Affordable child care and information about high-paying technical careers would help more women earn a degree and qualify for middle-class jobs, concludes Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success, a new report by the American Association of University Women.
Some 57 percent of community college students are women, estimates the AAUW. One in four are mothers, often with work and family responsibilities.
Community colleges present an attractive option for mothers of young children, in part because they offer flexible schedules and low tuition. Unfortunately, limited access to child care disrupts the educational path of many mothers. Although more mothers enroll at community colleges than at four-year institutions, fewer than half of all community colleges offer on-campus child care, and available slots do not typically meet student demand. Student parents consistently cite child care responsibilities as a chief reason for dropping out . . .
Community colleges offer a wide range of job training, but most women choose traditionally female occupations, the report observes. While nursing pays well, women who choose early childhood education or cosmetology programs will earn much less than they could in technical fields. Only a fraction of women train to be “engineering technicians, automotive service technicians and mechanics, carpenters, and electricians.” Community colleges should try to close the gender gap in STEM career preparation, the AAUW advises.
Community colleges are helping train a new generation of K-12 teachers, reports Community College Week.
Samuel Simpson, 54, a high school math teacher at All City High School in inner-city Rochester, is one of the first fellows of the Community Center for Teaching Excellence (CCTE), which is based at Monroe Community College (New York). “My efforts in doing the kinds of best practices that many people in the education field talk about doing — looking at data, using it to inform instruction, and teaching differently and smarter — have brought significant results,” Simpson said.
Community college educators, university professors, high school teachers and the Center for Governmental Research are collaborating on “high-impact teaching strategies” through CCTE, reports Community College Week.
A number of fellows incorporated collaborative learning techniques in their classes, such as peer teaching, paired writing and group note-taking, to increase student engagement. A few teachers experimented with integrating 21st-century technology tools into their lessons, such as creating digital versions of their notes with embedded audio and having students contribute to blogs.
MCC Assistant Professor Maria Brandt and a colleague are working with a teacher at Rush-Henrietta Senior High School to create common writing assignments and assessments.
Focused on improving students’ abilities to read critically and communicate coherently and accurately, they had students write summaries of selected authors’ work and evaluate their own writing at the beginning and middle of the fall semester.
“Through the course of the semester, students in my English 101 class have improved in two areas: their ability to summarize a text and their sense of the importance of reading closely, that you cannot formulate an accurate and responsible argument without understanding the texts involved,” Brandt said. “The students are much more aware now that they need to listen first or read well to grow as readers and writers.”
“Our goal is to better understand the gap between how high school students are performing on average and how first-year college students are performing on average and help them have higher success levels,” Brandt said.
Many schools need science, technology and math teachers. Community College Week looks at STEM programs at Cerritos College (California) and Rio Salado (Arizona), which belong to the National Association of Community College Teacher Education Programs (NACCTEP).
Ten Maryland community colleges now offer a fully transferrable associate of arts in teaching degree in secondary math, writes Colleen Eisenbeiser, director of the TEACH Institute at Anne Arundel Community College. Nine offer secondary chemistry and eight offer physics.
Two Maryland community colleges partner with their local school systems “to recruit, prepare, place, and instruct career changers in hard to fill secondary content areas, including math, chemistry, physics, and technical education.” Anne Arundel has helped a variety of career changers become certified teachers, including a computer software engineer, a health information analyst lawyer, a nurse, researchers from a lab that studies the habits of migratory birds and the Institute of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and a biologist who worked at the National Aquarium and National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
The push for a $10,000 bachelor’s degree has come to California, reports the Sacramento Bee.
With the cost of going to college already more than $30,000 a year at many California campuses, is it possible to earn a bachelor’s degree for just $10,000 – total?
Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, hopes so.
Borrowing an idea being promoted by Republican governors in Texas and Florida, the GOP assemblyman has introduced a bill that would create a pilot program in California for what he’s billing as a $10,000 bachelor’s degree.
Assembly Bill 51 calls for high schools, community colleges and California State University campuses to develop a low-cost degree path in STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) majors in Chico, Long Beach and Turlock.
High school students would earn college credit through Advanced Placement classes and dual enrollment in community college courses, Logue envisions. Community college students would be encouraged to enroll full time.
The $10,000 would include textbooks, but not room and board. Currently CSU students spend $5,472 a year on tuition and another $2,000 annually.
A college degree usually leads to higher income, but the payoff varies by degree and discipline, concludes The Economic Benefit of Postsecondary Degrees, an analysis by Katie Zaback and Andy Carlson of State Higher Education Executive Officers and Matt Crellin of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.
Bachelor’s degree graduates have a median income of $50,360 compared to a median of $38,607 for associate degree graduates and $29,423 for people with only a high school diploma, the report finds. However median earnings and the wage premium — the difference between a college graduate’s pay and what a high school graduate would earn in the same field — vary significantly.
The average wage premium for an associate degree is 31.2 percent, but that ranges from 23.3 percent in education (probably early childhood education) to 73.9 percent in health fields. Median income ranges from $23,175 for an education-related associate degree to $45,343 for STEM degrees.
Median pay also varies considerably for workers with a bachelor’s degree. As with associate degrees, the highest wage premium is in health care: The 123.4 percent wage premium leads to a median income of $56,427.
Welding is a STEM job, says Traci Tapani, CEO of a Minnesota sheet-metal company that’s training its workers, rather than relying on local community colleges, writes New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Wyoming Machine works on armoring Humvees.
“Many years ago, people learned to weld in a high school shop class or in a family business or farm, and they came up through the ranks and capped out at a certain skill level. They did not know the science behind welding,” so could not meet the new standards of the U.S. military and aerospace industry.
“They could make beautiful welds,” she said, “but they did not understand metallurgy, modern cleaning and brushing techniques” and how different metals and gases, pressures and temperatures had to be combined.
Moreover, in small manufacturing businesses like hers, explained Tapani, “unlike a Chinese firm that does high-volume, low-tech jobs, we do a lot of low-volume, high-tech jobs, and each one has its own design drawings. So a welder has to be able to read and understand five different design drawings in a single day.”
Unable to find qualified applicants, Wyoming Machine hired a trainer. But it was hard to find trainees with sufficient math and science skills, says Tapani.
“I can’t think of any job in my sheet metal fabrication company where math is not important. If you work in a manufacturing facility, you use math every day; you need to compute angles and understand what happens to a piece of metal when it’s bent to a certain angle.”
Many community colleges and universities can’t keep up with employers’ needs, Friedman writes.
Miami Dade College makes workforce training a priority, collaborating with more than 100 companies, says Eduardo Padrón, the president. “Every program that we offer has an industry advisory committee that helps us with curriculum, mentorship, internships and scholarships.”
Immigrants used to take an unskilled job and work their way into the middle class, Padrón says. “That is no longer possible.” Education is a necessity, not a “luxury for the few.”
Universities are turning to community colleges in the search for potential STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students who are black, Hispanic or female, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Using a $2.6 million Gates Foundation grant, the University of Maryland Baltimore County will pilot a national model for increasing the number of community college students who go on to earn bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields. The City Colleges of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago wil use a Kresge Foundation grant to help minority males transfer and earn STEM bachelor’s degrees. Mount Holyoke College is helping female community college students earn a STEM bachelor’s, with a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Transfer students in STEM fields face the same problems any community college transfer might face: courses that don’t line up, credits that don’t transfer, trouble adjusting to the class size or format, a lack of a community feeling. Those problems, however, are often more acute for STEM students. After all, 500-person lecture classes are more common in science departments, and requirements are often more stringent in those fields, too; an engineering student who takes the wrong class in his first year at community college will likely have a harder time finishing a bachelor of science degree in four years than an English student would have with a bachelor of arts.
Becky Wai-Ling Packard, a professor of psychology and education at Mount Holyoke, interviewed 30 Massachusetts community college students in STEM fields before and after they transferred to a four-year institution. Twenty-six transferred and 22 persisted in STEM majors after the first semester.
Most of the students reported positive feelings about their community college experiences, citing inspiring professors, peer support, and helpful advising as reasons for their success. Once the students got to their four-year colleges, however, sentiment turned negative. Most students reported struggling in at least one course, and said that compared to their community college courses, the four-year classes often moved at a faster pace, were more difficult, and provided less support. The content in the courses didn’t always line up, either. One student said she had taken the first semester of organic chemistry at her community college, but the second semester course at her four-year college assumed knowledge of things she hadn’t learned, so even though she had earned credit for the first semester of organic chemistry, she ended up having to take it over again.
Mount Holyoke’s STEM transfer initiative provides scholarships, advising and mentoring to help transfers complete a STEM degree. Students meet with science faculty members regularly and go through a special orientation.
“How to Achieve the American Dream Without a Mountain of Debt” is the subtitle of Thomas J. Snyder’s The Community College Career Track, a guide for high school students and their parents, career changes and displaced workers.
Snyder, president of Indiana’s Ivy Tech Community College system and a former CEO, tells prospective students why they should consider a low-cost community college, how to get scholarships, grants and aid and the pros and cons of online courses. He explains how to prepare for college work, ace the placement test and chart a path to a “great” career by earning a one-year professional certificate, associate degree or bachelor’s degree.
“Everyone should consider a science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), or health care related career,” Snyder writes. Learn math, then do the math: High-tech manufacturing, biotechnology, health care, information technology and energy are growing fields that pay a premium for technical skills.
Snyder also has advice for students who want to use community college as a “smart start” to a bachelor’s degree.
Also new is First in the World: Community Colleges and America’s Future by J. Noah Brown, president and CEO of the American Association of Community College Trustees. Despite increasing visibility in recent years, community colleges remain “woefully underfunded and undervalued,” writes Brown.
Investing in community colleges has been a big part of American prosperity since the end of World War II. Regaining our position of global leadership by increasing educational attainment rates is the way out of our current economic malaise.
Increasingly, community college students drop in and out and back in again, confusing measures of success or accountability schemes, he writes. College leaders must find ways to benchmark student progress to show how well colleges are meeting their multiple academic and vocational goals.
Employers are demanding more education and technical training, according to a survey of human resource professionals by Achieve and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Compared with 10 years ago, more jobs today require technical and STEM skills and a higher education level, many HR professionals said. That trend will continue, they predicted. By contrast, there are fewer entry-level jobs.
Future administrative and secretarial positions will require more education such as an associate’s degree (said 21 percent of HR professionals) or a post-secondary certificate (said 11 percent);
For salaried, individual contributors and professionals, future positions will require a bachelor’s degree (said 71 percent of HR professionals) or an associate’s degree (said 12 percent);
Skilled laborers such as technicians, mechanics, and foremen will need a specific post-secondary certificate or specific credentials for future jobs (said 31 percent of HR professionals);
While most workers with only a high-school diploma can advance in their workplace, that will be more difficult in the future, HR professionals said.
Health care, manufacturing and government jobs require more education than they did 10 years ago, the survey concluded. In the next three to five years, that trend will extend to high-tech jobs and professional services.
Students will get a head start on science, technology, engineering, and math careers at the new S.T.E.M. Academy at Kingsway Regional High School, a partnership with Gloucester County College in New Jersey. The program offers tough work and college credits, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Students, STEM lovers with high grades and test scores, will “major’ in biology or chemistry in high school.
In their freshman and sophomore years, the Kingsway students will take the school’s most rigorous courses, including some advanced-placement classes in sophomore year, according to Jennifer Foley-Hindman, the district’s supervisor of curriculum and instruction.
“In junior year, it’s APs out the wazoo,” she said.
Their senior year, they will take courses at GCC. Ultimately, Foley-Hindman said, they could graduate with as many as 32 college credits.
Inspiring a few more students to study technical fields in community college could fill the demand for STEM-educated workers, said Uri Treisman, a University of Texas professor of mathematics, at the 2012 U.S. News STEM Solutions Summit. ”A 10, 15 percent increase in [STEM degree] completion would solve our national problem,” he said.
Treisman said that higher education institutions and secondary schools need to together have a better understanding of what defines “college readiness,” so that high schools know what is expected of their students when they graduate—not to mention so that students are prepared for college-level courses when they get there.
“There are massive disconnects between high schools programs and higher ed programs,” he said.
Even low-level jobs now require basic science, math and technology skills, said Peggy Walton, senior director of workforce readiness at Corporate Voices for Working Families.