Student veterans complained repeatedly about mismanagement and harassment at the veterans’ center at Pima Community College‘s campus in downtown Tucson. Finally, PCC fired two top administrators and reassigned the center’s manager, reports the Arizona Daily Star.
Luba Chliwniak and Jerry Haynes, the campus president and vice president, were fired. Diane-Marie Landsinger, who formerly oversaw the center, remains on the payroll but no longer works with veterans.
Many veterans avoid the center, said Jared Taylor, 30, immediate past president of the PCC chapter of Student Veterans of America. Landsinger, a human resources analyst, had no experience with vets, he said.
Landsinger often tried to censor private conversations between veterans within the center, and would make them shut off the television news, claiming that watching it might trigger their combat stress symptoms, he said.
When challenged, “she gets upset and lashes out,” he said.
“She seemed like she was afraid of us,” Taylor said. “I said, ‘Look, we’re not ticking time bombs. All of us are getting help and we help each other.”
Taylor said Chliwniak once berated him publicly on campus when his service dog was off its leash. The animal is trained to help him cope with combat stress symptoms, he said, by inserting itself between him and others to maintain a comfortable distance.
“I know lots of people with PTSD and they don’t need a dog like that,” he recalled her saying.
Jonah Fontenot, 36, a former Army truck driver and now a member of the student veterans group at PCC, said he made two formal complaints to the college about Landsinger alleging “harassment and a hostile work environment” at the campus.
PCC officials said the veterans center wasn’t the only issue that led to the leadership change.
For the first time, a majority of undergraduates — 57 percent — are receiving Pell Grants and other federal student aid, reports Libby A. Nelson on Politico. In addition, 41 percent are taking out student loans, up from 35 percent four years ago.
“Federal grants and loans help students realize the American dream,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who noted that Pell Grants are going to twice as many college students.
But “increasing federal student aid alone will not control the cost of college,” he added, calling on state policymakers and colleges and universities to hold the line on rising college tuition. “Together we can take collective action to help make college more accessible, affordable, and attainable for middle class Americans across the country.”
Increasing student aid enables colleges to increase tuition, economists argue. “Colleges often deliberately raise their prices when aid is available, in essence ‘capturing’ the aid,” wrote Robert Martin and Andrew Gillen in 2011.
Pell Grant spending has skyrocketed, notes Politico.
About 41 percent of all students received the grant in 2011-12, a 14 percentage point increase. Congress expanded the grant program several times between 2007 and 2009. As the economy faltered and incomes fell, spending on Pell grew from $12.8 billion in 2007 to $35.6 billion in 2011 before falling slightly last year.
For-profit colleges enroll many low-income, minority and adult students who are reliant on federal aid.
More than three-quarters of students at for-profit colleges granting associate or bachelor’s degrees received federal student aid. And an additional 10 percent of students at for-profit colleges granting bachelor’s degrees received veterans’ benefits — a higher proportion than at public or private nonprofit colleges.
Including state aid and college scholarships, 71 percent of students receive help paying for college. Colleges use some scholarship money to help needy students, but just as much goes to academically strong students from affluent families, the report found.
Under pressure from historically black colleges, the Obama administration made it easier for parents with shaky credit histories to take out Parent PLUS loans, notes EduBubble.
Kelly Field at the Chronicle of Higher Education calls this a “victory.” And it is, for the colleges. But what about the students sucking down the outrageous amounts of debt? What about their parents?
These high-interest loans are not a good deal — especially for parents who’ve had financial problems in the past and have kids going to colleges with low graduation rates.
The eight recommendations include “suggestions that colleges work to ensure that veterans have the support of faculty members and campus leaders, and use uniform data to track veterans’ success,” reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.
More than 250 colleges and universities are participating in the initiative, the president said.
Most GI Bill-using veterans enroll in community colleges and for-profit institutions.
By 2018, the seven-college system aims to award 40 percent more degrees and 15 percent more certifications, boost the graduation rate to 20 percent, and increase transfers to four-year institutions. In addition, Reinvention7 calls for more than two-thirds of occupational students finding jobs in their field, a third of new remedial students advancing to college-level work and speedier success for adult ed students.
Cheryl Hyman, who took over as chancellor in 2011, launched the reinvention effort. “Since 2010, the graduation rate has risen from 7 percent to 12 percent, numbers of degrees awarded are up 80 percent, total awards granted has increased 21 percent and credit enrollment has risen 15 percent,” reports Community College Times.
“I graduated from Olive Harvey College,” one of the seven campuses, Hyman says. “I knew what the institution had done for me. I had very high expectations because it put me on the road to a very successful career. However, coming here, I found that the institution was performing well, but only for a small number of students.”
In addition to a low retention rate, Hyman adds that she believed credentials were not “aligned with the demands of the workplace. Then I started to ask myself, even for the 7 percent that was completing, how valuable was that credential?” she says. “I also started looking at operations, knowing that finances were tight. Where are we making investments? Are our faculty equipped with the latest knowledge?”
Students need credentials that will be respected by four-year institutions and by employers, Hyman says. “We need our students to be good problem-solvers, be good critical thinkers, be creative. The only way they can do that is with a good foundation of liberal arts training.”
City Colleges has hired more counselors, added “wellness centers” to help students deal with emotional and social issues, created veterans’ centers and established a “Student GPS” that provides semester-by-semester pathways for each course of study.
Tracking students through college and into the workforce is an idea whose time has come back, reports Inside Higher Ed. The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act revives a controversial idea opposed by privacy advocates and adds a federal “unit record” database administered by the Education Department.
Colleges would make information public about students’ salaries by major and program; graduation and remediation rates; success rates for students who receive a Pell Grant or veterans’ benefits; and other benchmarks not currently collected in such detail.
. . . A unit record database has long been the holy grail for many policy makers, who argue that collecting data at the federal level is the only way to get an accurate view of postsecondary education. But privacy advocates, private colleges and Congressional Republicans, all of whom oppose the creation of such a database, teamed up in opposition the last time the idea was proposed, by the Bush administration in 2005. Then, the opponents succeeded; the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act included a provision specifically forbidding the creation of a federal unit record data system.
Nearly every advocacy group, think tank, committee and panel has called for a federal unit record system, reports Inside Higher Ed. States are developing databases to track their own students, but the federal government’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System still ignores part-time students and counts many transfers as dropouts. As more young people “swirl” from one campus to another and yet another, IPEDS data is increasingly inadequate for policymakers.
Privacy is a phony issue, writes Reihan Salam on National Review. It’s easy to make the data anonymous. Students and their parents really do have a right to know the odds of success before they write the first tuition check, writes Salam. Reliable data on student outcomes would threaten colleges and universities that offer a substandard education and leave students in debt and without marketable skills.
To understand military veterans turned students, run a mile in their boots. New Jersey community college officials and high school teachers, counselors and principals volunteered for a week of Marine training, reports Community College Times.
Last year, Warren County Community College (WCCC) in New Jersey launched a program that allows military veterans to earn college credits for their service-related experiences. As with other programs at community colleges serving military veterans and other servicemembers, WCCC’s Veterans In Pursuit of Educational Readiness (VIPER) requires, in part, helping them understand the college environment.
So when an opportunity came for educators to sample what it’s like to be a Marine, Robert Sintich, who created the VIPER program, took the opportunity. He also recruited another college official to join him for the week of training at Parris Island, S.C.—WCCC President Will Austin.
“I have a great deal more respect as to what these recruits go through,” Austin said. “They are being trained to be intelligent warriors. They are being very well educated.”
At Marine Corps Educators Boot Camp, designed is to educate the educators, Austin, Sintich and 75 others woke up at 5 am and trained until early evening.
Marines are always learning, said Sgt. Samuel Nasso, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps Recruiting Station in New Jersey. “Since day one a Marine is in training to the day the Marine retires, the goal is to strive to be a better Marine and a better individual in all facets of life,” Nasso said.
Austin and Sintich talked to the Marines about VIPER, which lets veterans receive up to 34 credits for their military training, plus up to 11 credits for courses in automotive technology, business, computer science, criminal justice, fire science and food and beverage management. A vet who takes full advantage of the program could earn an associate degree in as little as one semester, then seamlessly transfer to Thomas Edison State College to complete a bachelor’s degree.
Helping veterans get college credit for skills learned in the military – speeding their way to a degree or credential — is the aim of the Maps to Credentials project, reports Community College Times. The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), the American Council on Education and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) are working with three community colleges to develop a prior learning assessment model.
Inver Hills Community College (IHCC) in Minnesota evaluated the most common military occupations for Minnesota National Guard members and “cross-walked them to our coursework,” said Anne Johnson, dean of business and social sciences, at an AACC Workforce Development Institute in San Diego.
. . . a combat engineer might get three credits for the supervisory techniques in a business course at IHCC and three credits for construction management. A unit supply specialist could get three credits each for introduction to computers, introduction to business in society, and principles of management.
The average veteran or active military student is awarded 6.8 prior-learning credits, listed on the transcript by the community college course titles.
Miami Dade College (MDC) gives credits for military experience toward associate degrees in criminal justice, electronics engineering technologies and office administration, as well as certificates in medical assisting. More degrees will be added.
Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC), located near Fort Bragg, North Carolina, has mapped military occupational specialties to courses in general education, culinary arts, surgical technology, radiography and emergency medical science.
Since FTCC started this program in fall 2010, veteran enrollment has increased 40 percent. The college awarded 214 degrees to veterans last spring, compared to just three in spring 2010.
Faculty are finding that “service members are great students,” said Bridget Petzold, program coordinator for business administration/operations management. “They participate in class. They are excited about learning, they bring a lot of experience to the classroom and they bring the discussion up a notch.”
Veterans are having trouble using the GI Bill at state schools, if they’ve moved frequently, reports AP. New rules that took effect in August say vets can collect up to $17,500 a year at private colleges but only the cost of in-state tuition at public institutions. That makes state residency an issue.
A Missouri native, Justin Curley was a medic in the Air Force. He left the service in 2009, settled in New Orleans and applied to the nursing program at Delgado Community College. Denied in-state status, he borrowed $3,000 a year to pay out-of-state tuition. But a friend persuaded him to protest.
“Essentially, because I constantly moved with the Air Force, the Louisiana Community and Technical College System is taking away the veterans benefits I rightfully earned in favor of unwritten policies that are left up to the discretion and judgment of the board and chancellor,” he wrote. “To me, that says I’m a resident of nowhere. All because of my service.”
In October, Curley met with newly installed Chancellor Monty Sullivan. Not only did Sullivan grant Curley the in-state rate, he refunded his money back to fall 2011.
The graduation rates of veterans using the GI Bill will be reported publicly, announced Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs.
“The best measurements of success are completion rates,” Mr. Shinseki told a crowd of several hundred student veterans. “Degrees, certificates of completion, certifications, licensing—that to me is how you measure. Not who goes in the front door, but who completes the program.”
In the fall-2012 semester, 480,000 students were enrolled under the GI Bill, Shinseki said. The department will work with the National Student Clearinghouse to track graduation rates, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. Student Veterans of America, which has 700 campus chapters around the country, brokered the agreement.
Older, returning students who require remediation are straining Florida’s community colleges, reports the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. From 2004 to 2011, Florida’s remedial education costs rose from $118 million to $168 million. The vast majority of “developmental” students have been out of school for at least a year or two: In the 2010-11 school year, 85 percent of students taking remedial classes were age 20 or older.
The recession accelerated the trend.
Laid-off workers and those . . . who want to train for new lines of work or bolster their résumés, have been flooding onto college campuses. It isn’t just the weak job market that has been encouraging them to do this. The federal government is providing record amounts of financial aid.
Most have rusty academic skills, especially in math. Four of every five first-year, full-time students over 20 had to take remedial math courses. For those 35 and older, the rate increased to 90 percent.
Hunter R. Boylan, director of the National Center for Developmental Education, says older students’ need for remedial math is natural. “You read every day, but when was the last time someone said, ‘Excuse me, Can you help me solve a polynomial equation?’ ” Boylan said. “It’s a skill that atrophies quickly and because it is not used regularly, it goes away.”
President Obama has promoted easier access to education for disadvantaged students and expanded Pell Grants by more than $15 billion. In Florida, the number of students receiving federal financial aid and taking remedial classes more than doubled from 2007 to 2011.
Older students taking remedial courses said the availability of financial aid was a determining factor in deciding to go to college.
José Ramos is one of them. Ramos is a phlebotomist — that’s the person who takes blood samples for health tests. A Pell Grant enabled Ramos, 46, to pursue a nursing degree at St. Petersburg College. “Being the only provider in a household and for what I make, you can’t survive and go to school,” said Ramos, a father of four. “Normally, right now, I wouldn’t be in school. I’d be working two jobs supporting my family and not able to see my son grow up like I did my daughter.”
. . . Financial aid allowed Ramos to reduce his hours at work and concentrate on his studies. But his education has also taken longer than he anticipated due to his need for remedial math. Ramos didn’t score high enough in math on the entrance exam to take college-level algebra.
Patricia Smith, who oversees the campus learning lab, says many older students don’t make it through the remedial sequence. A 2007 state analysis estimated half of remedial students drop out before qualifying for college-level classes. The rate is higher for older students, instructors say. In some cases, laid-off workers find new jobs. In others, students are pulled away from college by family problems, part-time jobs and, for veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder.
Older students who stick with it are “more focused,” says Smith. “They will help bring up the younger students in the class and actually act as nurturers and be great role models for younger students.”
In three years, the Post-9/11 GI Bill has helped 860,000 vets go to school. But little is known about how veterans’ graduation or employment rates, reports NPR.
Most student veterans choose community colleges or for-profit colleges. At Cayuga Community College, a small school in rural, upstate New York, the number of vets went up by 400 percent after the new bill went into effect in 2009, says Sarah Yaw.
Many were the first in their families to go to college. She formed a consortium with other educators in the upstate area to provide special counseling for the new students.
There are no national statistics on veterans’ graduation rates, and that lack of data recently led to a slight panic among supporters.
Some press accounts cited information that said only 3 percent of vets were getting degrees. Veterans’ advocates quickly debunked that number, but it just pointed to a need for data.
Michael Dakduk, executive director of Student Veterans of America, is working on a database to track nearly 1 million new student veterans, who’ve received $24 billion and counting in aid. The Department of Veterans Affairs also plans to track success rates.
However, education statistics that track “first-time, full-time students” leave out many veterans and other nontraditional students.