AACC Commission Challenges Community Colleges

By Paul Bradley

Editor

Community College Week

 

ORLANDO, Fla – The American Association of Community Colleges has issued a list of ambitious goals to help its 1,200 member colleges prosper in an era of heightened expectations and diminished financial resources.

Opening its 92nd annual convention a short distance from the AACC outlined the recommendations of its 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges, a 38-member panel which has meeting for the nearly the past year to devise ways to meet the Obama Administration’s goal of adding 5 million degree- or certificate-holders by 2020.

“We need to completely reimagine community colleges for today and the future,” said Walter G. Bumphus, AACC’s president and CEO. “It is important that college graduates be not just globally competitive but globally competent, understanding their roles as citizens and workers in an international context. In today’s knowledge economy, intellectual capital is a nation’s greatest, most renewable resource.”

The commission began its work with a two-fold charge: to safeguard the fundamental open-access mission of community colleges, while at he same time embracing a new future based on student success.

The commission called on colleges to:

* Increase completion rates by 50 percent by 2020 while preserving access and narrowing achievement gaps associate with race, gender and income.

* Reduce by half the number of students who enter college unprepared for college level work and doubling the number of students who successfully complete developmental courses.

* Close the country’s skills gap by ensuring that career and technical education prepares students for current and future jobs.

* Refocus the community college mission to meet 21st Century education and workforce needs.

* Boost collaboration among and colleges and with partners in philanthropy, government and the private sector to boost support for community colleges.

* Create new financial incentives for both students and colleges, and improve public support of the colleges.

* Implement policies and practices that promote rigor, transparency and accountability for results in community colleges.

“This report is intended to be a bold roadmap, a working document, for community colleges to use as they implement these recommendations,” Bumphus said. The AACC plans to establish a 21st Century Center to help colleges with planning, leadership development and research.

The report comes at a critical time for American higher education. The country has slipped to 16th in college completion rates among 25- to 34-year olds. At the same time, by 2018, nearly two-thirds of all jobs will require some kind of post-secondary academic credential.

The educational gaps have potentially dire consequences for the American middle class, already under pressure by slow wage growth, job outsourcing and government policies tilted toward the well-to-do. The report said that community colleges are critical to preserving and growing the middle class. But meeting the challenge will require colleges to dramatically redesign their missions and the student educational experiences, the report said.

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Is All That Remediation Really Necessary?

By Paul Bradley, Editor, Community College Week

Some people call remedial education a dead end. Others prefer to label it as a back hole. The more creative among us call it the Bermuda Triangle – the place where students go in but never come out.

Now, a pair of studies by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University is suggesting that the remedial classes that so characterize community colleges are, in many cases, are needless. The studies – one looked at a statewide system, the other examined a large urban system – found that as many as a third of students required to take remedial classes could prosper academically without them.

For community colleges, it’s a critically important issue. Better than 60 percent of all entering community college students are required to take remedial classes, most often in math and English. They spend time and money reviewing material like basic algebra — remedial math, in fact, is offered more often than any other community college course — but earn no academic credit for their work. Two-thirds of students who take remedial courses never make it to graduation. Community colleges spend more than $2.5 billion a year on remedial courses.

Better than 90 percent of community colleges rely one of two standardized tests – the College Board’s AccuPlacer and ACT’s COMPASS – to help determine which students need remediation. But administration of the tests is deeply flawed, the studies found. Students rarely understand what is at stake or brush up on their skills prior to taking the tests, the studies found, leading to tens of thousands of unnecessary placements. Moreover, the tests are poor predictors of student success.

Researchers found that high-school grade-point averages are far better gauges of preparedness for college-level work. If high school transcripts were taken into account, the number of number of students assigned to remedial courses would be reduced by somewhere between 15 and 50 percent..

The studies can be found at http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Home.asp.

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Looking for Love on Capitol Hill

By Paul Bradley
Editor, Community College Week

On a dank and overcast Valentine’s Day, more than 800 community college leaders from around the country came to the nation’s Capitol looking for some love.
The occasion was the annual Community College National Legislative Summit, sponsored by the Association of Community College Trustees and the American Association of Community Colleges.
For college leaders, it was a chance to declare, clarify and share their legislative priorities with the second session of the 112th Congress: opposing further erosion of the federal Pell Grant program; helping community colleges respond to the growing need for education and job training; reauthorization and improvements of the Workforce Investment Act; and nearly a dozen other measures both arcane and practical.
The session came in the immediate aftermath of an announcement by President Obama that once again thrust community colleges into the national limelight.
Appearing on the campus of Northern Virginia Community College – the sixth time he has visited the campus since taking office – the president announced an $8 billion Community College to Career fund, designed to equip 2 million students with the skills they need to land jobs on growing high-tech fields. Those attending the summit were urged to tell their elected representatives to get behind the initiative.
“The president has once again opened the door wide, but it’s up to you to walk through that door,” said ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown.
But if community college leaders were giddy at the thought of multi-billions of dollars being pumped into their campuses, they were less sanguine about the prospects of it being passed in a politically polarized Capitol in an presidential election year. Said Laurie Quarles, an AACC legislative analyst: “There is a lot of pressure to cut spending this year. We need your help now, but we also need your help throughout the year.”
Quarles was part of a panel of AACC and ACCT staffers which outlined legislative priorities for the visiting trustees and coached them on how to advocate for their cause without alienating their congressional audience.
Some of the advice was disarmingly simple: be on time, be flexible, be brief; ask the congressmen about their own priorities; get a picture taken to show the folks back home.
Other recommendations delved deeper into the Washington way of doing things: don’t wade into contentious issues like taxing the rich; avoid topics like the future of Medicare; stick to what you know, community colleges and how they benefit communities and improve lives.
With that advice in hand, trustees braced for their trips to Capitol Hill, knowing that even on the day reserved for hearts and flowers, sometimes a battle must be joined.
For more information on the summit, visit http://www.acct.org.

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White House Announces $8 billion Community College Initiative

A Blueprint to Train Two Million Workers for High-Demand Industries through a Community College to Career Fund

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for a national commitment to help create an economy built to last by training two million workers with skills that will lead directly to a job. Many industries have difficulty filling jobs requiring specific technical skills, even with many Americans still looking for work. In the coming years, America will need to fill millions of good-paying mid- and high-level skilled positions in high-growth industries from healthcare to advanced manufacturing, clean energy to information technology.

On Monday, February 13, President Obama will host an event at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Virginia to announce a new $8 billion Community College to Career Fund. Co-administered by the Department of Labor and the Department of Education, this Fund will help forge new partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train two million workers for good-paying jobs in high-growth and high-demand industries. It provides funding for community colleges and states to partner with businesses to train workers in a range of high-growth and in-demand areas, such as health care, transportation, and advanced manufacturing. These investments will give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers where people learn crucial skills that local businesses are looking for right now, ensuring that employers have the skilled workforce they need and workers are gaining industry-recognized credentials to build strong careers.

Later this month, Dr. Jill Biden – a community college instructor for the last 18 years and teacher for nearly three decades – and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis will embark on a tour of community college campuses to highlight some of these effective industry partnerships. They will visit several community colleges and businesses that are working together to get students the skills they need to succeed in the workforce. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other administration officials will also visit many community colleges throughout our country.

The President’s Commitment to Build a High-Skilled Workforce Through a Community College to Career Fund

The Community College to Career Fund in the President’s Budget will advance skill building through funding a number of priority areas:

· Developing community college partnerships to train skilled workers for unfilled jobs: The Fund will support community college-based training programs that will: expand targeted training that will meet the needs of employers in growth and demand sectors; provide workers with the latest certified training and skills that will lead to good-paying jobs; and invest in registered apprenticeships and other on-the-job training opportunities. The Fund will also support paid internships for low-income community college students that will allow them to simultaneously earn credit for work-based learning and gain relevant employment experience in a high-wage, high-skill field. States will also be able to seek funding to support employer efforts to upgrade the skills of their workforce. Additionally, the Fund will provide support for regional or national industry sectors to develop skills consortia that will identify pressing workforce needs and develop solutions such as standardizing industry certifications, development of new training technologies, and collaborations with industry employers to define and describe how skills can translate to career pathways.

· Instituting “Pay for Performance” in job training: The Community College to Career Fund will support pay for performance strategies to provide incentives for training providers, community colleges, and local workforce organizations to ensure trainees find permanent jobs. For instance, states would be eligible for funding to support bonus programs for training programs whose graduates earn a credential and find quality jobs shortly after finishing the program. Pay for performance structures would provide stronger incentives for programs that effectively place individuals who face greater barriers to employment.

· Bringing jobs back to America: The Community College to Career Fund will allow federal agencies to partner with state and local governments to encourage businesses to invest in America. State and local governments will be able to apply for grants to encourage companies to locate in the U.S. because of the availability of training to quickly skill up the local workforce.

· Training the next generation of entrepreneurs: The Community College to Career Fund will support pathways to entrepreneurship for 5 million small business owners over three years through the nation’s workforce system and its partners, including: a six-week online training course on entrepreneurship that could reach up to 500,000 new entrepreneurs and an intensive six-month entrepreneurship training program resulting in entrepreneurship certification for 100,000 small business owners.

Building on Progress:

· Historic investments in community college-led job training: The Obama Administration has made historic investments in community colleges, which provide a linchpin for 21st century workforce training. The Obama Administration has already invested $500 million through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative to support partnerships among community colleges, employers, and Workforce Investment Boards to develop programs that provide pathways for individuals negatively impacted by trade to secure quality jobs in high wage, high skill fields including advanced manufacturing, transportation, health care, and STEM. The Administration will invest an additional $1.5 billion in this initiative over the next three years.

· Developed significant business and community college partnerships to build Americans’ skills: Last year, the Obama Administration helped launch Skills for America’s Future, an industry-led initiative to improve industry partnerships with community colleges and build a nationwide network to maximize workforce development strategies, job training programs, and job placements. Through this initiative the President announced a new partnership of private sector employers, community colleges, and the National Association of Manufacturers to provide 500,000 community college students with industry-recognized credentials that will help them secure jobs in the manufacturing sector.

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Report: Successful College Initiatives Reach Fraction of Students

By Paul Bradley

Just last week that President Obama gave community colleges a prominent spot in his State of the Union address, placing in the national spotlight the growing role of institutions that have long been unloved and underappreciated.

But now comes a more sobering assessment of community colleges, revealing sharp incongruities between what colleges are doing and what students need to reach their academic goals.

New survey results from the widely respected Center for Community College Student Engagement found that community college officials often know what works in boosting student success, but have difficulty reaching large swaths of students because of financial constraints and institutional barriers.

For example, the report found that while 74 percent of students report that they were required to take an academic placement test, only 28 percent said they used materials or resources provided by the college to prepare for those tests. And while 44 percent of the colleges taking part in the survey said they offered some sort of test preparation, only 13 percent make such test preparation mandatory.

Those gaps leave lots of room for improvement, said CCCSE director Kay M. McClenney.

“These colleges have to better, and they clearly can,” she said. “To make needed progress, colleges must focus their efforts on those educational practices that produce the greatest positive impact for the largest possible number of students.”

The report credits colleges for developing imaginative and effective programs. It tracks how “promising practices” for encouraging student success are being used at more than 200 participating colleges.

But it also says the practices are reaching a small fraction of community college students.

“Community colleges across the country have created innovative, data-informed programs that are models for educating underprepared students, engaging traditionally underserved students, and helping students from all backgrounds succeed,” the report says. “However, because most of these programs have limited scope, the field now has pockets of success rather than widespread improvement. Turning these many small accomplishments into broad achievement — and improved completion rates — depends on bringing effective programs to scale.”

The CCCSE report — entitled “A Matter of Degrees: Promising Practices for Community College Student Success” — is part of a new initiative to identify and promote high-impact practices in community colleges. Drawing on data from students, faculty members, and colleges, it combines data from four surveys into a multiyear project: the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, the Survey of Entering Student Engagement, the Community College Faculty Survey of Student Engagement and the new Community College Institutional Survey.

The initiative strives to identify promising practices for which there is emerging evidence of success: research from the field and data showing improvement on an array of metrics, such as course completion, retention, and graduation.

The report identified 13 promising practices and said they are working well. But because they are not mandatory, they fall short of their potential.

The survey also found an emerging consensus that certain design principles are critical for student success. The principles include:

* A strong start. Focusing attention on the front door of the college — ensuring that students’ earliest contacts and first weeks incorporate experiences that will foster personal connections and enhance their chances of success

* Clear, coherent pathways. The many choices and options students face as they endeavor to navigate through college systems can create unnecessary confusion and inhibit students’ success. Colleges can improve student success by creating coherent pathways that help students move through an engaging collegiate experience.

* Integrated support. Student success can be improved by connecting with students in the classroom. This means building support, such as skills development and supplemental instruction, into coursework rather than referring students to services that are separate from the learning experience.

* High expectations and high support. Students do their best when the bar is high but within reach. Setting a high standard and then giving students the necessary support — academic planning, academic support, financial aid, and so on — makes the standard attainable.

* Design for scale. Bringing practices to scale requires a long-term commitment of time and money. Securing and maintaining this commitment requires significant political, financial, and human capital. In addition to allocating — and reallocating — available funding, colleges must genuinely involve faculty, staff, and students.

For colleges, embracing such principles can be difficult but rewarding, McClenney said, and will require something of a culture change and some tough choices.

“Colleges are already doing the easy, low-cost things,” she said. “Now they have to figure out how to bring more complex things to scale to reach the largest number of students possible.”

The report can be found at www.cccse.org.

 

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Valenica CC Takes Top Aspen Institute Prize

By Paul Bradley. Editor, Community College Week

WASHINGTON, DC —Valenica College was named the top community college in the country today, winning the first Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence by the Aspen Institute.

During a ceremony at the National Press Club which lavished praise on community colleges for taking an essential place alongside four-year institutions in American higher education, Valencia, a 50,000-stduent college in Orlando, Fla., was singled out its high graduation rates and impressive labor market outcomes.

In accepting the award, longtime college President Sandy Shugart said his school is representative of colleges from around the country.

“We are part of something that is much larger than what we are,” said longtime college President Sandy Shugart in accepting the award, which comes with a $600,000 prize and shines a national spotlight on the community college sector. The award, Shugart said, proves that community colleges have come of age and that “excellence (in education) is not defined by exclusivity or expensiveness.”   

The idea for the award grew out of last year’s White House community college summit. Valencia was selected from a field of entrants that originally numbered 120 and was narrowed to 10 finalists. That number then was winnowed to five finalists, including Valencia.

The other four “finalists with distinction” each received a $100,000 prize. They are: Lake Area Technical Institute, Watertown, S.D.; Miami Dade College, Miami, Fla.; Walla Walla Community College, Walla Walla, Wash., and West Kentucky Community & Technical College, Paducah, Ky.

The competing colleges were judged on four criteria: completion outcomes, including the awarding associate degrees, one-year certificates and transfer to four-year schools; labor market outcomes, including institutional practices that lead to high rates of employment earning for graduates; learning outcomes, including institutional practices that result in strong levels of student learning both within programs and college-wide; and equitable outcomes, including practices that ensure access and success for African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.

“The Aspen Prize winners offer lessons in how all students can graduate, helping others understand how to expand learning, graduation and job placement rates,” said Joshua Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program. “These community colleges are making good on the promise that being poor doesn’t mean staying poor, that college access and success together can fuel the American economy and the American dream.”

Valenica was praised for promoting innovative practices that are grounded on evidence and data. The Institute report said “Valenica College sees itself not as a destination for students, but as the bridge to higher accomplishments – a role it accomplishes by creating strong, clear pathways to careers and higher education.”

More than half of Valenica’s full-time students graduate or transfer within three years of entering the school, a rate significantly higher than the national average of 39 percent, the Institute found. That figure includes 43 percent of underrepresented minority students, some 10 percentage points higher than the national average.

In brief remarks, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged college leaders to build on their historic missions of access and equity by continue their push to improve graduation and completion rates.

“We have to take community college outcomes to the next level,” he said. “This work….is critical to our nation.”

“Community colleges are going to stay at the forefront of this administration’s agenda,” he added.

More information on the Aspen Prize form Community College Excellence is available at www.aspenprize.org.

 

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Budget Woes Threaten Completion Agenda

By Paul Bradley

The ambitious community college completion agenda is colliding with harsh reality of shrinking budgets, overcrowded campuses and the absence of a lack of long-term financial plan to boost the number of Americans who hold degrees or certificates.

That’s the conclusion of a survey of state community college directors, which found that nine of ten state community college chiefs say their state has no long-term plan to finance capital or operating budgets tied to the completion agenda.

The survey, conducted by the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama, found that leaders believe deep and continuing budget cuts at public-access colleges at all levels threaten to undermine progress in achieving the completion agenda.

“It seems like it will be almost an impossible task to achieve the completion agenda” in light of a  continuing budget crisis, said study co-author Janice N. Friedel of the University of Iowa.

The study, entitled “Challenging Success: Can College Degree Completion Be Increased as States Cut Budgets?” surveyed 51 members of the National Council of State Directors of Community Colleges. It found:   

n  Just 4 of 51 respondents indicate a long-term plan exists to fund operating budgets needed to increase numbers of adults with college degrees/certificates.

n  Just 3 of 51 indicate a long-term plan exists to fund capital budgets needed to increase    numbers of adults with degrees/certificates.

n  Capacity is strained in 24 states, which have growing minority populations.

n  39 of 51 disagree their state funding system adequately rewards community college transfer. 

n  Most (35) said performance funding models are under consideration or implemented.

n  By 2:1, graduation rate increases will be difficult to achieve, due to cuts.

n  16 report de facto enrollment caps implemented at community colleges

n  3 of the 5 largest states report their public flagship and regional universities had raised admission standards to limit transfer.

 

President Obama has called for the United States to regain its now-lost global lead in college completion by 2020, but long term-financial restraints could put that goal out of reach, the report says.  

 “Not one respondent from the nation’s nine largest states reports a long-term plan exists in their state to finance the operating and capital budgets needed increase the number of adults with degree and certificates,” the survey report says.

Said Steven G. Katsinas, professor and director of the Education Policy Center: “I don’t believe we’ll see a significant increase in completion rates without capital investment.”

The full report can be found here: http://uaedpolicy.weebly.com/

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New Measures of College Success

By Paul Bradley, Editor, Community College Week

How can community colleges nearly double their overall graduation rates nearly overnight?

Through creation of a combined “graduation and transfer rate” which would take into account both students who graduate from two-year schools and those who don’t graduate but transfer to a four-year institution.

Creating such a measure is the central recommendation of the Education Department’s Committee on Measures of Student Success, which on Tuesday approved a draft report recommending that ED change the way it tracks graduation rates and other measures of success at community colleges.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, implementing the more comprehensive measure would result in community college increases from 22 percent to 40 percent.

“AACC has long maintained that the exclusion of transfer from the federal graduation rate has created a grossly distorted, and overly negative, picture of community college performance, given the centrality of transfer preparation to the community college mission,” AACC said in a statement.

Nearly two years in the making, the report states that current measures of graduation rates don’t capture the multiple missions of community colleges.

“Two-year institutions serve a unique role in America’s higher education landscape, the report says. “Many do much more than prepare students to earn a postsecondary credential. For many students enrolled at two-year institutions, success may be transferring to a four-year institution or completing a few courses for retraining or career advancement. For the majority of these students, full-time enrollment may not be a viable option. And for some students, the need for remedial coursework may further delay progress toward a degree.

“With broad missions and a wide range of stakeholders, two-year institutions have not been served well by current federal measures of student success. For many years policymakers and others have relied on federal graduation rate measures designed for traditional four-year institutions—measures that include only full-time, first-time degree- or certificate-seeking students—to make unfair judgments about the quality of two-year institutions. More importantly, these graduation rates may be misleading to consumers—students and families, researchers, and policymakers who are making critical decisions about investments in higher education based on incomplete data.”

The report will be submitted to Education Secretary Arne Duncan for approval. In the meantime, the committee will develop a plan to implement its recommendations.

The committee’s draft report can be found at http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/cmss-committee-report-11-15-11.pdf. AACC’s statement is at http://www.aacc.nche.edu/newsevents/News/articles/Pages/112920112.aspx.

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New Measures of College Success

By Paul Bradley, Editor, Community College Week

             How can community colleges nearly double their overall graduation rates nearly overnight?

            Through creation of a combined “graduation and transfer rate” which would take into account both students who graduate from two-year schools and those who don’t graduate but transfer to a four-year institution.

            Creating such a measure is the central recommendation of the Education Department’s Committee on Measures of Student Success, which on Tuesday approved a draft report recommending that ED change the way it tracks graduation rates and other measures of success at community colleges.

            According to the American Association of Community Colleges, implementing the more comprehensive measure would result in community college increases from 22 percent to 40 percent.

            “AACC has long maintained that the exclusion of transfer from the federal graduation rate has created a grossly distorted, and overly negative, picture of community college performance, given the centrality of transfer preparation to the community college mission,” AACC said in a statement.

            Nearly two years in the making, the report states that current measures of graduation rates don’t capture the multiple missions of community colleges.

            “Two-year institutions serve a unique role in America’s higher education landscape, the report says. “Many do much more than prepare students to earn a postsecondary credential. For many students enrolled at two-year institutions, success may be transferring to a four-year institution or completing a few courses for retraining or career advancement. For the majority of these students, full-time enrollment may not be a viable option. And for some students, the need for remedial coursework may further delay progress toward a degree.

          “With broad missions and a wide range of stakeholders, two-year institutions have not been served well by current federal measures of student success. For many years policymakers and others have relied on federal graduation rate measures designed for traditional four-year institutions—measures that include only full-time, first-time degree- or certificate-seeking students—to make unfair judgments about the quality of two-year institutions. More importantly, these graduation rates may be misleading to consumers—students and families, researchers, and policymakers who are making critical decisions about investments in higher education based on incomplete data.”

        The report will be submitted to Education Secretary Arne Duncan for approval. In the meantime, the committee will develop a plan to implement its recommendations.

         The committee’s draft report can be found at http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/cmss-committee-report-11-15-11.pdf. AACC’s statement is at http://www.aacc.nche.edu/newsevents/News/articles/Pages/112920112.aspx.

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Solving the Math Equation

The CCWeek website has been updated. The new edition features work being done to solve the developmental math equation. Achieving the Dream colleges are moving the needle. Read at: http://www.ccweek.com/news/templates/template.aspx?articleid=2773&zoneid=7

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