Common Sense on Completion

One way to boost graduation rates is to issue degrees to students who’ve already earned them, which often doesn’t happen with associate degrees.

Roughly half of students who earn a bachelor’s degree after transferring to a four-year institution from a community college fail to receive an associate degree, said Janet Marling, director of the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students at the University of North Texas, citing data from the College Board. And 80 percent fail to in California.

This isn’t necessarily a problem for students who get a diploma from a four-year college. But transfer students are often left holding no credential if they drop out, even after earning more than 60 credits, sometimes many more.

In addition, many students transfer away from community colleges before earning an associate degree, and count as failures toward institutional graduation rates. Indeed, a student who leaves after two semesters to drop out looks the same as one who transferred to a top university.

The growing acceptance of “reverse transfer” may change this pattern, thanks in part to the national completion push. The term applies to several approaches, including the granting of associate degrees by four-year institutions, sometimes retroactively, for previously earned credits, or as part of “pathways” where transfer students finish their associate degree at a four-year college. Also, a growing number of students go back to earn an associate degree, often in nursing, after getting their bachelor’s degree in another field.

Reverse transfer is a student-centric approach, Marling said, which seeks to help students understand the importance of the often-overlooked associate degree milestone.

Policymakers have taken notice, as have Complete College America and the Lumina Foundation, which recently announced a grant program to encourage reverse transfer at a larger scale. In the past, most successful reverse transfer agreements were between individual institutions. The University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College, for example, are considered trailblazers. But broader cooperation is cropping up in some states.

Hawaii may be the furthest ahead in statewide coordination, said Holly Zanville, a program director at Lumina, and Maryland is also moving that way. The basic idea behind reverse transfer is to give “credit when it’s due,” Zanville said, which is the name Lumina gave to its new grant program.

Tennessee’s private colleges recently developed a pathways approach for its community colleges, through which students can transfer before receiving associate degrees and still earn them at private colleges, under jointly-designed curriculum plans. And New Hampshire’s community college and public university systems are now working together to make sure transfer students in STEM fields get their associate degrees.

Colleges in some states have beaten lawmakers to the punch on reverse transfer, while others are responding to legislative pressure.

“When your state legislature starts to mandate it, you take notice,” Marling said.  (Read more.)

Via Paul Fain, Inside Higher Ed.

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LAUSD Board OKs College-Prep Plan

With just three months to go before a mandatory college-prep curriculum takes effect, the Los Angeles Unified board gave lukewarm support Tuesday to a policy that outlines how the program will be implemented.

The resolution written by East San Fernando Valley board member Nury Martinez orders Superintendent John Deasy to design and implement an instructional plan for rolling out the so-called A-G curriculum, a slate of 15 college-prep classes that every student will have to pass to graduate.

The curriculum takes effect with the Class of 2016 – students who will be entering ninth grade when the new semester begins in mid-August.

Members of the Class of 2017 will have to pass those A-G classes with a “C” rather than the current “D,” which will make graduates eligible for entry to the state’s public universities.

But lingering concerns that the more rigorous coursework will spark a flood of dropouts, along with worries about long-term financial impacts, prompted three board members to vote against Martinez’s resolution. They included Bennett Kayser, Richard Vladovic and Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who cast the sole no vote when the A-G issue was first broached by the board back in 2005.

“We need a plan,” LaMotte said. “We don’t need a plan to make a plan.”

Kayser sought to bring more definition to the resolution, with an amendment that would have required Deasy to create a budget for implementing A-G, reduced class sizes in middle and high schools and provided more training for teachers. It also would have restored the number of credits needed for graduation back to 230, from the 210 units under the new plan. (Read more.)

Via Barbara Jones, Los Angeles Daily News.

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Bill Encourages More Contextual Learning

A bipartisan bill introduced in the House and Senate looks to better integrate academics with career and technical education programs to help prepare high school students for college-level work and high-skill careers.

The Education for Tomorrow’s Jobs Act (H.R. 3154 and S. 1686), introduced by Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.), encourages partnerships among school districts, higher education institutions, local industry and other stakeholders to develop learning strategies and hands-on learning for students. It emphasizes work-based learning opportunities for students focused on high-pay, high-growth or high-skill industries. It would also allow K-12 schools to provide wraparound services to students and tap learning strategies such as cohort scheduling and learning communities.

Through such partnerships, educators and businesses can better identify skill sets needed by local industry, said Casey, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“Those skills will be integrated into the classroom experience through hands-on, project-based learning that keeps students engaged and more likely to graduate from high school,” he said.

The bill is designed to support programs such as Linked Learning, a high school reform strategy in California that links demanding technical education and real-world experience in a wide range of high-growth occupations, such as engineering, arts and   media, biomedicine and  health. Below is a video featuring a high school student participating in  a Linked Learning program. <Read more or watch the video>

Via Times Staff, Community College Times.

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Show Us The Money

Community colleges get lots of love from politicians these days. But although members of Congress like to be seen at community college graduations, the sector’s leaders will need to lobby hard for the latest White House-proposed funding boost to become a reality.

The Obama administration last week included $5 billion for “facilities modernization needs” at community and tribal colleges as part of a $447 billion job growth plan, which also includes $25 billion in K-12 facilities funding. While the president promised to cover the plan’s cost with budget cuts, new federal spending proposals face fierce resistance from Congressional Republicans and a good chunk of the general public.

“Common sense tells us that putting the federal government in the business of school construction will only lead to higher costs and more regulations,” Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican who chairs the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said in a written statement.

Other potential windfalls for community colleges from the Obama administration, like the $12 billion American Graduation Initiative and some funds that didn’t survive early drafts of the 2009 stimulus legislation, have either withered or died completely. But community college officials say they will mount an aggressive push this time around, perhaps more so than with past White House initiatives.

“There’s going to be real grassroots support to get this enacted,” says David S. Baime, senior vice president of government relations and research at the American Association of Community Colleges. He says community college presidents know that “in order to secure resources, you have to have a very loud voice.”

With improved facilities, Baime says community colleges could serve more students, which would help President Obama make progress on his ambitious college completion goals. Read more >>

Via Inside Higher Ed.

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Update on Gainful Employment Regulations

The Department of Education (“ED”) issued new regulations published in the Federal Register on October 29, 2010 that require institutions to disclose and report certain data on Title IV, Higher Education Act (HEA) eligible educational programs that lead to gainful employment in a recognized occupation (“GE Programs”).

The gainful employment rules apply to non-profit (public and private) and for-profit institutions that participate in the federal student financial aid programs under Title IV, HEA.

There are two requirements:

  • Disclosure of GE Program-level data on the program’s home page and in promotional materials that are made available to prospective students
  • Reporting of program and student-level data to ED.

The disclosure requirements for GE Programs came into effect on July 1, 2011. The first reports on students enrolled in GE Programs are due on October 1, 2011. Though the deadline is October 1, 2011, ED will accept reporting data on GE Programs until November 15, 2011.

In addition, ED issued a second set of final GE Program rules for “debt measures” on June 2, 2011. GE Programs will have to meet minimum standards for loan repayment rates and debt-to-earnings ratios in order to remain eligible for Title IV funding. This second set of rules will be in effect on July 1, 2012.

This AIR Alert briefly summarizes changes for post-secondary education institutions and references resources that will assist college personnel in complying with the first set of new rules.

Read all about it.

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