Higher Ed News
March 26, 2012 by twalker
By Mary Ellen Flannery
Suddenly, it seems everybody, including President Obama, is talking about community colleges and their vital role in creating trained workers for American jobs in manufacturing, health services, education, and more. But Dr. Jill Biden, wife to Vice President Joe Biden, has known for years that community colleges provide a low-cost, high-quality education for millions of Americans. That’s because Biden has a front-row seat at Northern Virginia Community College, where she has taught English as an adjunct professor since 2009. Recently Biden, an educator with more than 30 years of experience, conversed with NEA Today on issues ranging from college accessibility to her summer reading list.
Q: When President Obama visited your campus (Northern Virginia Community College) in February, he told students, “The truth is that the skills and training you receive here will be the best tool you have to achieve the American Promise.” How is this true? What do you think your students aspire to – and how does the time that they spend in community college classrooms help them achieve those dreams?
Dr. Biden: For the last 18 years, I have seen firsthand the power of community colleges to change lives. I have welcomed students to my classroom from a wide variety of educational, economic, and cultural backgrounds, and I have seen how the community college system offers them the same path of opportunity.
I have students who attend classes on top of a full-time job. I teach moms who are juggling jobs and child care while preparing for new careers. I have many students working toward attending a four-year university.
Community colleges connect the dots – granting two-year degrees, providing new skills training and certification, and providing an affordable path for those who want to move on to a four-year university.
By ANDREW MARTIN and RON LIEBER
Published: March 5, 2012
A report released Monday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York renews concerns about the growing debt load of college students and graduates.
The report suggests that as many as 27 percent of the 37 million borrowers have past-due balances of 30 days or more.
“In sum, student loan debt is not just a concern for the young,” the report said. “Parents and the federal government shoulder a substantial part of the postsecondary education bill.”
The report, which was created by an analysis of Equifax credit reports, said the total balance of student loans was $870 billion. Of the 241 million with Equifax credit reports (there are 311 million people in the United States), 15 percent had student debt.
Forty percent of the people under 30 had outstanding student loans, and the average outstanding debt is $23,300. About 10 percent of borrowers owe more than $54,000 and 3 percent owe more than $100,000.
Noting that existing figures on student loans are spotty and largely anecdotal, the Fed said its analysis was an attempt to provide more accurate accounting of delinquency data.
The Federal Reserve came up with the delinquency figure by excluding from their calculation borrowers who were still students or those who were granted permission to postpone payments because of financial hardship, graduate school or some other approved reason. Those borrowers represent about 47 percent of all borrowers. Fed economists suggest that they should not be considered when measuring the delinquency rate because they aren’t making payments.
If they were included in the total, the percentage of borrowers who were 30 days late in making payments is 14 percent.
By TAMAR LEWIN
Published: February 28, 2012
Two new studies from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College have found that community colleges unnecessarily place tens of thousands of entering students in remedial classes — and that their placement decisions would be just as good if they relied on high school grade-point averages instead of standardized placement tests.
The studies address one of the most intractable problems of higher education: the dead end of remedial education. At most community colleges, a majority of entering students who recently graduated from high school are placed in remedial classes, where they pay tuition but earn no college credit. Over all, less than a quarter of those who start in remedial classes go on to earn two-year degrees or transfer to four-year colleges.
The studies, one of a large urban community college system and the other of a statewide system, found that more than a quarter of the students assigned to remedial classes based on their test scores could have passed college-level courses with a grade of B or higher.
“We hear a lot about the high rates of failure in college-level classes at community colleges,” said Judith Scott-Clayton, the author of the urban study and a Teachers College professor of economics and education and senior research associate. “Those are very visible. What’s harder to see are the students who could have done well at college level but never got the chance because of these placement tests.”
Stephen G. Katsinas, the director of the University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center, attributed the rise to increasing acceptance of community colleges. Tuition is also significantly cheaper than a four-year university and allows students to live at home. These younger and more affluent students also expect a rich on-campus community, complete with updated facilities, the report said.
The article profiled Raritan Valley Community College, located in suburban New Jersey, and quoted Casey Crabill, the college’s president. The college has seen a 49 percent rise in students under 21 in the past five years, and is now working to accommodate their new population:
Raritan Valley has had plenty of recent success stories, including students who have transferred to Cornell University, the University of California at Berkeley and other high-profile institutions. Crabill said the publicity has helped convince more traditional students that the two-year college is a good choice.Read more
By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
Published: February 23, 2012
More than 30 percent of American adults hold bachelor’s degrees, a first in the nation’s history, and women are on the brink of surpassing men in educational attainment, the Census Bureau reported on Thursday.
The figures reflect an increase in the share of the population going to college that began in the mid-1990s, after a relatively stagnant period that began in the 1970s. They show significant gains in all demographic groups, but blacks and Latinos not only continue to trail far behind whites, the gap has also widened in the last decade.
As of last March, 30.4 percent of people over age 25 in the United States held at least a bachelor’s degree, and 10.9 percent held a graduate degree, up from 26.2 percent and 8.7 percent 10 years earlier
Community colleges can improve graduation rates by offering a course that teaches students how to navigate college with lessons on study skills, time management and how to find the bursar’s office. Yet while “student success” courses are increasingly common, resistance remains strong at many community colleges.
That’s because all courses come with costs, through hiring or shifting faculty, finding classrooms and creating curriculums. And some academics don’t like the idea of spending limited resources or awarding credit on classes that teach note-taking or other basic skills.
Another challenge is turf wars over deciding which department should manage a student success course. If the class is housed in the communications department, for example, that probably means communications can include one less traditional course among its offerings.
It can also be controversial to ask students to pay for a success class, which are sometimes seen as a patronizing extension of high school, but are typically 1-3 credits, and count toward degrees or credentials as would an English or math class.
Yet research strongly suggests that taking the plunge on a student success course is a good move for two-year colleges.
Take Tulsa Community College, which for four years has required that about 1,000 incoming students take its “Academic Strategies” course. Those students are 20 percent more likely to remain enrolled at the college than students who don’t take the course, according to data collected by the college, and they also perform better in academic coursework.
A new task force by the progressive think tank, The Century Foundation, will focus on strengthening community colleges with the intention of saving them from becoming “separate and unequal” institutions.
The Task Force on Preventing Community Colleges from Becoming Separate and Unequal will address questions of access, affordability and post-graduation opportunities, as well as intersecting race and class issues.
The 20-member group from academia, philanthropic institutions and the private sector will be co-chaired by Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library and former president of Amherst College, and Eduardo Padron, the president of Miami Dade College.
In his 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama said community colleges are central to economic recovery and job creation, calling on businesses to partner with community colleges to make the American workforce more competitive in the global economy.
“Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte and Orlando and Louisville are up and running,” Obama said. “Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers — places that teach people skills that businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.”.
However, to sustain the current political and economic interest in community colleges, a new and innovative way of diversifying the student profile needs to be addressed, says Padron.
The litany of bad news about the status of black men in higher education is by now familiar. They make up barely 4 percent of all undergraduate students, the same proportion as in 1976. They come into college less prepared than their peers for the rigors of college-level academic work. Their completion rates are the lowest of all major racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.
Shaun R. Harper is tired of hearing the list. It’s not that he believes it’s inaccurate — the facts are the facts — or irrelevant. But what troubles Harper, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, is that it’s pretty much all that we hear, in higher education research, in news reports, and as reflected in campus policies. That single-minded theme struck Harper personally as incomplete, since it didn’t reflect his own experience or that of many black men he knew
And it troubled him professionally, as well, because he believes the relentless emphasis by researchers and others on the failures of black men has helped “shape America’s low expectations for black men.” For teachers and counselors and others in a position to influence black men, he says, “if all you read about them is bad news, it’s really hard to craft high expectations for them.”
Published: Friday, January 13 2012, 6:00 AM
Updated: Friday, January 13 2012, 6:00 AM
This is the story of two brothers, a tale with a somewhat happy ending in progress.
Let’s get the somewhat happy out of the way first.
Mamadou Toure, 19, will start his first year tomorrow at Lincoln College of New England, in Southington, Conn. He wants to be a film maker and perhaps play professional soccer.
Amara Toure, 20, is in his second year at Kingsborough Community College but is hoping to transfer soon to Brooklyn College and continue his studies. His goal is to become a physician.
These are happy, hopeful times for the siblings from Conakry in Guinea, West Africa, especially given the arduous path they’ve taken to get there.
Since 2009 they have called home an SCO Family of Services group home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, after being placed there by the city Administration for Children’s Services.
ACS entered their lives after Mamadou spent some time living on the street and Amara had to work seven days a week in a clothing store — while still in high school — to make the rent a relative demanded to allow him sleep on his living room floor.
WASHINGTON — Community colleges are no longer the “best-kept secret” in higher education. The colleges are getting plenty of attention for their role in workforce training, and at the same time feeling growing pressure to improve low graduation rates — a trend that continued Monday with the naming of Valencia College as the first winner of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
Valencia, a large two-year institution in Florida that is widely considered a top community college, edged out the competition in part for its strides on completion rates.
“Valencia reworked many traditional processes that other colleges view as immutable,” according to an Aspen-produced pamphlet describing the 10 finalists for the award. By giving students earlier advising and orientation, as well as offering a “Student Success” course, the college has tried “new things where they’ll matter most, for the neediest students.”
The three-year, full-time graduation and transfer rate for minority students at Valencia is 43 percent, which outpaces the national average of 33 percent. And the completion rate for Valencia’s career programs has grown 44 percent over four years.
With the selection of Valencia, the prize committee has reinforced a strong Beltway focus on student outcomes in a sector where access has traditionally come first. In addition to weighing graduation rates, the award process involved intensive data-gathering on colleges’ labor market success, learning outcomes and performance with underserved student populations. Funding the prize was the Lumina Foundation for Education, a major force for the completion agenda, as well as the Joyce Foundation, Bank of America and J.P. Morgan.
“It can’t be just about getting in the door” at community colleges, Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, said at the event. “We have to take community college outcomes to the next level.”
Joshua Wyner, executive director of the Aspen College Excellence Program, told Inside Higher Ed that the group plans to make the award an annual affair. And he confirmed that the $1 million-total prize pot would be replenished each year, at least for the foreseeable future.
One of the goals of the prize is to create better metrics to track community college performance. And all the better if colleges try to change how they do business to win, said Wyner, because unlike other rankings efforts, this process can only lead to changes that will help students.
“We would like them to game this system,” he said.
Valencia received $600,000 for winning. Four colleges were named runners-up “with distinction,” each earning $100,000. They were Lake Area Technical Institute (S.D.), Miami Dade College, Walla Walla Community College (Wash.), and West Kentucky Community and Technical College.
The prize was culled from an initial list of “120” best community colleges. (There are about 1,200 two-year colleges in the U.S.) Those colleges had to submit detailed applications to be considered for the final 10. That group included Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Mott Community College (Mich.), Northeast Iowa Community College at Calmar, Santa Barbara City College (Calif.) and Southwest Texas Junior College.