Task Force Moves Toward Rationing Access to Community Colleges

Jasmine Delgado is one of the lucky ones. With advice from an older sister, the Santa Monica College student developed a plan that has helped her enroll in the classes she needs to transfer next year to a four-year university.

But many California community college students lack the motivation, guidance and resources to reach that goal. So, for the past year, a statewide task force has been studying ways to help them get there.

The panel held its first town hall meeting this week at the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce, attracting a packed audience of educators, community members and students who were given an overview and the chance to comment on draft recommendations that will be presented to the California Community Colleges’ Board of Governors.

The proposals are for sweeping reforms that would move toward rationing access to community colleges, compel students to take more responsibility for their education and prioritize the types of classes being offered.

Under the state’s Master Plan for Higher Education, community colleges have long offered an open door for anyone who sought to benefit. But the task force suggests that after years of state funding cuts, community colleges can no longer be all things to all people.

“To participate fully in education without accountability is a wonderful ideal, but that’s not the reality we’re in,” said task force chairman Peter MacDougall, a member of the colleges’ board. “How do we use our limited resources? There have to be priorities and there has to be focusing.”

The 22 recommendations seek to “reboot” the system by prioritizing registration and fee waivers for students who participate in assessment and orientation programs, and who have concrete goals, such as a degree, certificate or to transfer to a four-year college. The panel estimates that tightening the criteria for fee waivers could save about $89 million annually, which could fund new support services. [Read more.]

Via Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times.

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Pilot Aims to Ready High Schoolers for Community College in 2 Years

Twenty-one high schools in four states are working this fall to restructure their academic programs into “lower division” and “upper division” courses that are aimed at readying all students for community college by the end of their sophomore year.

Students who pass a series of exams, at that point, could leave high school and enroll—without remedial courses—in a two-year college, or stay in high school to take additional technical coursework, or pursue studies that prepare them for a university.

The approach, modeled after “board-examination systems” in use in such countries as England, is part of a pilot programannounced last week by the National Center on Education and the Economy, a Washington-based advocacy group.

Schools in Arizona, Connecticut, Kentucky, and Mississippi have agreed to choose from specified packages of curricula and exams. For the lower division, in a student’s first two years, schools may use the ACT’s QualityCore program or the University of Cambridge’s International general-level program. For the upper division, schools may choose junior- and senior-level courses from ACT QualityCore, the Cambridge International A and AS level programs, the International Baccalaureate program, or the College Board’s Advanced Placement International Diploma Program. The programs include English/language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and the arts.

Marc S. Tucker, the NCEE’s president, said the idea is to ensure that every student acquires, at a minimum, the skills needed to succeed in community college, opening the possibility of proceeding smoothly into a variety of pathways offering good wages or more training. Read more.

Via  Catherine Gewertz, Education Week.

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New Technologies Provide Real-Time Labor Market Info To Colleges

It is the question bedeviling community colleges, employers and workforce development programs around the country as it struggles to emerge from an historic and persistent economic downturn: Does the training that colleges are providing actually lead to job placements and careers?

Colleges long have worked with local employers and workforce development boards, crunching numbers, identifying trends and trying to align course offerings to meet the needs of their local labor markets/

But the efforts of colleges have been hampered by a lack of detailed, up-to-date information about the occupations, skills and credentials that are in immediate and long-term demand.

Now, under an initiative being spearheaded by Jobs for the Future, a Boston-based think tank that identifies, develops and promotes education and workforce strategies, a new tool for colleges is taking shape – computer technology that can mine, aggregate, and analyze real-time job market data available on the internet to identify important employment trends.

Called “Credentials That Work,” the initiative is rooted in new technologies that make it possible, for the first time, to collect and analyze real-time labor market data. Rather than relying on data that may be out of date and inaccurate, JFF says, new artificial intelligence technologies have the potential to transform how colleges align their training programs with the needs of the economy.

The initiative comes at a time when unemployment remains stuck at more than 9 percent, even as employers say they are having trouble finding qualified workers to fill skilled positions. That trend is expected to grow. By 2018, 70 percent of all jobs will require workers with some form of postsecondary credentials, according to forecasts. Read more.

Via Paul Bradley, Community College Week.

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Billions in Student Aid ‘Wasted’

A new report claiming $4 billion in taxpayer funds directed to community college students has been “wasted” because many students dropped out before attaining a credential is misleading, according to community college advocates.

The report released Thursday by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) looked at first-time, full-time community college students in a degree or certificate program from 2004-05 to 2008-09 who did not return for a second year. Those students received $3 billion in state and local tuition aid, $240 million in state grants and $660 million in federal grants, it said.

The costs have increased every year, the report found. The total amount of taxpayer money “wasted” on community college dropouts rose from $660 million in 2004-05 to more than $900 million in 2008-09, it said.

“Taking into account transfers, in every year we studied, about one-fifth of full-time students who began their studies at a community college did not return for a second year,” the report stated. “These students have paid tuition, borrowed money and changed their lives in pursuit of a degree they will never attain.”

Community colleges have been touted as a key factor in achieving the nation’s goal to increase the number of college-educated citizens, in large part due to their “perceived low price to students,” according to AIR. However, “something that seems so inexpensive can in fact be very costly, once we take into account the low levels of student success,” it said. Read more.

Via Times Staff, Community College Times.

You might also be interested in: Big Problems With Claims on Education Tax Credits.

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College Admissions Report Predicts U.S. Enrollment Increases through Decade’s End

In large public high schools throughout America, counselors, who are individually responsible for an average 407 students, spend less than a fourth of their time on college counseling, while their counterparts in private schools devote more than half their time to the task.

In schools with high-poverty rates, the college prep courses that college admission officers increasingly value, such as AP and IB courses, are offered far less frequently than in low-poverty schools.

Due to the ease of submitting college applications online, more students are submitting multiple applications to different colleges, but colleges are accepting fewer students and forcing more of them onto wait lists from which increasingly fewer are admitted.

These are just some of the realities revealed in “2011 State of College Admission,” a new report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, or NACAC.

Based on an annual survey of secondary and post-secondary institutions, the report predicts that, while high school graduation rates have essentially leveled off, college enrollment is expected to rise—from the 20.4 million students currently enrolled in degree-granting institutions of higher education to 23 million in the 2019-20 school year.

The increase will be due primarily to an increase in non-traditional age students, the report’s authors say.

However, underrepresentation continues among racial and ethnic minorities in the traditional college-aged population. Specifically, the report says, while Black and Hispanic students constituted about 34 percent of the traditional college-aged population, they represented only about 27 percent of enrolled college students. Read more.

Via Jamaal Abdul-Alim, Diverse Magazine.


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