Eleven percent of business leaders strongly agree that today’s college graduates have the skills and competencies their companies need, according to a new Gallup/Lumina poll. Yet, in a Gallup/Inside Higher Ed survey, 96 percent of university officers believe that they’re effectively preparing students for success in the workplace.
“Something is very wrong when you see the academic leaders of higher education giving themselves an A+ on this while business leaders give them an F,” said Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education.
Just 16 percent of business leaders strongly agree that jobs at their business require a post-secondary degree or credential to be successful; 38 percent strongly disagree.
Business leaders were asked what talent, knowledge or skills will prepare graduates for success in the workforce. The most popular response was that higher education institutions should provide internships and practical, on-the-job experience. In addition to experience, business leaders most want to hire people with strong communication skills, including writing and speaking skills.
I’ve had conversation after conversation with leaders in manufacturing, healthcare, insurance, government, retail and other industries, and the song remains the same. The skills sets that matter across all of these sectors are too often missing from their entry-level employees, whether they have degrees or not. These include hard skills — such as producing an extended piece of writing or interpreting information contained in graphs and charts — and soft skills — such as negotiating with others to settle conflicts and disputes.
To produce job-ready graduates, colleges and universities “must teach and hone skills through learning activities that mimic real-world scenarios rather than testing students on abstract principles,” writes Alssid.
Competency-based, project-based education can narrow the skills gap, argues College for America.
Mississippi’s special education students must pass regular courses and four exams to earn a high school diploma. Many settle for an “occupational” diploma or a certificate of completion. But the occupational diploma limits college and job training options, write Jackie Mader and Sarah Butrymowicz on the Hechinger Report.
In the 12 years since the “occupational track,’’ was developed, Mississippi’s 15 community college have wavered on admitting alternate diploma graduates into academic tracks. Susan Molesworth, director of special education for the Long Beach School District, said the occupational diploma was never meant to be a college prep curriculum.
“Some of the [occupational diploma] kids that were coming into junior colleges weren’t able to do it,” Molesworth said. “They were failing.”
Only seven of the state’s community colleges accept alternate diploma students into academic programs.
Hinds Community College, which runs five campuses, decided in December to to stop accepting the occupational diploma for academic classes. Occupational grads can enroll only in certain career programs, such as office systems technology and meat merchandising.
Pearl River Community College does not accept occupational diplomas for financial reasons, said Scott Alsobrooks, vice president for economic and community development. The federal government doesn’t view the “occupational diploma’’ as equivalent to the GED or a high school diploma, so students can’t get federal grants or student loans.
Special ed students meet much lower academic expectations in high school, report Mader and Butrymowicz. At Brandon High School, students on the occupational track might take Employment English, Job Skills Math, Life Skills Science and Career Preparation.
A ninth grader is taught to “distinguish between odd and even numbers” and “determine, count, and make change in solving problems” in math.
In a 12th-grade occupational math class, seniors were reviewing vocabulary words about checks, such as “memo line” and “void.”
Still, only 28 percent of special ed students earn an occupational diploma, while 61 percent leave with a certificate of completion. The certificate, designed for severely disabled students, doesn’t qualify students for anything.
If students can’t meet academic standards in high school, it’s no surprise they can’t meet academic standards in college. But the “occupational” diploma should prepare students for success in job training programs.
Community college tuition could be free to high school graduates in Tennessee, Mississippi and Oregon.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam proposed making two years of a community or technical college education free in his State of the State address. “Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future, priceless.”
“We just needed to change the culture of expectations in our state,” the governor told the New York Times. “College is not for everybody, but it has to be for a lot more people than it’s been in the past if we’re going to have a competitive work force.”
Community college costs only $3,800 a year in Tennessee, just above the national average. With help from Pell Grants, most students pay little or nothing in tuition and fees. However eliminating tuition would enable lower-income students to use their Pell aid to pay for books, supplies, transportation and living expenses.
The “Tennessee Promise” will have a psychological impact, Haslam predicted. Many people don’t realize community and technical colleges are affordable. “If we can go to people and say, ‘This is totally free,’ that gets their attention.”
The plan would cover Tennessee’s 13 community colleges, which grant academic degrees, and 27 technical colleges, which provide job training. The technical system is nationally known for high success rates.
The net cost to the state isn’t really zero, but Haslam estimated diverting lottery revenue would cover the $34 million a year.
Mr. Haslam also called for Tennessee’s public colleges to make a new effort to recruit the state’s nearly one million adults who have some college credits but ended their educations without earning degrees or professional certificates. And he proposed expanding a program that gives particular help to struggling high school students so they can go to college without needing remedial classes that do not earn college credit; studies have shown that students who take remedial courses are far less likely to graduate.
High school graduates in Mississippi could attend community college for free for two years under a bill being considered in the Legislature, reports the Clarion-Ledger. Scholarships would be available to students younger than 21 who enroll full-time and maintain a 2.5 grade point average.
The idea started at Meridian Community College, which began offering what it calls a “tuition guarantee” in fall 1996, using privately donated money.
Oregon legislators also may study whether it’s feasible to let high school graduates attend community college for free. “If we get this right, I think we can unleash a tremendous amount of motivation within these young people, giving them the motivation to stay in school, to get a certificate, to achieve that additional learning that can make a difference in terms of their economic success,” Gov. John Kitzhaber told the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee.
Leaders of California’s three state higher education systems met this week with Gov. Jerry Brown to pledge cooperation, especially in helping community college students transfer to state universities, reports the Los Angeles Times.
In a rare gathering, University of California President Janet Napolitano, California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White and California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris said they want to break through some of the walls set up by the state’s 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, which established different roles and student enrollment criteria for each sector. Yet they also said they want to maintain the plan’s basic tenets.
“Transfer should be as streamlined as possible and as transparent as possible,” said Napolitano, as the three leaders appeared together at the UC regents meeting in San Francisco.
The challenge for the three systems, White said, is to strengthen the master plan “for the new economy for the next 50 years.”
The master plan, among other things, gave UC control over doctoral degrees and professional schools, allowed open access to community colleges and set higher admissions standards at Cal State and UC. Although many educators speak of it reverently, Brown described it as the result of a political deal in need of updating.
Napolitano pledged at the White House summit to improve diversity at the University of California by admitting more transfers from community colleges that “enroll large numbers of underrepresented and low-income students but send relatively few on to UC.”
Currently, only 20 percent of transfers are Latino or black compared to 24 percent of first-year students, points out Robert Shireman, director of California Competes. Latinos and African Americans make up 42 of the state’s population. CSU campuses are developing transfer pathways with the community colleges. UC has not participated.
California needs a new higher education plan and a statewide coordinating agency, concludes California Competes in Charting a Course for California’s Colleges. The California Postsecondary Education Commission was defunded in 2011. Since then, the state has no system of coordinated higher education leadership.
“For California’s continued economic growth, we must graduate 5.5 million degree and technical certificate holders who can succeed in the high-skilled labor market by 2025,” said Shireman. The state will fall short by 2.3 million, including one million four-year college graduates, without “consistent and coordinated leadership for our colleges and universities.”
The report recommends creating an autonomous coordinating agency “independent from political influence, informed by data, focused on outcomes and effective in articulating its goals, and able to work with policymakers.”
“We can’t just transplant” a higher education governance model from another state, said Lande Ajose, author of the report and a deputy director of California Competes. But California could learn from Ohio, Washington, Illinois, Texas, Florida and other states, the report suggests.
Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown called for the University of California and California State University systems to begin reporting performance outcomes, but it wasn’t clear who would collect and analyze the data, notes California Competes. The governor signed a bill calling for the state to develop postsecondary education goals, “but there was no guidance on who would monitor progress toward those goals.”
Speaker John A. Pérez, who serves as a UC Regent and a CSU Trustee, has introduced a bill establishing a new state oversight and coordinating body for higher education. AB 1348 passed the Assembly last year and will be considered by the Senate this year.
California’s higher education system is just average, concludes the Campaign for College Opportunity in Average Won’t Do.
Tuition (known as fees) at community colleges and state universities is relatively low: Community college fees are only 42 percent of the national average and many students pay nothing. Student loan debt averages a relatively low $20,269 per borrower. But fees and student loan amounts are rising rapidly.
California is below average on college readiness, according to the report. Only 68 percent of high school students earn a diploma in four years. Thirty-eight percent have passed college-prep courses that qualify them for state universities.
The college-going rate is relatively high, but the completion rate is average at state universities and well below average for community colleges.
“Stackable” short-term vocational certificates can help young people find good jobs, then go back to college for even better jobs, reports Community College Daily.
Westmoreland County Community College (WCCC) in Pennsylvania is working closely with industry partners. “Instead of coming out of college with $50,000 in debt, the goal should be to come out with a $50,000 income,” says Doug Jensen, WCCC associate vice president for workforce education and economic development.
With ArcelorMittal, local high schools and Career and Technical Centers (CTCs) of Pennsylvania, WCCC participates in Steelworker for the Future. The program includes college courses and a paid professional internship.
“When students walk across the stage on graduation day, they get their high school diploma, they get their CTC credentials and they get a certificate from WCCC in applied industrial technology,” says Jensen. High school graduates with Steelworker for the Future credentials can start at up to $27 an hour and make close to $80,000 a year with overtime and bonuses.
Other community colleges participating in Steelworker for the Future include Ivy Tech in Indiana, Moraine Valley Community College and Prairie State College in Illinois, West Virginia Northern Community College and Cuyahoga Community College and Lakeland Community College in Ohio.
More community colleges are offering bachelor’s degrees in career fields, reports Community College Daily.
South Seattle Community College (SSCC) added a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, which lets graduates seek a supervisory job in the hotel or restaurant industry.
North Dakota’s universities don’t offer a bachelor’s degree in energy management, so Bismarck State College (BSC) started a program to meet industry demand.
Courses are entirely online and are in eight-week blocks rather than the traditional 16 weeks. Only about 10 percent of the 250 students in the program are in North Dakota; the rest are all over the country. Most are adults already working in the field, although there are some traditional students who’ve just completed an associate degree.
The chief executive officers of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community Colleges Association (SDICCCA) this week voted unanimously to endorse the concept. SDICCCA comprises the nine community colleges in the six college districts of San Diego and Imperial counties: Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, Imperial Community College District, MiraCosta Community College District, Palomar Community College District, San Diego Community College District and Southwestern Community College District.
“Our local community colleges excel at preparing students to enter the workforce in career technical fields such as nursing and allied health, ”Melinda Nish, SDICCCA president and superintendent/president of Southwestern College, said in a statement. “It’s time for California to join this national movement and address our local workforce and student needs.”
Colorado community colleges are trying again to add four-year degrees, despite a defeat in the legislature last year, reports the Denver Post. Possible majors included dental hygiene and mortuary science.
California is losing its higher education edge, warns a new report. State universities and community colleges must be redesigned to produce the educated workers the economy needs, said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who commissioned the report.
The percentage of young adults earning associate and bachelor’s degrees in California already is below the U.S. average, warns the Committee for Economic Development, which wrote the report. The higher education system must be redesigned to serve an increasingly diverse and low-income population, CED advised.
Along with boosting graduation rates at Cal State and community college campuses, which enroll the vast majority of the state’s college students, the study calls for greater collaboration with for-profit private colleges, employers and K-12 schools.
Lead author Patrick Callan, president of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that if the state is serious about meeting its “productivity challenge,” it will need to create “new kinds of institutions that take advantage of innovative instructional technologies and business plans to develop nontraditional ways of providing high-quality postsecondary education programs.”
“Modest injections of funding” and “tweaks in current educational policy and practice” won’t be enough to fix California’s underperforming higher education system, said Newsom.
Massachusetts is betting that funding community colleges based on performance will close the job skills gap, reports Governing. Most states with performance funding link less than 10 percent of higher education to results. Massachusetts will tie half of its community college funds to results. Only Tennessee goes that far.
Massachusetts also increased its community college funding by $20 million after years of cutbacks. It dropped a funding formula that gave some campuses nearly $6,000 per full-time student while others received only $2,500.
In addition to Massachusetts and Tennessee, 11 states have added performance criteria to community college (and sometimes university) budgets. Four other states are moving in that direction.
Demands for accountability are rising, says Richard Kazis, vice president of Jobs for the Future, which promotes workforce development. “There’s a sense that we shouldn’t just fund institutions for getting people to sit in seats briefly; we should fund them for succeeding and moving people forward. How do you make the most out of each dollar?”
Massachusetts will tie funding to each community college’s ability to improve graduation rates, contribute to the state’s workforce needs and help more minority students succeed. Within three years, half of each college’s funding will hinge on these benchmarks. The other half will be determined by course credits completed.
Community college presidents accepted performance funding “as the price of getting a rational funding formula,” says Bill Messner, president of Holyoke Community College.
South Carolina jumped to 100 percent performance funding for colleges and universities in 1996. The system used dozen of metrics.
“They built a system they couldn’t deliver,” says Kazis of Jobs for the Future. The funding formula was never embraced by university faculty and administrators, who were not included in the process of designing it. Administrators who tried to implement the program were overloaded with unfamiliar demands. After seven years, the program was abandoned.
Massachusetts and Tennessee going slow and collaborating with the higher education community, notes Governing.
To prevent colleges from boost success rates by limiting access, both states award points for outcomes achieved by low-income, adult or minority students.
During the first two years of the new performance funding system, all but one of Tennessee’s 13 community colleges increased the number of associate degrees awarded to low-income students. At the state’s nine universities, all succeeded in increasing the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to low-income students.
Rewarding enrollment growth and ignoring results sends the wrong message, says Richard Freeland, higher education commissioner in Massachusetts. “It leads to too many students coming in the door and dropping by the wayside.”
The “overeducated American” is a “myth,” states a new College Summit report. Workplace demand for college graduates is rising, according to Smart Shoppers: The End of the ‘College for All’ Debate? College graduates earn 80 percent more than high school graduates, the report estimates. Even in jobs that don’t require a degree, more-educated workers earn significantly more.
However, returns on the college investment have been exaggerated, concludes another new report, which focuses on higher education in California. The Economics of B.A. Ambivalence notes that most students take more than four years to complete a bachelor’s degree. In addition, some earn much less than others.
When the California Master Plan for Higher Education was enacted, in 1960, only 10 percent of Californians had a college degree, and the earnings gap between degree holders and non-degree holders was 35 percent. In 2010, they say, that earnings premium was 43 percent—higher than in the past, but still half the figure cited in the College Summit report. But, the researchers point out, the wage gap is higher now not because wages for college-degree holders have gone up, but because wages for people with only a high-school degree have gone down.
Graduating with burdensome debt is a higher risk, the researchers write.
College remains a good investment for the average California student and for American society. Nevertheless, it is true that more graduates now run the risk of not earning enough to make their investment in college worthwhile. This reality explains why many families of ordinary means are increasingly skeptical about paying for college.
“College is a ‘steppingstone’ to the middle class—not a ticket,” the authors warn. “It deserves the scrutiny an individual would give to any risky investment.”
They recommend better advising and more loan-repayment options.
Adults who’ve left school without a degree ask: Is College Worth It for Me? But few look at graduation and default rates when they choose a postsecondary option, reports Public Agenda. And many don’t understand that for-profit higher education will be more expensive.
California Latinos are completing high school and enrolling in college in record numbers, but college graduation rates remain low, according to a new report, The State of Latinos in Higher Education in California.
Expectations are high: 83 percent of Latino parents want their children to earn at least a bachelor’s degree. But only 11 percent of Latino adults have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 39 percent of whites.
Latinos are expected to reach majority status in California by 2050, notes the Campaign for College Opportunity, which produced the report. “The math is clear,” said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign. “If the California economy is to have the college-educated workforce it needs, we must find ways to significantly improve college completion rates among Latinos.”
“The good news is that this report confirms the incredible willingness and desire among Latino youth to go to college,” said Siqueiros. “Enrollment is high and growing. But too few Latino college students are completing a certificate or college degree. We are falling into a pattern of improved college access, without success.”
Compared to their white and Asian-American classmates, Latinos are less likely to enroll in a selective college or four-year university. They’re also less likely to enroll full-time and much less likely to earn a credential.
Seventy percent of first-time Latino college-goers in the state enrolled at a community college in 2012. Of degree-seeking Latinos who complete six units and attempt an English or math course, 40 percent earn a certificate or associate degree or transfer within six years, estimates a scorecard created by the California Community Colleges. That includes nearly 65 percent of “prepared” Latinos and 35 percent of “unprepared” Latinos. However, only 20 percent Latinos earned a credential or transferred, according to the Campaign’s 2010 study. Researchers looked at students who’d earned six units, regardless of math or English attempts.
To close the college gap, the Campaign for College Opportunity recommends creating a statewide higher education plan with benchmarks for increasing Latino enrollment and completion rates, and for decreasing time spent in remedial education. “We’ve looked at Texas, which is very aggressive at articulating goals, college by college,” said Siqueiros in an online press conference.
Fund colleges for both enrollment and success — Establish a new funding mechanism that creates incentives for increasing graduation and completion rates.
Get everyone on the same page — Improve coordination between high schools and colleges on college preparation and assessment.
Invest in services students need to succeed — Prioritize resources that support student success and completion, including orientation, counseling and services to close information gaps for low-income, first-generation Latino students.
Strengthen financial support options for students — Ensure that all eligible students apply and receive federal and California student aid for which they qualify.
“Access is not enough,” said Siqueiros.