Posts published in December, 2010

Arizona 20% College Completion Rate Alarms State Officials

By Anne Ryman, The Arizona Republic
 Four of five Arizona high-school graduates do not have a college degree six years after graduating from high school, and just over half haven’t gone to college at all, a new report reveals.

The study by the Arizona Board of Regents suggests that the state needs to increase its efforts in K-12 to get more students into college and that colleges need to increase their graduation rates. Studies have shown that college degrees are increasingly required in the workforce and that workers with degrees earn more money over a lifetime than those without.

The report provides a glimpse for the first time of what happens to Arizona high-school students after they graduate, even if they move or attend college out of state. Using federal and state data from colleges nationwide, the regents tracked several classes of high-school graduates in Arizona, beginning with 49,277 graduates in the 2003-04 school year. As of September, only 20 percent had graduated with a certificate or college degree.

Fifty-three percent had never gone to college, and 27 percent took college courses but hadn’t graduated. The Class of 2004-05 fared about the same five years after graduation. The study, called the Arizona Student Pipeline Report, can’t be compared nationally because only a handful of states tracks high-school graduates in this much detail.

Officials say several factors are contributing to the low percentages. High schools need to do a better job preparing students for college, and community colleges and universities need to focus more on helping students finish their degrees.

Some officials hope that changes made in recent years, such as increasing math and science requirements in high school and adding advisers and other support in the freshman year, will pave the way for improved college attendance and completion.

If the picture doesn’t brighten, Arizona “will not be able to compete with other states or internationally because we simply will not have the workforce we need,” said John Haeger, president of Northern Arizona University.

The findings in the report echo other studies that have led to calls for reforming the state’s education system.

For years, Arizona has lagged the national average in the percentage of people with college degrees. In the state, 25.3 percent of adults 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 27.5 percent nationally, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures.

The regents study, scheduled to be discussed today at their meeting in Tucson, could affect policy decisions for K-12, community-college and university systems.

Regent Ernest Calderon, who commissioned the report when he was regents president last year, said he was surprised that only one in five students obtained a certificate or degree six years later.

“What we are saying is 80 percent of our youth, our future, is service industry. We’re destining people for a service industry,” he said.

He said he isn’t optimistic in the short term, given likely state budget cuts spurred by a sluggish economy. Somehow, despite the challenges, universities have to increase access to a college degree as well as the success rate, he said.

Challenges for K-12

Regent Vice Chairman Fred DuVal said the report needs a deeper examination to understand what is driving “leaks” in the student pipeline. For one thing, not enough students are considering college, he said.

Education experts agree that educators and parents need to stress more the importance of getting a degree so students will aspire to complete one.

Mesa resident Valerie Keim was able to finish two bachelor’s degrees in five years at Arizona State University by taking some courses for college credit while still in high school. A 2005 graduate of Dobson High School, she always knew she would be going to college.

“It wasn’t a question,” said the 23-year-old, who graduated in May.

Along with encouraging students, schools also must do a better job of preparing students for college, officials say.

Many students who graduate from Arizona high schools aren’t academically eligible to attend one of the three state universities. A 2006 regents study sampled 3,252 student academic records from 66 high schools and found that 52 percent of graduates lacked the grades or required courses to be admitted.

Math was one of the biggest stumbling blocks. Only about 40 percent met the four years of math required for university entry. Foreign language was another barrier, with only 42 percent meeting the two-unit requirement.

African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics had much lower eligibility rates than Whites. Students from rural areas had lower rates than those in Maricopa and Pima counties.

Experts are hopeful the percentages of eligible students will grow because of the state Board of Education’s approval of new graduation requirements a few years ago. Beginning with the freshman Class of 2009, students need four years of math to graduate from high school. They once needed only basic algebra and geometry to get a diploma. They also need a third year of science, up from two.

Colleges’ challenges

For those who attend college in Arizona, completion too often eludes them, said Tom Sugar, senior vice president for Complete College America, a non-profit group based in Washington, D.C., that works to boost graduation rates nationally.

The biggest problem, he said, is that colleges still cater to the traditional full-time student who lives on campus.

The schools give short shrift to growing numbers of students who attend part time and have families and jobs. Colleges need to offer more flexible class schedules, and it’s not enough to just add more online courses because not every student has high-speed Internet and a great computer, he said. “It’s opening your eyes and seeing the true nature of the modern American college student,” he said.

At the University of Arizona, there are various reasons students don’t graduate, said Richard Kroc, associate vice provost for institutional research.

Some have trouble with math and aren’t able to maintain the 2.0 grade-point average necessary to stay enrolled. Others leave for personal reasons. Kroc said the university is working on approaches to increase graduation rates, including programs that help students become more engaged in university life.

At ASU, officials have made several changes. They offer more tutoring and, in 2007, launched a Web-based program, e-adviser, that maps out the courses needed each semester for students to graduate. It also notifies an adviser if students get off-track.


Students Think That They Are Prepared For College, But Teachers Disagree

  • The Deloitte 2010 Education Survey reveals that high school educators think students are unprepared for college coursework and believe access to data can help solve the problem. Slightly less than one-third (31%) of high school educators feel their students are ready for college when they leave high school, while more than two-thirds (68%) of current college students say they were “prepared” or “very prepared” for college coursework when looking back on their first year of higher education. Despite the student self confidence, the survey reveals that as many as 28% of students surveyed still needed to take remedial courses. In addition to uncovering this disconnect between student and teacher perceptions of college preparedness, Deloitte’s survey also reveals potential solutions for addressing the preparation gap. In particular, the survey found that educators think more data, such as official reports on their students’ performance in college, will significantly help them to adjust high school coursework. A staggering 92% of high school teachers feel they don’t have the data necessary to better understand students’ college preparation needs.

Elementary Students Encouraged To Set College Goals


    More  k-8 schools have children thinking about college early, Los Penasquitos Elementary School in San Diego changed its name to No Excuses University at Los Pen. Instead of numbers, classrooms are identified by college names with flags from Ohio State or the University of Michigan hanging on the door. Students learn all about their assigned school, make up a cheer for it, and sometimes even have alumni visit. “From the minute students walk in the door, we want them to feel like they are on a college campus. It’s all about the spirit,” Damen Lopez, a former principal at the school and the founder of the No Excuses University Network of Schools. “We want to expose them to the possibility of a four-year university. That it’s not something far, far away.” By creating a college-going culture in elementary school, the hope is that students will aspire to a lifelong path toward higher education and deeper learning that ends with a degree. (more…)

Completing College Certificates Progams Is Promoted In New Initiative

Five Steps for States

to Boost College Completions

with Certificate Programs

How’s Your State Doing?

Today, Complete College America officially released its new report, Certificates Count, demonstrating the value of high-quality certificate programs for student success and economic competitiveness.  We also challenged states to double their certificate production in the next five years as part of a comprehensive strategy to make America the world leader again in college attainment.

State-by-State Data:
Are enough of your state’s students earning certificates?  To find out, go here.

Take Action for More Student Success:
Complete College America has 5 top recommendations to unlock the full potential of certificates:

1. Count certificates toward state and national college attainment goals.

2. Set aggressive targets to boost certificate production.
3. Reward certificate programs of one year or more.
4. Measure labor market returns and ensure strong job alignment.
5. Focus on completion.

Read Certificates Count:
To get the full report and learn more, go here.

Together, the 24 members of our Alliance of States are setting goals, measuring progress, demanding results, and designing new approaches like ensuring certificates count to boost student success and produce more college graduates for our states and country.  We invite you to join this vital effort

A Broader View On Access To Postsecondary Education

Guest Blogger: Mark Davies

The financial gains associated with holding a college degree are rising by the day – employers are willing to hire you only if you’re a graduate; however is this knowledge enough to increase the number of people who graduate every year? Will many more be ready to go to college if they know that they can earn much more over the course of their lifetime when armed with one or more degrees? The answer is in the affirmative of course; however, the will to learn alone is not enough when it comes to post secondary education in the USA – there’s also the question of accessibility and affordability. In general, the factors that hinder access to post secondary education are:

  • Cost: Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles to high school students going on to college is the prohibitive cost of college. Around 30 percent of all post secondary institutions in the USA are privately funded, which means that they charge a higher tuition fee from students than state-owned colleges do. Add to this the expense associated with moving away from home, on-campus and daily living costs, and other miscellaneous expenditure, and college becomes one costly affair. Some students get around this hurdle by applying for scholarships or grants, but those who qualify are a minor percentage of all those who apply. Others are lucky to have parents who’ve saved for their college, and yet others take out student loans that they repay for the better part of their professional lives.
  • Lack of parental support/education/financial stability: Some parents are wise and prepared – they plan ahead for their children’s education as soon as they’re born and continue to put aside money in 529 savings plans or other similar funds that will grow over the years and help their kids get through college. However, if the parents never went to college, it’s highly unlikely that they are going to take the effort to put aside money for their kids’ college education. Also, they may not have any extra cash to spare every few months to put aside for college because they work at low paying jobs or don’t have regular jobs. Even those who are successful with a decent income may not accord importance to a college degree, so they fail to encourage and support their children to earn a post secondary education. Kids from such homes either go on to find a job straight out of high school; if they’re really determined to go to college, they use their own money to fund their education.
  • Being part of a minority community: Most minorities don’t believe in going to college because they don’t understand why they must spend money, time and effort in earning a degree when hardly anyone in their family holds a degree. For minority students who want to make it to college, it’s an uphill climb as they battle hostility from their own and bias from the outside world as they struggle to make it against all odds.
  • A rigorous admissions process: Some students who want a degree are deterred by their poor or below average GPA and/or SAT scores. Colleges are looking to admit only those who meet certain requirements, so the kids who don’t do too well in school are barred entry. Some try again and again while others give up and move on to finding a job to help make ends meet.

Even though there are many hindrances that reduce access to post secondary education, there are various redeeming factors as well:

  • Online education: This is perhaps the single biggest enhancer of access to post secondary education; ideal for those who want to hold on to a job and pursue a degree, online education is also less expensive that its traditional counterpart because tuition costs are lower, there is no additional expense incurred in moving away from home, and study materials are mostly online. Also, there are hundreds of reputable and accredited institutions that offer quality degrees in almost any discipline, so if will to learn is present, it’s easy to do so with online education.
  • Community colleges: This is the cheaper alternative to college – it allows students to stay home (they don’t have to spend money in moving away and into a college campus) and complete a certificate course in a trade or pick up an associate degree (two years) in any discipline. They can move on to a regular college and complete a bachelor’s degree in two years, thus reducing the costs associated with tuition, boarding and food.

In conclusion, it seems that cost is the biggest inhibitor to a college education. However, careful planning, awareness of the importance of a degree, and the determination to go to college and earn a degree at any cost help in overcoming the cost and other negative aspects that block access to a post secondary education.


This guest post is contributed by Mark Davies, he writes on the topic of Online Masters Degree . He welcomes your comments at his email id: markdavies247<@>gmail<.>com.

New Survey Shows College Graduation Rates Are Not Improving

New Data, No Better Results Inside Higher Ed
December 2–
Wednesday brought the release by the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics of the first data on persistence and graduation of the new cohort of students traced by the Beginning Postsecondary Students Survey, which provides some of the best available data on student outcomes as seen from a student perspective. There was no significant change in graduation rates.

Students Think They Are Prepared For College, But They Are Not

Are Florida’s high-school grads ready for college? Orlando Sentinel
November 26–
As a student at Colonial High School, Valeria Martinez took dual-enrollment college courses, qualified for honors English and earned B’s in all of her math classes. But when Martinez enrolled at Valencia Community College, she was required to take remedial courses in math and reading. “It was really shocking,” she said, particularly because English was her favorite subject.

Big Business Calls For College Competition Through Performance Funding

Business groups back changes in higher ed funding
Ralph K.M. Haurwitz
© 2010 Austin American Statesman.

Competition is good.

That sums up the thinking by two major business groups in endorsing proposals by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to revamp college and university funding and the state’s chief financial aid program.

The Texas Association of Business and the Governor’s Business Council, echoing recommendations last month by the coordinating board, urged state lawmakers to require public colleges and universities to compete for 10 percent of their funding from the Legislature on the basis of graduation rates, course completion and other measures of student success. The business groups also asked lawmakers Tuesday to give priority to low-income students with strong academic credentials over students with weaker academics in allocating the state’s Texas Grants.

Such changes are essential not only to improve the performance of higher education institutions but also to ensure the state’s economic prosperity, said Bill Hammond, president and CEO of the business association.

“For us, it’s about the ability to compete in the future,” Hammond said, noting that just over 30 percent of Texans 25 to 34 years old have at least an associate’s degree, but that nearly half of new jobs are expected to require at least a bachelor’s.

The groups’ support will be important for the coordinating board as it pursues its agenda at a business-friendly Legislature. Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes has said his agency wants to reinvent public higher education in a way that is more cost- efficient and produces better academic results.

The Texas Association of Business represents more than 3,000 employers and 200 chambers of commerce. The Governor’s Business Council is a group of business leaders that, despite its name, has no formal connection with the governor’s office.

The two groups released a report with their recommendations at a conference they sponsored in Austin on Tuesday. Business and higher education leaders alike spoke of the need to “incentivize” course completion and to fund schools for “outputs” such as degrees awarded rather than “inputs” such as enrollment.

The report – “Reforming Higher Education: A Prerequisite for Continued Prosperity” – and various speakers sketched out some improvements as well as daunting challenges in Texas higher education. For example, the number of Hispanics earning degrees and certificates in Texas has increased 85 percent since 2000 but is still below targets to achieve parity with other demographic groups because of rapid growth in the Hispanic population, the report said.

Moreover, the educational pipeline in Texas leaks badly. Of 100 ninth-graders, about 14 earn a postsecondary degree within six years of high school, compared with the national average of about 20 , said Woody Hunt, chairman of the business council.

In the international arena, where a big state must also compete, Texas lags as well. On average, 56 percent of people 25 to 34 years old in Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and other countries with strong education systems hold a college credential, compared with the 30 percent of young Texans who have at least an associate’s degree.

The business groups stopped short of making any recommendations about overall state funding for higher education, although they called for an unspecified amount of state money to match locally raised public and private dollars to help postsecondary schools respond to business and community needs in their respective regions.

Lumina Proposes New Definitions Of College Student Learning Outcomes

From Gay Clyburn at the Carnegie Foundation:

The Lumina Foundation for Education is supporting faculty-led, discipline-specific discussions within several states that seek to articulate what a student should know and be able to do by graduation. The meeting-intensive project is at times clouded with the kinds of bureaucratic buzzwords, like “rubric,” that can turn off educators and obscure the ways it might lead to tangible change. But proponents of the effort say it brings clarity to the work of academe and makes a stronger case for the value of a college education. “Quality in higher education is best represented by what students learn,” says Marcus Kolb, a program officer at Lumina. “We hope this will elevate student learning to the center of the conversation.” Indeed, statewide and national debates about higher education often focus on who gets into college and who gets out but not as much about what happens in between. Lumina is pursuing the question of what a degree means as part of its focus on increasing the number of Americans with college credentials.