Texas Association of Community Colleges is lobbying for additional funding to reward community colleges that improve completion rates, instead of funding based solely on enrollment.

South Texas College abolished late registration in 2005. Enrollment declined by 3 percent, but some students would-be late registrants enrolled in “mini-mesters,” 12-week courses that start a few weeks into the semester.

Enrollment rebounded in subsequent years and completion rates have improved.