communitycolleges

Buyout offer to 2-year-college presidents stirs unrest in Connecticut

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State higher ed officials tell community college leaders en masse about a buyout offer -- then spin furiously to suggest that they didn't. Confusion and suspicion ensue.

Philly Mayor Names Self to Community College Board

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on Thursday appointed himself and several aides to the board of the Community College of Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The board has not previously had a mayor among its members. "What's at work here very simply is that Mayor Nutter has been, from the start of his term as mayor, deeply concerned about and invested in the issues of education and job training and workforce development," a spokesman for the mayor said. "At the nexus, really, of all those issues is Community College of Philadelphia."

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City College of San Francisco Plans Big Changes

City College of San Francisco is planning today to unveil a series of reforms that officials hope will balance its budget and allow it to hold on to accreditation, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Among the reforms: forcing students who don't pay their tuition to do so, eliminating many "enrichment" classes to shift the curricular focus to courses that allow students to earn degrees or transfer, eliminating paid sabbaticals, increasing the workload of clerical staff members from 37.5 to 40 hours a week and across-the-board salary cuts of 1 percent.

 

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Protest Over Planned Cuts at Long Beach City College

Students and faculty members at Long Beach City College gathered at the college's board meeting Tuesday night to protest the planned elimination of 17 academic programs (and the likely layoff of 10 full-time faculty members), The Contra Costa Times reported. Most of the programs are in the arts or skilled trades, and those protesting said that these programs are vital for many students. College officials said that they had few options, given the severity of budget cuts in California.

 

Helping Young Adults Get Middle-Income Jobs

Opportunity Nation, a coalition of 250 groups including businesses and education organizations, this week launched a campaign that seeks to encourage multiple pathways for young adults to succeed in college and in the workforce. As part of that effort, Jobs for the Future on Wednesday announced $18.5 million in grants for five states. The money is aimed at spurring training and credentials for workers to land middle-income jobs, many of which require some college but not a bachelor's degree. Jobs for the Future said 40 community colleges were participating in the program.

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Waning of Nursing Education Feuds?

Community colleges and four-year institutions have often been at odds over nursing education in the states, with conflicts over funding and who better serves the market. That tension may be ebbing, however, with the release this week of an agreement between the major nursing organizations and groups representing the community college sector. The statement stresses alignment between the organizations toward a "seamless academic progression of nursing students and nurses," with the common goal of a "well educated, diverse nursing workforce to advance the nation’s health."

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Leave for Prof Accused of In-Class Pitch for Obama

A faculty member at Brevard Community College has requested and been granted an unpaid leave after she was alleged to have used class time to urge students to vote for President Obama and handed out campaign material on behalf of the Obama campaign and other Democratic candidates for office, Florida Today reported. Sharon Sweet, the faculty member, did not respond to requests for comment. College officials said that a parent of a student complained reported the allegations, setting off an investigation. "We are a nonpartisan, public institution,” a spokesman for the college said. "It is very important that all of our faculty and staff act in that manner at work and while they’re on campus."

 

Essay calls for inclusion of non-academic skills in college readiness efforts

Improving college and career readiness among our high school students is one of the great imperatives facing our nation. To meet this challenge, educators, policymakers and business leaders are working to increase students’ academic skills through a host of national and state initiatives, including the Common Core State Standards.  

While it goes without question that students need strong academic skills to succeed in postsecondary education, our research indicates that “college readiness” must be more broadly conceived. In a recent study, we interviewed almost 200 community college faculty, staff and students. These interviews made abundantly clear that certain non-academic skills, behaviors and attitudes are equally germane to college success. 

Non-academic college readiness is only peripherally discussed by practitioners and policymakers. It remains poorly articulated, leaving new college students unclear about the expectations they will face, and high school and college practitioners unable to help them truly prepare. As educators aim to make the academic skills needed for college readiness clear and measurable, they must do the same for non-academic skills.

In our recent research, we identified four specific areas -- academic habits, cultural know-how, the ability to balance school and other demands and engaging in help-seeking -- in which college faculty had clear expectations of their students. These expectations differed substantively from those in high school, and while meeting them was critical to college success, they remained largely unspoken.

Many college instructors think they already clearly articulate their expectations to students, but our research indicates that behavioral expectations must be made far more explicit and precise. As one student we spoke to -- who dropped out after her second semester -- told us: “they didn’t tell me what to expect, so I didn’t know what to do!”  Overall, the evidence points to the need for active, scaffolded guidance so that students can develop the behaviors and strategies exhibited by effective college students.

Take “studying,” for example. College instructors often tell students they must “study hard” for their class. But in high school, studying usually entails completing nightly homework, taking biweekly tests, and completing short-term assignments. College “studying,” in contrast, means completing work independently -- even if the teacher doesn’t collect or grade it. It means reviewing a syllabus at the beginning of a course, developing a plan to complete long-term projects and studying large amounts of material for infrequent exams.

Students who meet the college expectation of studying hard use strategies such as breaking their syllabus into small chunks of material to learn at regularly scheduled intervals, and taking notes in the margins of their textbooks while reading. Instructors should explain these successful behaviors to students on the first day of class, and regularly remind them of these and other important skills, such as recognizing when they need help, and asking for assistance rather than waiting for it to be offered.

To make their expectations sufficiently explicit and actionable, instructors will have to first spend time reflecting upon the non-academic behaviors and skills they expect of their students. Once they have identified their own expectations, instructors can make these clear to students and develop assignments that will help students learn to employ the necessary behaviors. For example, when an instructor asks students to “come to class prepared,” what does she mean? If she means coming to class having completed a reading and being prepared to participate in discussions about it, she can include this expectation in the syllabus, explain it to students from the first day of class, and assign students to write out three questions or observations about the reading to discuss each week.

Institutions can formalize this process by asking entire departments or disciplines to similarly identify and explicate the unspoken expectations to which students are held. Conversations about behavioral expectations could be conducted as part of program review, professional development or the creation of learning outcomes. Importantly, institutions must then make these newly identified non-academic expectations clear to current and future students -- by embedding them into course syllabi and structuring orientation, outreach activities and success courses around them.

Colleges should also work with high schools and state education policymakers to ensure that these non-academic readiness standards are incorporated into ongoing local and state college readiness initiatives. Senior-year transition courses, college-high school partnership programs and Common Core implementation are all avenues through which non-academic collegiate expectations can be clearly communicated to students, and successful skills and behaviors can be taught.

The bottom line is that educators must stop blaming students for breaking rules that they do not know exist. Until students are told the concrete ways college and high school are different, and provided strategies for how they might meet new expectations, there is a danger that all the focus on academic readiness will not lead to real change in students’ postsecondary achievement.

Author/s: 
Melinda Mechur Karp and Rachel Hare Bork
Author's email: 
ccrc@columbia.edu

Melinda Mechur Karp is senior research associate and Rachel Hare Bork is a research associate at the Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University.

Tying middle-income jobs to curriculums

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The U.S. lags with disorganized system of preparing workers for middle-income jobs, report finds. A national "learning exchange" could help fix the problem.

CUNY faculty protest response to a departmental vote at a community college

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After English department disappointed officials, administration said it would call off searches, send adjuncts "letters of non-reappointment," and tell students to take composition elsewhere. Now president says that was just a "worst-case scenario."

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