San Jacinto offers U.S. history for vets

San Jacinto College will offer a U.S. history course section exclusively for students who are military veterans.

Kearby Lyde, who specializes in military and diplomatic history, will teach the section of History 1302, which covers U.S. history from Reconstruction  through the 20th century. “I have found that my veteran students are, most often, more serious about their goals and their education,” said Lyde, who’s taught at the college for almost 40 years.

 “I think the difference between this course and others will be the veterans themselves and their shared military experiences. They will be able to relate to what their fathers and grandfathers went through, and will be able to look at events in a ‘big picture’ sort of way, finally seeing the long-term effects of decisions made 50 to 100 years ago.”

Veterans who are new to campus will “not feel so out of place” in an all-vet class, said Claudia Milton, a Navy veteran.

The college is providing opportunities for veteran students to build supportive networks, said Eugene Bernard, veteran success coordinator on the South Campus. Veteran students “have started taking classes together and forming study groups amongst themselves. This history course that is exclusively for veterans is a great opportunity for that camaraderie to be extended.”

Vets choose for-profits over public options

Thirty-one percent of military veterans enrolled in for-profit colleges in 2012, up from 23 percent three years earlier. Only 50 percent chose public colleges, down from 62 percent.

For-profit colleges use aggressive marketing to lure vets — and their generous GI Bill funding — complains Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin a new report. For-profit colleges received $1.7 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits during the 2012-13 academic year.

At the for-profit colleges receiving the most benefits, up to 66 percent of students left without earning a certificate or degree, according to the report. In addition, 39 to 57 percent of the vocational programs “offered by four of the companies receiving the most Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits would fail to meet the proposed gainful employment rule, suggesting that the students who attend these institutions do not earn enough to pay back the debt they take
on.”

Veterans choose for-profit institutions “because they offer the right mix of study programs, customer service, and locations and times that meet their needs better than do public college,” writes Daniel L. Bennett, an assistant economics professor at Patrick Henry College and a Center for College Affordability and Productivity research fellow.

Harkin also suggests it costs taxpayers nearly twice as much to send a veteran to a for-profit college ($7,972) than to a public one ($3,914). But these figures are highly misleading. They only account for GI tuition payments, ignoring significant taxpayer subsidies and tax exemption. A 2011 AIR report estimated the annual taxpayer cost per full-time equivalent (FTE) student at unselective public colleges to be nearly $8,000, while for-profit students actually provided taxpayers with an average net gain of nearly $800.

Many vets are looking for job training. For-profit colleges’ two-year programs have much higher completion rates than community college programs, writes Matt Reed, the Community College Dean. Career colleges focus on job training with no electives and minimal delays for remediation. That could be one reason why low-cost community colleges are having trouble competing with high-cost for-profit colleges.

A new bill — soon to be a law — will let veterans pay in-state tuition at any state college or university.

Feds will test aid for competency programs

North Carolina community colleges and state universities will award college credit for military training and experience.

Hoping to speed older students to a degree, the U.S. Education Department will allow some colleges to award credit — and student aid — for competency and prior learning, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. The “experimental sites” will be announced this week.

Traditionally, federal student aid has been limited to programs that award credits for hours of instruction, known as “seat time.”

Starting last year, the department has allowed a handful of colleges to provide federal financial aid to students enrolled in direct-assessment programs, notes the Chronicle.  “If the experiments prove successful, they could make it easier for competency-based programs to qualify for student aid, opening the federal coffers to a much wider swath of nontraditional programs”

The Education Department’s announcement was followed by unanimous House approval of HR 3136, which would create a competency-based demonstration project. The bipartisan bill was sponsored by Rep. Matt Salmon, an Arizona Republican, and Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat.

“It is common sense to evaluate students on what they know rather than how long they spend in a classroom, but years of government regulation have created a system that places more value on credit hours than years of actual experience,” said Salmon. Veterans and other adult students should benefit, he predicted.

Giving colleges and universities more flexibility will “shorten the time it takes to earn a degree and reduce college costs,” said Polis.

The White House issued a statement supporting the bill.

“Competency” programs really are testing for “mastery,” writes John F. Ebersole, president of Excelsior College, in an Inside Higher Ed commentary. Graduate schools and employers want to know what candidates can do, not just what they know.

Vets’ college success remains unknown

More than half of veterans using the GI Bill complete a certificate or degree in 10 years, according to the Million Records Project by Student Veterans of America. The report has a number of blind spots, writes Clare McCann on Ed Central.

The Million Records report isn’t comparable to other Education Department data because it gives students more time to complete a credential and includes job certificates.

Recent veterans, who are more likely to have served in combat, aren’t distinguished from older veterans, writes McCann. “It’s not clear from the SVA report how the added obstacles that more recent veterans may face are affecting student veterans’ academic progress.”

The data on for-profit colleges may be misleading, because National Student Clearinghouse, which provided much of the information, doesn’t include all for-profit colleges. The clearinghouse “will not publish data at the institutional level, especially if that information might make particular schools look bad – like veterans’ graduation rates by institution.”

A national student unit record system as proposed in College Blackout could make better use of the data scattered across institutions and the government” and help veterans succeed in higher education, McCann concludes.

Half of vets complete a degree or certificate

Half of veterans who used the GI Bill completed a vocational credential or college degree from 2002 through 2013, according to research released by the Student Veterans of America. About one in three of the veterans earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The veterans’ 51.7 percent completion rate is close to the six-year graduation rate for younger, non-veterans, 56.1 percent. However, the rates aren’t directly comparable since the veterans’ survey included vocational certificates and job training and gave vets 10 years to reach completion.”

Still, “researchers say veterans appear to be doing better than other so-called non-traditional students — those who delay attending college, enroll part-time or have children, factors common with many current veterans,” reports USA Today. Completion rates are much lower for older students.

“Looking at the obstacles and the issues that student vets have to deal with. … I think we’re doing quite well,” says D. Wayne Robinson, a former Army command sergeant major and now president and CEO of Student Veterans of America.

. . . Studies have shown that about half of those veterans eligible for the GI Bill after World War II obtained a training certificate or college education, as did about two-thirds of Vietnam veterans, according to a 1976 VA study.

Veterans often pursue degrees in business, social sciences, homeland security, law enforcement and firefighting, and computer and information services, the survey found.

Seventy-nine percent of veterans start at a public college or university, notes Ed Central. Most choose a community college. The completion rate was 50.8 percent for enrollees in public schools, 63.8 percent for private nonprofits and 44.9 percent for for-profit colleges.

The National Student Clearinghouse analyzed nearly 800,000 college records.

Pima fires 2 after veterans complain

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.

57% of students get federal aid

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.

The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study was released days before President Obama starts a bus tour dedicated to talking about holding down college costs.

“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.

Obama outlines ‘8 keys’ to veterans’ success

8 Keys to Success” will help veterans do well in college, President said in remarks to a convention for disabled veterans in Orlando.

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.

Chicago City Colleges meet early goals

City Colleges of Chicago is moving toward its ambitious five-year goals, reports Community College Times.

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 raises privacy concerns

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.