Civic Group Challenges Shared Governance at Calif. Community Colleges

The Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges should amend regulations that permit faculty senates to exercise excessive power in decision making at the state’s community colleges, argues a legal challenge submitted to the board on Wednesday by the nonprofit group California Competes.

In recent years, the state’s community colleges have experienced numerous turnovers in leadership and deep budget cuts. Now 27 of the system’s 112 colleges also face sanctions or warnings from the regional accreditation body, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

“California’s community colleges have become notorious for their inability to handle their affairs, and a major contributing factor is the byzantine and confusing management and decision-making process,” argues the petition submitted by California Competes. The organization, a bipartisan council of business and civic leaders who make recommendations about higher-education needs for the state’s economy, is led by Robert M. Shireman, a former U.S. Education Department official. Any interested party may challenge community-college regulations under state law.

The legal challenge urges the state board to amend sections of Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations that were added in 1990 and that, the petition maintains, are inconsistent with previous legislation that outlines procedures for governance and oversight at the state’s community colleges. The sections require district boards to “consult collegially” with faculty senates on specific matters, and describe two methods of consultation whereby the boards may “rely primarily” on faculty senates or reach “mutual agreement” with them. (Read more.)

Via Alina Mogilyanskaya, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.

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School Takes New Tack on Work Study

“I was raised into believing that money is everything,” said Maire Mendoza, 19, crying at her own tale.

Her parents are near-invisibles in this city that they’ve heard called a city of dreams. They left Mexico before Maire was born and have toiled anonymously ever since — her mother a baby sitter these days, her father a restaurant worker.

They raised their girls as pragmatic survivors. So it was startling when Maire came to them not long ago with an epiphany: “I now know that I don’t want to work for money,” she said, to bafflement. But her father, sensing his limitations, deferred. “You’re probably right,” she remembers him saying, “and it’s because you go to school and you know things that we don’t know.”

Ms. Mendoza’s self-discovery was no accident. Such discoveries are the goal of an audacious experiment in New York that seeks to improve the fortunes of community college students by demolishing and rebuilding their perceptions about work.

Community colleges are the bedrock of American higher education. They often take all comers — clever teenagers, 25-year-old ex-drifters, middle-aged downsizees in need of retraining — and let them study as needed: a class at a time or a full load, for a degree or for fun. In a nation whose mythology declaims that all who try can make it, community colleges are among the last hopes of proving the mythology true. (Read more.)

Via Anand Giridharadas, New York Times.

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More Students Are Taking Community-College Courses While in High School

Nicole Perez spends her school days at a local high school here, but when the 17-year-old senior steps into English class she is dipping her toes into college.

Ms. Perez is one of a growing number of students taking community-college courses at their high schools. These “dual-enrollment” classes are a low- or no-cost way for students to gain college credits, helping smooth their way to a college degree.

“It’s a little more work, but I actually like that,” said Ms. Perez, who hopes the credits will save her time and money next year, when she plans to attend a four-year university.

The growing cost of college, rising student debt and a weak economy have prompted a rethinking of the role of community colleges. In 2009, President Barack Obama made community colleges a big part of his plan to return the U.S. to its perch as the nation with the most higher-education degrees per capita by 2020.

High-achieving students long have been able to earn college credits by taking advanced-placement classes—such as history, chemistry and literature—that prepare them for an exam. The new community-college classes are designed to boost a broader group of students to the college gate.

By joining with local high schools, some community colleges are designing remedial classes to be sure that students are college-ready. They also are offering more advanced classes such as the one Ms. Perez is taking.

These classes use the same curriculum, grading and testing as those at the community colleges, said Adam Lowe, who directs the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, a professional group for dual-enrollment programs. <Read more.  May require paid subscription.>

Via Caroline Porter, The Wall Street Journal.

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Using Technology to Assist with Student Retention

The “non-traditional” student has become the norm: It is more common for students to be working, commuting, and potentially having a family to care for while completing their education than 20 or even five years ago. Coupled with the increased use of graduation rates as a key metric for funding and ranking, retention success is even more critical for community colleges.

But how can one person or department effectively identify all of the reasons students are leaving campus? It’s not possible.

Retention is truly a whole-campus issue, and as such needs to be addressed holistically, to see significant results. A successful retention program requires a variety of methods to identify, report and address at-risk students. A centralized management tool allows administrators to:

  • Systematically solicit faculty and staff input to identify at-risk students.
  • Automatically generate early-alert information based on statistical data.
  • Build communication channels that foster student dialogue on their terms.
  • Manage and monitor all information from one central system. (Read more.)

Via Andrew Dryden, Community College Times.

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Seven Valuable Associate Degrees

With annual tuition for many two-year programs costing as little as $5,000, an associate degree is just about the best bang for the education buck you can find. According to the Census Bureau, associate degree holders earn an average of $400,000 more over a lifetime than high-school graduates.

These seven areas in particular have the hottest job prospects:

1. Accounting
With an associate degree in accounting under your belt, you’ll be prepared for a number of entry-level accounting jobs.

One such occupation is an accounts receivable/payable clerk. According to CBSalary.com, earnings start at between $21,000 and $27,000 — though you could rack up overtime pay, too – and reach nearly $50,000 with experience. A bachelor’s degree can bring a significant salary bump, and company size, industry and geographic location will also affect your income. With additional education, experience and certification, you could become a controller or certified public accountant, with a salary that could top $100,000.

2. Nursing
An associate degree in nursing can land you a staff position in a hospital or other inpatient facility. Job growth in the field should remain strong through the decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Starting salaries for registered nurses are around $30,000, and hospitals generally pay more. In addition to base pay, RNs are often paid extra for night and weekend shifts. According to the BLS, the 2010 median annual pay for full-time RNs was just under $65,000. (Find out what the other five include).

Via Larry Buhl, special to CareerBuilder.

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