Posts published in September, 2010

Arizona Joins States Cutting Back Merit Scholarships

Citing budget cuts and the need to screen better for college readiness, the board of regents approved changes to the popular Arizona university scholarship but exempted from them existing high school juniors and seniors. The new requirements mean students will not only have to earn an “exceeds” rating on all three parts of the AIMS test but also must score at least 28 on the ACT or at least 1300 on the SAT college-entrance exams. They also must meet certain minimum grade requirements, generally a 3.5 average. The scholarship will be lowered from 100% to 25% of freshman-level tuition.

Georgia Hope Scholarship Running Out Of Money

  The nations flagship state guarantee merit scholarship is Georgia”s Hope Scholarship. It has sent clear signals to secondary school students about meeting course and grade point standards. But now it is threatened.

Losing HOPE
A popular scholarship that has become a near-birthright for Georgians is going broke, and state officials acknowledge they’ll have to cut participation or reduce benefits if it is to survive. Since its introduction in 1993, the HOPE Scholarship program has seen an explosion of participation and spawned similar merit-based programs in other states. But with the lottery funds that support the program slowing in growth, and an uptick in the number of students participating, HOPE’s reserves are being drained and could be completely tapped by the close of 2013. Source:ECS

Lumina Foundation Reports Little Progress On Increasing College Completion Rates

The new report, A stronger nation through higher education, shows that in 2007, 37.7 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 held a two- or four-year college degree. For 2008, the number is 37.9 percent. If the current rate of increase remains, less than 47 percent of Americans will hold a two- or four-year degree by 2025-a rate that economic experts say is far below the level that can keep the nation competitive in the global, knowledge-based economy.

The Stronger Nation report tracks progress toward Lumina’s “Big Goal:” namely, that 60 percent of Americans hold high-quality degrees by 2025. It measures progress at the national, state and county levels, with individual profiles for all 50 states. For the first time, readers will be able to compare local attainment with that of their county, state and the nation. Get quick access to state data.

National Polls Show Public More Concerned About Higher Education Performance And Decsions

  Here are 2 prior polls from the National Center For Public PolicyAnd higher Education in San Jose, Ca. that demonstrate the public is less pleased with the decision making and perfromance of higher education officials and colleges. The polls  indicate the public thinks colleges operate more like businesses that focus more on their bottom line than on the educational experience of students. The public is skeptical that colleges are doing all they can to control costs. Note the responses between the  polls in  2009 and 2010.

Texas Moving On Many Policies To Improve College Completion

Just more than half of Texas’ college students will graduate in six years, according to Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes. Despite his concerns, Paredes said he believes progress has been made under the “Closing the Gap Initiative” begun 10 years ago. Since then: the legislature created “college and career readiness standards” for high school students; the state is creating “end-of-course” exams based on those new standards; the number of Hispanic students going to college has risen 75%; and the number of high school graduates who are “college-ready” has risen from 18% to 22%.

State Data Systems For Higher Education Are Idiosyncratic And Amorphous

This resource presents information based on a study conducted by SHEEO that cataloged 59 state-level student unit record (SUR) data systems containing postsecondary data in 44 states and the District of Columbia.The study describes state postsecondary data systems, a task made complex by the organizational reality that there is often no single, uniform entity or organization within a state to respond to survey questions associated with state postsecondary data systems. Rather, each state has a unique organization that implements and oversees the collection of its postsecondary data. State postsecondary data systems, then, reflect state oversight differences and are an amorphous group. There is often more than one postsecondary data system per state. They may be within a coordinating or governing board of higher education or another state agency or entity. They may contain data from only one institution of higher education, several institutions, institutions within a defined system, or all institutions in the state. Further, they may contain student data in the aggregate or at the unit record level. Ultimately, state constitutions and laws dictate coordinating and governing board missions, duties, and responsibilities, affecting the shape of each state’s postsecondary data system. Understanding these differences is critical to the discussions currently taking place in the design, function, and goals of state P-20 data systems.

This study updates and expands the Critical Connections study conducted by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems and funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education.

Community College Transfers Succeed At Four Year Colleges

  There have been a number of articles verifying the sucess of community college transfers. Here is one of the best from Teachers College

e Record on line :

Baccalaureate Success of Transfers and Rising 4-Year College Juniors
by Tatiana Melguizo & Alicia.C. Dowd
The main objective of this study is to compare the effect of being a successful community college “transfer” student instead of a “rising junior” in a 4-year college on bachelor’s degree attainment. Logistic regression is used to estimate the effect of being a transfer student, and the effects and interplay of factors such as socioeconomic background and institutional selectivity on bachelor’s degree completion are estimated. The results indicate no difference in baccalaureate attainment for transfers after accounting for state-level characteristics.

How To Improve Policy For Remedial/ Developmental Education Success At Community Colleges #3

Guest blogger: Nancy Shulock, California State University -Sacramento. This the third and last blog in this series on remedial/developmental education policy. See prior two posts for more context.

A current proposal by the Academic Senate of the California Community Colleges to allow for content review as a basis to set prerequisites aligns with the best thinking nationally on how to simultaneously improve remedial instruction while taking a balanced approach to the prerequisite issue. By encouraging colleges to be clear on the skills and competencies that students need in college level courses and designing basic skills courses accordingly, it is also a major step towards improving basic skills. The proposed policy would also lay the foundation for more diagnostic use of assessments so that students can be directed only to those basic skills courses or modules or contextualized courses that they need – shortening the time they spend in remediation. It lays the foundation for creating a set of clear college readiness standards that can communicate to K-12 what will be expected of students who enter the community colleges. Finally, it replaces problematic statistical processes with purposeful alignment of course content, in line with what the leading reform states are doing and consistent with a new report by two leading national policy centers on improving college readiness by aligning competency expectations and assessing proficiencies.[i]

An expert on state developmental education policy reported that no other state has such a prescriptive policy for what institutions have to do or cannot do to try to improve the basic skills of under-prepared students and none has the kind of “onerous” statistical validation that California has.[ii] He confirmed that leading states, such as Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, are using content review as the driving force in reforming the delivery of developmental education to improve outcomes for under-prepared students.

With more explicit reference to prerequisites, another leading expert summarized the new directions as follows[iii]:

The most thoughtful states are trying to strike a delicate balance on assessment and placement policy. On one hand, policies that are too permissive allow students to enroll in college-credit courses without adequate preparation or support, setting up both the student and the institution for failure. On the other hand, overly restrictive policies may require students who have a reasonable chance of succeeding without intervention, such as those who fall just below the established cut score for placement into remediation, to enroll in developmental education anyway….Effective state assessment and placement policies will strike a balance between restrictive and permissive rules. (Collins, p.9)

The ASCCC proposal to allow content review reflects these best efforts by putting the focus on course content and letting faculty at the colleges determine what mix of separate basic skills courses, modular courses, integrated courses, etc. will help students acquire the competencies they need in the shortest possible time.

[i] Beyond the Rhetoric: Improving college readiness through coherent state policy.  National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and Southern Regional Education Board, June 2010.

[ii] Bruce Vandal, Education Commission of the States, personal communication, July 2, 2010.

[iii] Michael Lawrence Collins, Setting Up Success in Developmental Education: How State Policy Can Help Community Colleges Improve Student Success Outcomes.  Boston: Jobs for the Future, June 2009.

How To Improve Community College Developmental Education: Part 2

Guest blogger, Nancy Shulock, California State University-Sacramento

California and the nation are facing the challenge of increasing college attainment levels while serving the growing population of under-prepared students in its colleges. We can learn from what leading-edge states are doing to increase the success of under-prepared students for whom traditional remedial sequences have not proven effective.  A review of developmental education policy reforms reveals the following trends[i]:

  1. Minimizing the time students spend in remedial coursework by replacing long sequences of semester-long courses with options that include:
  • modular courses with open entry/open exit as students’ competencies dictate
  • contextualized remedial courses whereby students learn basic skills in the context of substantive content, sometimes in paired courses
  • supplemental remedial instruction where students with limited deficiencies enroll in college-level courses and receive targeted assistance with needed basic skills


  1. Achieving a balance between permissiveness and restrictiveness with respect to access to college-level courses by under-prepared students by:
  • allowing students into college-level courses concurrent with their remedial enrollments as long as the course does not require skills related to those that need remediation (the key being reading – states generally do not allow students who are not proficient in reading to take college-level courses)
  • requiring students to begin and complete remediation early by setting limits, for example, on the number of credits students may earn before completing remediation


  1. Using content review to support the overall reform goal of ensuring that students spend only the minimal time needed in remedial education by:
  • examining and aligning the content of college-level and remedial courses
  • using that content review as the basis for placing or directing students into appropriate courses


[i] Education Commission of the States, Getting Past Go: Rebuilding the Remedial Education Bridge to College Success, May, 2010, as supplemented by personal communication with lead author Bruce Vandal, July 2, 2010.

How To Improve Community College Developmental Education: Part One

Guest blogger:  Nancy Shulock, Director, Institute For Higher Education Leadership &Policy, California State- Sacramento,

This is the first of three blogs on these issues

The United States is facing increasingly inadequate college attainment levels and the threat of losing competitive standing on the global stage. A major reason for low college attainment is that while enrollment rates are generally high, completion rates are low – especially in community colleges. In community colleges, the great majority of students enter under-prepared for college-level study – some seriously under-prepared. Large percentages of these students never get through remedial education, let alone to college completion.

How can we better serve the growing numbers of entering students in California’s community colleges who are not prepared for college-level work so we can increase college completion in the state?  Should they be required to take remedial coursework right away or at all? What courses should they be allowed to take before they have completed remedial work? What kind of remedial instruction is most effective?  Recently, the Academic Senate of the California Community Colleges (ASCCC) passed a resolution calling for the modification of the process for establishing prerequisites for student entry into college-level courses. The current system for establishing prerequisites is a complex statistical validation for each pair of courses (the college course and the proposed prerequisite course) to demonstrate with historical data that the prerequisite course increases a student’s chances of passing the college course. This process is rarely used due to its complexity and the difficulty of meeting established statistical criteria. Therefore, few prerequisites are in place. With few prerequisites, students have open access to college-level courses whether or not they can read or write at college level or perform basic mathematics.  Some under-prepared students pass those courses and some fail or drop them. Unfortunately, because assessment isn’t strictly required and assessment scores are not recorded in the CCC data system, we cannot determine the numbers of under-prepared students who enroll in college-level courses or their rates of success or failure in those courses.

The ASCCC proposal is to allow colleges to use “content review” instead of statistical validation. With content review, faculty experts in their fields determine the reading, writing, and/or math competencies that students need to succeed in a given college level course in another discipline, (e.g., History, Economics), determine the courses (most likely basic skills courses) that provide those competencies, and set course prerequisites accordingly.

The proposal is controversial, with two diametrically opposed sets of beliefs. One side believes that setting prerequisites will harm under-represented minority students by consigning them to basic skills sequences from which they will not emerge. They cite data showing that substantial numbers of under-prepared students pass transfer-level courses without first completing reading, writing, and/or math remediation as evidence that we direct too many students to basic skills courses. The other side believes that failing to set prerequisites will harm under-represented minority students by allowing them to enroll in classes for which they are not prepared to succeed. They cite data showing that substantial numbers of under-prepared students fail to successfully complete transfer-level courses and cite anecdotal evidence of faculty acknowledging the need to lower academic standards to accommodate students in their classes who lack fundamental skills in reading, writing, and/or math.

This issue cannot be resolved on the basis of available data. We lack student-level data on high school transcripts and college assessment results to know who is, and is not, judged to be proficient when they enroll in transfer-level classes. Without this data, we cannot compare the performance of students with equal preparation levels who take a transfer-level course with or without having become proficient. We also lack measures of quality or standards for college-level classes, so we cannot know whether under-prepared students pass those courses because they mastered college-level work without completing basic skills or because the course could be successfully completed without, for example, having to read or write at college level. Additionally, we lack measures of quality or standards for remedial courses. If data show that students are not helped by remediation, we don’t know whether it is because they should not be directed to remediation or because the remedial courses are not of sufficient quality.