Community colleges are developing programs to recruit and retain black men, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. At the American Association of Community Colleges meeting in San Francisco, Marilyn Riley described Mesa Community College‘s summer program for high school students.
To help familiarize students with support services like advising and tutoring, groups of students are sent off with a list of a half-dozen offices with instructions to interview someone there and report back to the class.
. . . Students take two required courses during the summer, each of which earns them three college credits. One covers basic college-success skills, like time management and study techniques.
About half the participants end up enrolling at the Arizona community college.
“African-American Pride and Awareness” tries to persuade black males they belong on campus and “can control their own destiny,” said Karen Hardin, chair of the counseling department. Successful graduates are recruited as peer mentors.
LaTonya Jones, a student adviser at Houston Community College, described its community-service and bonding activities for black men. On Chivalry Day, Men of Honor participants tutor local schoolchildren, wear their club shirts and ties and pass out carnations to women. Jones is working on a plan to gear college classes to the needs of black men.
An economics class, for instance, might cover financial planning for black men, while a history or English class would encompass black history and literature.
“If we can get them through the core,” she said, “they’ll graduate.”
Black men often lack the confidence to speak up in class, said San Diego State Professor J. Luke Wood, who runs the Minority Male Community College Collaborative. In addition, “a lot of men are reluctant to ask for help because it makes them look weak,” he said.
AACC lists 77 minority-male success programs on its Web site, but Wood estimates there are 70 more.
At Miami Dade College, pass-Math is boosting Latino pass rates in gatekeeper math courses, improving retention and reducing math anxiety. A program at LaGuardia Community College strengthens counseling to help Latino and other low-income students move from remedial to college-level courses. San Diego State’s peer Mentoring program (pMp) helps community college transfers handle the transition.
Only 21 percent of Latino adults 25 and older have completed an associate degree or higher, compared to 40 percent of all U.S. adults. More Latinos are enrolling in college — especially community college — but success rates are low.
The report spotlights a variety of programs.
The Mother-Daughter Program at Knox College (Illinois) counseled families on the importance of completing a degree. “Latino families make decisions together and an informed family is more supportive,” says Deborah Santiago, Excelencia’s vice president of policy. Some mothers decided to enroll in college after participating with their daughters.
Some programs target male Latinos, who have higher dropout rates. At Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York, Doorway to Success focused on improving male students’ study habits, engagement and retention. The Clave Latino Male Empowerment program at Union County College in New Jersey includes learning communities, a monthly lecture series, professional development opportunities and a social and professional support network for business and economics students.
Community college students want to be more connected to faculty, classmates, coursework and career exploration, according to Connection by Design. The report is based on focus groups of current and former students conducted by WestEd and Public Agenda for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation‘s Completion by Design initiative.
Students wanted community colleges to engage them in classes and campus life, but they said mandatory orientation or student success courses must be high quality and relevant to their goals to be worth time in their busy schedules.
In the discussions, students spoke like consumers — saying they wanted more individualized help, if not in-person through personal emails or texts. Students felt most college websites fall short and would welcome more interactive features. Too often students said in making college-related decisions, they don’t know what questions to ask until it is too late.
Students want schools to better anticipate their needs and provide them with clear information, especially if they are at risk of dropping out and could benefit from extra services. And supports should be offered beyond the freshman year, many in the focus groups felt.
Many former students who have dropped out want colleges to invite them to return and let them know how to do so.
Most students wish their college had provided them with more structured opportunities to explore their academic and career options.
Students in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Texas participated in the focus groups.
College access and college success are in conflict, writes Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Fastweb.com and FinAid.org. Low-income, minority and other high-risk students are significantly less likely to complete a degree. “One of the easiest ways to increase graduation rates is to exclude high-risk students.”
Kantrowitz analyzes proposals to require colleges to graduate a minimum percentage of Pell recipients to retain eligibility. Community colleges would be “hit the hardest,” he finds. Funding would shift to four-year institutions and to more selective schools.
A 20% minimum graduation rate threshold on institutional Pell Grant eligibility would cut overall Pell Grant funding at community colleges by more than $5 billion. While 4-year for-profit colleges would also lose nearly $1 billion, the for-profit sector as a whole would experience a net gain of more than $500 million in Pell Grant funding.
A 20% minimum graduation rate threshold on institutional Pell Grant eligibility would cause the average graduation rate for Pell Grant recipients to increase by 8.5 percentage points, but there would be a net 1% decrease in the number of college graduates.
Graduation rates are significantly lower for first-generation college students, low-income students, single parents, students who lack a high school diploma, adults, full-time workers and part-time students, he writes. Pell dollars would shift from the neediest students to those with more advantages.
About one eighth of students pursuing four-year degrees come from high-risk groups, compared with more than half of students in associate’s degree programs and two thirds of students in certificate programs, Kantrowitz writes.
For-profit colleges enroll many high-risk students: Pell recipients at for-profit colleges are less likely to earn a bachelor’s degree, but more likely to earn an associate degree or certificate.
Instead of restricting access to Pell Grants, Kantrowitz suggests doubling or tripling the average grant to help low-income students earn degrees.
College graduates pay more than twice as much in federal income taxes as high school graduates. Every dollar invested in the Pell Grant program yields more than two dollars in profit to the federal government over the typical recipient’s work-life.
He calls it a “bold” idea. Yes. And very unlikely.
If at first you don’t succeed, you can try again —for free — at Missouri State University-West Plains, a public two-year institution, reports Community College Times.
“We’re telling students that if they go to all of their classes, do all of their assigned homework, communicate with their instructors and advisors and use our free tutoring services, they will earn acceptable passing grades,” said Chancellor Drew Bennett. “If, however, they faithfully do all of these things and still earn below a 2.0 grade point average, we will let them, for one time only, retake courses where they earned a D or F grade tuition free the next regular semester.”
The school has given students “10 Steps to Success” to help them do well. “If students use the outlined techniques, they should become successful, and if they don’t the first time and are willing to try again, so are we,” said Gary Phillips, chair of the faculty senate.
“College success is dependent not only upon academic preparation but also upon a host of important skills, attitudes, and behaviors that are often left unspoken,” conclude Melinda Mechur Karp and Rachel Hare Bork in They Never Told Me What to Expect, so I Didn’t Know What to Do, a new Community College Research Center study conducted at three community colleges.
Community college students must be their own advocates, study participants said. One instructor put it:
Students who do not seek out advising, students who do not ask questions or who do not have self-advocacy skills to go, “something doesn’t look right here,” may truly not get the help that they need until they apply for graduation and receive that letter saying, “Oops, you still have these four requirements.”
Students “need to be told that there are distinct expectations to which they will be held in the community college, given examples of those expectations, and shown (or, ideally, allowed to practice) strategies for meeting these expectations,” the researchers write. “This could be carried out in college orientation or College 101 courses, or even in meetings with college applicants or in high schools.”
Students who don’t come from middle-class, white families especially need explicit instruction in collegiate norms, expectations, and understandings.
Late registration is bad for students and their instructors, writes Terry O’Banion, president emeritus of the League for Innovation in the Community Colleges, in Community College Times. Community colleges should set a hard deadline for registration to boost student success, he argues.
. . . John Roueche, former director of the famed Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin, asked two questions: “What is the most important day of the semester?” and “What is the most important week of the semester?” His answer: The first day and the first week, respectively.
. . . All students—but especially first-generation, underprepared students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds—need to connect with other students, with instructors, and with course content as quickly as possible.
Late registration cuts the 16-week term to 15 weeks of instruction, O’Banion writes. Instructors can’t do any real teaching on day one or even day two, if half the class hasn’t shown up yet.
In addition, students learn a dangerous lesson: It’s OK to ignore deadlines. This won’t help them when they join the workforce.
Late registration undercuts student success, researchers have found. In a 2002 study, 80 percent of on-time students made it to the next semester, compared to 35 percent of late registrants. Among new students, late registrants withdrew from 21 percent of course hours, twice the rate of on-time registrants.
Some community colleges now offer short courses that start in mid-term, so students who aren’t ready to go at the beginning of the semester don’t have to wait months to start.
PolicyDirect, a new web site, provides links to research on college access and success. The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) launched the site, which is backed by the Lumina Foundation for Education.
“We think it’s going to be a real asset to help us reach the national attainment goal that’s essential to our work at the foundation and critical to the nation’s future,” said Jamie Merisotis, president of the Lumina Foundation and a co-founder of IHEP.
Lumina wants 60 percent of Americans to have a postsecondary credential or degree with labor-market value by 2025.
Reports on the website can be accessed by asking a question in the search field or simply entering a keyword. A search for “access,” for instance,” turned up 99 results—at least for a report from as far back as 1999 but most from recent years. Each report on the website is accompanied by a brief summary written by a group of “emerging scholars.”
Topics include Developmental Education, Financial Aid, Transfer and Student Mobility, Career and Technical Education, Employment Outcomes, High School Coursetaking and more.
Let’s proclaim .300 the target community college completion rate, writes Wick Sloane, a community college instructor, in Inside Higher Ed. It’s good enough for baseball.
He doesn’t really think graduating 30 percent of students is good enough: Sloane wants “completion-rate targets reflecting the difficulty of the job,” as shown below.
Current, We, The People Plan: Pell Grant cuts continue. Veterans flood into community colleges with no additional support for the colleges. No national leadership by or for community colleges.
.300 and falling
Federal free and reduced lunch and breakfast extended to college students on federal Pell Grants.
Students paid to study under same conditions as federal work study. Click here for details.
Requirement that federal Pell Grants must first be applied to achieving AP/college-level work in expository writing and in statistics.
The federal government pays for trained veteran counselors, one for every 50 veterans on a campus. Counselors will help with benefits, career advice, and medical management.
Equal federal subsidies, need-based, for all U.S. college students.
Federal subsidies at community colleges per student equal to subsidies at colleges such as Williams with indoor golf nets, faculty teaching 2-5 courses a year rather than 5 per semester, and the same Alice Waters inspired dining-hall food from the Yale Sustainability Project.
Do your research to pick the best community college in your area, advises CNN Money. There can be big differences in graduation and transfer rates.
“Somebody who is choosing a community college should be as careful as they are in choosing a four-year college,” says Thomas Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Columbia University.
Call the four-year college or university you’d eventually like to transfer to, and ask which community colleges they accept the most students from.
Ask the community colleges you are considering if they have an honors program for which you could qualify. Many community colleges with low or average overall success rates have separate honors programs that graduate or transfer a high percentage of their students, notes Bailey. A list of colleges with honors programs can be found at the National Collegiate Honors Council site.
Ask the community college if they have any guaranteed transfer programs to four-year universities and what course and grade requirements you must meet to qualify. If they don’t have guaranteed programs, ask which universities have “articulation agreements” that will at least give you some guaranteed credits.
Call the office for a specific program you’re interested in and find out about their success rates. “Just because the [community] college’s overall graduation rate is low doesn’t mean their nursing program isn’t great,” says Schneider.
If you’re likely to need basic skills classes in math, writing or reading, ask the college how they teach remedial courses. Is there a way to move quickly through catch-up classes or start at the college level with extra help?