Despite President Obama’s call for more college graduates, only 54 percent of students earn a two- or four-year degree in six years, reports the National Student Clearinghouse. The graduation rate is nearly flat, notes the Hechinger Report.
However, community colleges raised the six-year completion rate by 1.1 percentage points to 37.4 percent. That includes the 9 percent who earned a degree after transferring to four-year institutions.
Graduation rates also inched up for students who started at public universities in 2007.
While 76 percent of full-time students earned a degree, only 22 percent of part-timers graduated in six years with another 11 percent still enrolled.
The National Student Clearinghouse’s full report, due in December, will include college students who earned credits in high school through dual enrollment programs.
Community colleges need to start marketing themselves, writes Matt Reed. He remembers when the California Raisins’ version of “I heard it through the grapevine” was a huge hit. A consortium of farmers paid for a series of commercials selling their product.
Each college is (rightly) concerned with its own local visibility and brand awareness. But there’s a common interest across the sector in raising public awareness of the transfer option as a way around increasing student loan burdens. No individual raisin farmer could afford to advertise the entire industry, but the industry as a whole could.
In other words, in addition to the message that “your local community college is a good school,” we need to send the message as a sector that community colleges can be good launch pads for higher degrees.
Community colleges need to expand the discussion beyond just remediation and workforce development, Reed argues. Colleges need to challenge the fallacy that a 20 percent graduation rate means that all students have a 20 percent chance of success. In reality, full-time students, women and academically prepared students have higher rates of success.
“It’s time to send a different message through the grapevine,” Reed concludes.
The first national accountability system designed for two-year colleges launched last week, reports Community College Times. The Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) uses “measures that encompass the full breadth of the community college mission and the diversity of students’ goals and educational experiences,” according to the American Association of Community Colleges(AACC).
“Many traditional measures of institutional effectiveness produce an incomplete or inaccurate picture of community college performance,” said AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus. “For example, most national assessments are pegged to full-time students, but the majority of community college students attend part-time.”
Community colleges will be able to compare their data to similar colleges to analyze areas of strengths and weaknesses.
The VFA measures gauge student progress and outcomes, including pre-collegiate preparation (such as developmental education and adult basic education), academic progress and momentum points, completion and transfer measures, and workforce outcomes for career and technical education.
Pennsylvania was the first state to adopt the VFA. Michigan and Nebraska are reviewing statewide implementation. Arizona, Texas, Louisiana and Ohio are using VFA measures in some way.
AACC has “rolled the VFA’s measures into the Student Achievement Measure (SAM) initiative,” a joint project of six national higher education associations, reports Community College Times.
A few weeks ago, a local reporter called to ask me if I had seen my college’s metrics in the recently released White House scorecard. I had and the metrics were not flattering. But, I also had my college’s data from the Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) because we were one of the 40 original pilot colleges to test the American Association of Community Colleges’ VFA metrics and data definitions. I was able to use our VFA data on student progression to paint a much more comprehensive and inclusive picture of student progression and attainment.
All 14 Pennsylvania community colleges now use VFA metrics. The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges was able to show student progress and outcomes during budget testimony, “rebutting invalid comparisons of community college outcomes to selective and four-year college and university outcomes,” writes Stout.
In addition, individual colleges are using the VFA to critically look at student pathways and to identify points where intervention of practice might lead to improvement. At my institution, too many students are transferring before degree completion. As a result, we are working to simplify and tighten (keep credits to 60 to 62) our associate degree pathways and to incentivize students with associate-degree completion in our transfer agreements.
Stout is a member of the VFA Planning Advisory Committee and serves as co-chair of the 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges Implementation Team 8, which is focusing on accountability.
Redesigning remedial math can improve community college completion rates, concludes Changing Equations. Pamela Burdman wrote the report for LearningWorks, an Oakland-based nonprofit. Some community colleges are stressing statistics and quantitative reasoning over intermediate algebra for non-STEM students.
Early results – including a dramatic jump from 6 to 51 percent in the proportion of students completing college-level math in their first year of college — are lending credence to the theory that the alternative pathways are better tailored to academic majors that don’t require intermediate algebra. About a quarter of California’s 112 community colleges, as well as numerous colleges in at least a dozen other states, have begun to develop these alternatives for non-STEM (science, technology, engineer, and math) students.
Intermediate algebra is a major barrier to graduation, the report finds. Most entering community college students place into remedial math. Eighty percent fail to complete the sequence and pass college-level math.
Half of Blacks and Latinos start community college with very weak math skills. Only 6 percent of students who place into the lowest remedial math level will pass a college-level math course within three years.
“We need to think hard about how remedial math sequences can best serve students who don’t want to become scientists or engineers,” says Linda Collins, executive director of LearningWorks.
California is accelerating remediation in math and English, but transfer policies are getting the way, reports Paul Fain on Inside Higher Ed.
A faculty-led group called the California Acceleration Project has helped 42 of the state’s community colleges offer redesigned, faster versions of remedial math and English tracks. But the group’s co-founders said they would be able to make much more progress if the University of California changed its transfer credit requirements.
Myra Snell, a math professor at Los Medanos College, created Path2Stats to move remedial students quickly to college-level statistics. Her students “were more than four times as likely to complete college-level math as their peers in traditional remedial sequences,” writes Fain.
Currently 21 community colleges offer similar math courses.
But UC requires transfers to take intermediate algebra. Accelerated math doesn’t include enough algebra, according to UC.
An online tool helps students track their progress to a degree and view educational options at Mt. San Antonio College, reports the Campaign for College Opportunity. The Mountie Academic Plan (MAP), which launched in February, helps compensate for limited counseling staff at the large southern California community college.
Students and counselors create an education plan. MAP tracks students’ progress toward their goal. Students also can look at “what-if” scenarios: What if I tried a different certificate or degree program? They can view their progress toward a variety of transfer options.
MAP offers many advantages, according to the Campaign.
The online tracking system increases counselor effectiveness during the 30-minute sessions. Counselors spend time conducting more in-depth counseling and guidance instead of determining course history and requirements . . .
. . . Prior to the launch of MAP, educational plans were completed by hand and a photocopy was kept in the student file with the original given to the student. Paper copies were often lost or destroyed and there was no easy way to update this critical document. The new online tool allows students or counselors access to the document 24/7. Furthermore, counselors can easily view educational plans that were developed with previous counselors.
The community college is using MAP data to plan future course offerings. Preventing bottlenecks should enable students to move quickly to a certificate or degree.
Students with education plans will qualify for priority enrollment, under new California regulations. That should help them register for essential courses, saving time and money.
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which provides transfer scholarships to community college graduates, offers transfer tips.
There’s “no money” in ranking community colleges, Washington Monthly editor Paul Glastris tells Amy Sullivan, director of the New Economy Project, in The Atlantic. The Monthly‘s community college guide is a first.
Most people go to the closest community college to them. And no one was holding those schools accountable. We thought that community colleges are damn near as important as four-year schools. There is just as much variation in community colleges as in regular colleges. If you look at most of them, though, they may have noble missions, but their graduation rates are not great.
The magazine analyzes the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, which tracks teaching practices.
. . . how often do students work in groups, how many books and papers are they assigned, how often do professors and students talk outside of class? We know from research that these practices are correlated with higher levels of learning.
Community college administrators don’t get much respect, says Glastris. “We desperately need a reputation and reward system that says to a community-college administrator: You’re taking care of working-class kids with moderate SAT scores, and that’s serving your country.”
Different community colleges succeed based on different strategies and different missions. Some of the schools at the top of our list are great at providing a sound education for students who are going to transfer to a four-year school. Cascadia College in Seattle is a classic example of this. Our No. 1 school this year, St. Paul College in Minnesota, has a different strategy. It used to be a vocational and technical college. The school increased its academic rigor without losing its technical focus; that combination really is the wave of the future.
We used to think of vocational education as purely mechanical—helping people learn how to fix a car. It also used to be a way to track minorities into low-paid jobs or jobs that were going to be off-shored. A lot of people turned against it for those reasons. But the new thinking is that if you combine technical training with an applied academic curriculum, then you create graduates with not only technical skills but also the ability to think through problems, work with colleagues—all of the skills that are required by the modern workplace.
The Monthly’s college rankings focus on whether colleges are “recruiting and graduating kids of modest means and having them become better citizens,” says Glastris. “We’ve factored in an outcome measure as well—the capacity of students to pay off student loans. We hope we’ve created an incentive system to produce affordable degrees that mean something in the marketplace.”
If colleges and universities are judged by former students’ earnings, community colleges are bound to look bad, writes Matt Reed in Inside Higher Ed.
Sarah graduates from her local community college. For years, while she’s getting a bachelor’s and medical degree, her earnings are low. Eventually, she’s a high-paid physician. “At what point do we count her earnings?,” asks Reed. Does the community college get any credit for her success?
Basically, no. Someone who earns an AA on the way to a BA is counted only as a four-year graduate by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, he writes. The most successful community college graduates don’t count as community college graduates.
Community colleges provide workforce credentials, often to adult students, and transfer degrees, usually to traditional-age students. Higher-achieving students usually go for transfer degrees, but they won’t earn more till they complete a bachelor’s degree.
. . . community colleges are subject to a brutal and systematic bias when the question of graduates’ earnings comes up. The higher-achieving, higher-salary students are excluded from the count, since they show up as bachelor’s degree grads. . . . The students who deliberately targeted lower-paying jobs — often due to time pressure — do show up, though. Then we get compared to the four-year colleges — many of whose graduates started at community colleges — unfavorably. This is madness.
Community colleges can’t be compared to four-year universities, unless there’s a way to factor in student characteristics and look at the value added. Community colleges (and for-profit colleges) enroll many high-risk students with weak academic skills. Most are juggling jobs and family responsibilities. It’s not Harvard. It’s not even Enormous State University.
“We’re going to encourage more colleges to innovate, try new things, do things that can provide a great education without breaking the bank,” President Obama told college students in Scranton, Pennsylvania. “For example, a number of colleges across the country are using online education to save time and money for their students.”
That same day, Altius Education, an innovator in online education, learned it is under federal investigation, reports Matthew Zeitlin on BuzzFeed. The Justice Department “did not respond to an inquiry about the details of the investigation.”
The notice was the culmination of a more than two-year battle between Altius and the Higher Learning Commission, one of two members of the 118-year-old North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, which controls accreditation — the vital credential that gives college degrees value — for over 1,000 colleges and universities in 19 states. The HLC’s university backers have an obvious interest in avoiding the sort of low-cost competition that reformers, and now the president, seek.
“It struck me as highly ironic and deeply frustrating that we were trying to do exactly what Obama describes what the market needs and yet we’re getting resistance from his administration,” said Paul Freedman, who started Altius in 2004.
Altius partnered with Tiffin University, a small private college in Ohio to create Ivy Bridge College, which offered Tiffin associate degrees to online students planning to transfer to four-year institutions. Tiffin controlled the academics, while Altius handled marketing, technology and student services such as “personal success coaches.”
Students paid just below $10,000 a year, on average, much of it covered by federal student loans. About two-thirds transferred to two- or four-year institutions, the program’s goal.
In 2012, Ivy Bridge won a Next Generations Learning Challenges funded by the Gates Foundation.
In a 2010 accreditation review, the HLC said Ivy Bridge furthered the university’s mission and was ”an excellent strategic initiative” that “addresses an underserved population through a strong curriculum . . . and a very good online portal for program delivery.”
All that changed in late 2011. Tiffin told HLC that Ivy Bridge planned to apply for independent accreditation and become Altius University. The commission and its president, Sylvia Manning, saw “another for-profit university gaming the system,” writes Zeitlin.
Manning had launched a crusade against what she viewed as suspect partnerships between traditional universities and for-profit upstarts, and instituted new rules in 2010 to require further HLC approval of agreements between accredited schools and for-profit companies that substantially changed the nature of the school.
In a report obtained by BuzzFeed, the HLC took steps toward shutting down the experimental arrangement precisely because “student body, faculty and educational programs are not like the structures” on the campus of the brick-and-mortar university that was its partner. This difference was the entire point of Ivy Bridge, and is at the heart of Obama’s proposals.
HLC complained that Ivy Bridge had a one-year retention rate of 25 percent, “notably poor even for 2-year students.”
Ivy Bridge’s five-year graduation rate is 31 percent, compared to 18.3 percent for Ohio community colleges,according to Altius and Tiffin. The graduation-and-transfer rate — transfer is the goal for most students — is 64.1 percent, compared with 42.1 percent at community colleges.
Here’s the Ivy Bridge timeline of events.
President Obama talked about controlling college costs in a speech at the University of Buffalo last week. Buffalo students and parents worry about paying for college and finding a job afterwards, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Over at Kenmore West High School, home of the Blue Devils, David Coates was meeting with students to finalize their class schedules. Since the recession began, the college counselor has heard plenty of doubts. . . . More students choose to attend local universities and live at home. More have enrolled at community colleges, with plans to transfer to a four-year college, an option that once held more of a stigma, he said.
Mr. Coates has seen parents’ expectations for college change, too. “More are viewing it as vocational training rather than subscribing to that old adage about becoming a problem solver and creative thinker,” he said. . . .
Parents are less focused on liberal arts, said Jane S. Mathias, director of guidance at Nardin Academy. “They want to know, What job is there?” This fall, she’ll offer a financial-aid session for students and parents. “She wants the prospective college-goers to think harder about what it would be like to have $40,000 in debt,” reports the Chronicle.
As the president was speaking at University of Buffalo, Mike Kushner, a freshman, was moving into his dorm with help from his mother, Wendy Kushner, and his sister, Amy.
Ms. Kushner, a widow, said she had saved as much as she could for college, hoarding savings bonds and recycling soda cans. “I feel bad,” she said, “that he’s going to have to take out loans.”
“For a piece of paper,” her daughter said.
Amy had enrolled at Buffalo after high school. She worked at restaurants on the campus, preparing food and making change. “For all the talk about how the foundation of our country is education, as a student you feel like you’re being taken advantage of,” she said. “Tuition, books, all these fees. A lot of things just feel like a scam.”
Nearly all parents want their child’s school to provide a strong core curriculum in reading and math and stress science and technology, concludes a new Fordham study. They want their children to learn good study habits, self-discipline, critical thinking skills and speaking and writing skills. But, after that, parents have different priorities, concludes What Parents Want.
Pragmatists (36 percent of K–12 parents) assign high value to schools that, “offer vocational classes or job-related programs.”
Jeffersonians (24 percent) value “instruction in citizenship, democracy, and leadership,” Test-Score Hawks (23 percent) look for a school with “high test scores,” Multiculturalists (22 percent) want their children to learn “to work with people from diverse backgrounds,” Expressionists (15 percent) stress art and music instruction and Strivers (12 percent), who are far more likely to be African American and Hispanic, prioritize getting into a top-tier college.