Posts published in October, 2010
As funding for higher education continues to shrink, more community colleges are considering charging differential tuition rates for their costly career and technology programs. Most public colleges have historically charged single rates for undergraduate programs since part of their mission is to offer students a range of academic options at minimal cost. A growing number of four-year colleges have started to impose differential tuition, but the discussion is still new at most community colleges, and some fear the impact of such policies. Nursing programs have cost more in some states, but now more vocations will also cost more. This is happening at the same time as economists urge students to seek higher level skills to get more long lasting jobs.
Guest blogger:Abby Nelson
More and more people are taking this route today than ever before; the popularity of online degrees keeps growing by the day as employers start to see their potential and take them seriously; and the importance of education and continuous learning no matter how old you are has never been understood better. So if you’re considering an online degree, now is probably the best time ever. But before you rush to sign up, you need to ensure that you lay the proper foundation for your degree, because without a strong platform, its value decreases and inches closer to zero. Here are some of the things you need to look for and be careful about before admission to an online school:
- Are the school and degree accredited? This is the single most important aspect of any online degree – its accreditation and the credibility of the accrediting agency. In the USA, the following agencies are authorized by the US Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to accredit online degrees:
- Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA)
- Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS)
- Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (NWCCU)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
- Distance Education Training Council (DETC) – the above six are regional accrediting agencies while the DETC provides national accreditation.
Check to see if your degree and college are accredited by any one of the above agencies before you sign up.
- Will you be able to transfer credits from one online school to another? An important aspect of college education is being able to transfer credits earned at one institution to another. This allows you to continue your education seamlessly without having to spend additional time and money if you ever have to transfer from one school to another for any reason. While all the regional accrediting agencies recognize each other and accept credits earned at the others, they are wary of degrees and credits from DETC approved colleges. Some schools accept them without question, others may accept some credits but not all, and yet others may reject outright all your credits. So before you join a degree, find out if credits earned there are transferrable.
- Are some online schools better than others? Even though online degrees are more readily accepted today than they were a few years ago, some employers still don’t take them seriously or approve of them. So to ensure that your degree gets its due in the employment arena, choose the best school that offers the degree of your choice. Research your options on the web, ask around, check out rankings from US News, and then make your decision. Some schools may be better than others, but what really matters is that your potential or current employer accepts the validity of your degree.
- Are you prepared for the uphill climb ahead? Contrary to popular belief, online education is not easier than its traditional counterpart. In fact, it’s significantly more difficult because you’re often trying to balance more than one thing on your plate. The coursework is as challenging as that offered by regular colleges, and if you’re working and have a family to support as well, online education becomes a very stressful task. So ask yourself if you’re mentally prepared for the uphill climb ahead and if you’re willing to make sacrifices and changes in your life until you’re done with your degree.
- Will you be able to get a sponsor? Some employers may be willing to sponsor your degree if it benefits your organization as a whole. So before you sign up, talk to them about paying your tuition if the degree will add to your knowledge and skills and help you serve the company better.
Online education is an invaluable tool for the mature learner – it not only allows you to continue to hone your skills and enhance your knowledge, it also keeps you from becoming outdated and obsolete.
This guest post is contributed by Abby Nelson, she writes on the topic of Masters in Counseling . She welcomes your comments at her email id: abby.85nelson<@>gmail<.>com.
The outcomes of community college students largely depend on where they enter remedial course sequences, according to a study of California’s two-year institutions. Remedial students were more apt to earn a credential or transfer to a four-year institution if they did the following: enrolled full time, began the remedial sequence during their first year, passed the initial remedial course on the first attempt, enrolled in a remedial sequence continuously, and had fewer course levels to get through between their starting point and the college level. See ECS’ Getting Past Go project on remediation
Learning for Jobs, Not “College for All”: How European Countries Think about Preparing Young People for Productive Citizenship
by Nancy Hoffman, Jobs For The Future , Boston, MA.
Most countries that have low youth unemployment and transition young people quickly and successfully into a wide range of careers that meet labor market needs and have decent salaries do not have “college for all” policies as in the USA. Instead, they head most young people into career and technical education with the option of moving into postsecondary professional education. They do so using a mix of work and schooling in a liberal arts context.
College completion rate among men stalls
By Daniel de Vise, The Washington Post
A new report on minority achievement in higher education sounds an alarm about a stark reversal of fortune for an unlikely minority group: men. Younger men are significantly less likely to have completed college than older men, according to an analysis of federal data by the American Council on Education, a nonprofit group that represents college leaders. The educational stagnation of men is hindering the progress of the nation as a whole and largely offsetting gains by women, the group says.
I wrote this op ed for the Sacramento Bee On October 21.
After decades of flying under the radar, America’s community colleges are moving to the front and center of national efforts to improve education.
Private foundations are launching major initiatives to strengthen community colleges across the country – including a $35 million competitive grant program recently announced by the Gates Foundation.
Earlier this month President Barack Obama launched a new work force development program that will involve partnerships between industry and community colleges in all 50 states. And the White House held its first-ever Summit on Community Colleges, focusing on the colleges’ pivotal role in producing more college graduates and regaining our economic standing in the world.
These national initiatives present an enormous opportunity for California, whose 112 community colleges serve 2.75 million students annually – more than any other system of higher education. Obama has set a goal of 5 million more community college degrees by 2020, and to reach that target, the United States needs California.
But a slate of new research confirms that we’re not on the right track. A study released Tuesday from the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy reports that the vast majority of degree-seeking students in California’s community colleges – a jaw-dropping 70 percent – fail to complete a certificate or degree or transfer to a four-year university, even after six years.
Besides generating huge losses for taxpayers, that kind of attrition will lead to serious long-term problems for our state. Experts think that if California’s higher education system doesn’t improve, the state will be short 1 million college degrees by 2025, ultimately leading to the greatest drop in per-capita income in the nation.
As bad as the overall numbers are, they are even worse for minority students. Seventy-five percent of black students and 80 percent of Latino students fail to complete a certificate or degree or transfer – an enormous problem given that the majority of minority college students get their start at community colleges. According to federally reported data, about 70 percent of college-going Hispanics in California attend community colleges, and that number will likely increase as the Hispanic school-age population continues to grow.
So why are California’s community college completion rates so low? The reasons are complex, starting with the low skill levels of incoming students. About 90 percent require remediation in math and 75 percent in English. Those students can enter college, but must take remedial classes before they can take regular college-level classes that will count toward a degree.
The remediation problem is made worse by high schools and colleges that are not coordinated with each other and do a poor job of communicating with students. Many California students think that if they’ve graduated from high school and passed the exit exam, they are ready for community college. Not so.
Students face a whole new set of assessments when they enter college, and the process is far from user-friendly. Many students don’t know about the tests and how important they are. They are shocked when they get the results and find they need to take years of remedial coursework. Worse, they get little individual counseling to help navigate the long road ahead.
A recent study from the University of Southern California finds major problems with the process of transferring from community college to a four-year university. Here students face more confusing and inconsistent requirements and again get too little counseling. Even when students know what classes to take, they often can’t get them since the colleges are so overcrowded. Taken together, these many problems create a very leaky pipeline.
As disheartening as these research studies are, they also offer some enlightenment and hope. Colleges across the state are experimenting with new strategies to help struggling students succeed. These colleges offer good evidence that success is possible. They should be identified and studied so that other colleges can follow suit.
California’s government also needs to make changes to promote student success in community colleges. A recently signed bill, Senate Bill 1440, will finally standardize many requirements for transferring to four-year universities, making it easier for students to navigate the process. But there’s much more to be done, and it won’t be easy. Local school boards control funding and make key policy decisions, so there isn’t strong central leadership in the community college system. There’s also far too little coordination with either the universities or the K-12 school system. Making matters worse is our state’s fiscal standing. The next governor and Legislature won’t have any new money to dangle in front of colleges. They will need to get tough and creative to stimulate needed reforms.
America’s economy needs California’s community colleges to succeed. To borrow a phrase that’s still ringing in our ears, they’re just too big to fail.
A new report, released today, finds that college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit four-year colleges in 2009 carried an average of $24,000 in student loan debt, up 6 percent from the previous year. Meanwhile, unemployment for recent graduates climbed from 5.8 percent in 2008 to 8.7 percent in 2009 – the highest annual rate on record for college graduates aged 20-24.
The report shows that average student debt levels vary widely by state as well as by college.
The report, entitled Divided We Fail: Improving Completion and Closing Racial Gaps in California’s Community Colleges, by The California Campaign For College Opportunity and Sacramento State University , Institute For Higher Education Leadership&Policy can be accessed at http://www.csus.edu/ihelp/PDFs/R_Div_We_Fail_1010.pdf . The report tracks over six years more than a quarter of a million students who entered a California community college during 2003-04 and analyzes their progress and outcomes by major racial/ethnic populations, finding that:
- After six years, 70% of degree-seeking students had not completed a certificate or degree, and had not transferred to a university, with most of the non-completers having dropped out.
- There were significant disparities across racial/ethnic groups in rates of progress and completion, with 26% of black students and 22% of Latino students completing a certificate, degree or transfer within six years compared to 37% of white students.
- Less than 25% of degree seekers had transferred to a university, with only 14% of Latino students transferring, a rate half as likely as white students (29%).
- An increasing share of transfer students enrolling in the for-profit sector, with black students especially likely to transfer to for-profit institutions (19%) and to leave the CCC system with far fewer credits completed than are required to transfer to one of the state’s public universities.
- Completion rates vary across the state and the completion gap between underrepresented students and their white peers ranging from a low of 2% to a high of 24% across colleges, with some colleges finding ways to be more effective at helping students of all backgrounds make progress.
“There is a strong and encouraging commitment to student success emerging across the community college system,” said Nancy Shulock, executive director of IHELP. “What we hope to do with this report is emphasize that these efforts must be focused heavily on closing racial/ethnic performance gaps and we have suggested ways to do so through detailed data analysis of key dimensions of student progress.”
“Closing the college completion gap – particularly for immigrant students and persons of color – is of paramount importance to the state’s well-being,” said Ruben Lizardo, Associate Director of PolicyLink. “We know that colleges across the state are hard at work fashioning solutions to close this gap and think it is incumbent upon the governor and legislature to provide resources to help them achieve this goal.”
In addition to tracking the cohort’s progress over six years, Divided We Fail also contains recommendations for improving student success in the state. These include:
- Coordinate a systemwide, and systematic, effort by which cohort data for student progress through milestones and key enrollment patterns are analyzed for every college, and ensure that the colleges use the results of these analyses to guide changes to campus practices.
- Adopt a new funding model that rewards colleges for helping student progress through college milestones, including completing college-level English and math, and for helping under-prepared students meet key college milestones.
- Take steps to ensure that all degree-seeking students are assessed for college readiness and are directed appropriately into courses that will expedite their transition to and success in college-level instruction.
- Guard against erosion of the historic transfer function of community colleges by investigating recruiting practices and completion rates at for-profit colleges, enacting policies that encourage students to earn associate degrees prior to transfer, and ensuring sufficient capacity at UC and CSU for transfer students.
- Set goals across all three segments for college participation and degree completion, identify the policies and investments needed to reach these goals, and monitor progress toward them.
“Budget problems and students’ lack of preparation are very real challenges facing every college,” said Camille Esch, Director – California Education Program for New America Foundation. “But this report shows that given the same constraints, some colleges are doing a comparatively better job of serving high-need student populations—and that’s encouragi
For-profit Schools Reel as Rules Affect Enrollment
The Apollo Group Inc. – the nation’s largest for-profit college – said it will provide new students with a free trial program to see if they are ready for its University of Phoenix curriculums and weed out those at risk of leaving school before earning degrees. And it will no longer pay its counselors bonuses based on how many students they enroll. The move comes as the government ramps up regulation of an industry which critics say preys on lower-income students and leaves them with hefty debt loads and meager job prospects. Source:ECS
In this latest publication from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Roberta S. Matthews, provost emerita of Brooklyn College, CUNY, focuses on the work teachers do in early college high school classrooms to get their students ready, not only to go to college, but to do well once they get there. The book is called College Readiness:The View From Early College High Schools
In the Woodrow Wilson and Middle College National Consortium networks of early college schools, college and high school faculty come together in English, mathematics, history, and science to identify—and then fill in—the gaps between what teachers are required to teach according to state standards and what students need to know and be able to do in the first year of college. Dr. Matthews also sheds light on how these schools tackle some of the most important challenges that cannot be addressed by content standards and assessments—the study skills, self-monitoring, and understanding of collegiate expectations that are rarely taught explicitly but are paramount to postsecondary success.
The ongoing working relationships between college and high school faculty in early colleges provide a road map to college success where none has before existed. Dr. Matthews shares with all of us the road maps created in highly successful schools where large proportions of underserved students take—and pass—college courses while still in high school, graduate from high school, and go on to college.
College Readiness is a publication of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s Early College Initiative. Through active partnerships between college faculty and local school leaders, WW early colleges offer high-need students rigorous college-level courses as well as practical skills for college success. WW early colleges, facilitated by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, are part of a national Early College High School Initiative coordinated by Jobs for the Future and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Download the report at http://www.woodrow.org/school-initiatives/readiness/schools/reports.php.