communitycolleges

OER-Based Degrees at 38 Community Colleges

Achieving the Dream announced Tuesday that it was launching a $9.8 million initiative to develop degree programs at 38 community colleges that use open educational resources.

Each of the programs, which are located at colleges in 13 states across the country, will be designed so students don't have to worry about paying for textbooks on their way to achieving an associate degree. Textbooks are estimated to cost $1,300 a year for a full-time community college student, according to the nonprofit organization. Students who don't complete college are more than 50 percent more likely than those who graduate to cite textbook costs as a major financial barrier, according to Public Agenda, a research firm.

"This initiative will help further transform teaching and learning in the nation's community colleges," said Karen Stout, president and chief executive officer of Achieving the Dream, in a news release. "Extensive use of OER will enable students to have access to more dynamic learning tools and a richer academic experience at a cost that will help more students complete their studies."

Achieving the Dream estimates that these degrees will be available to at least 76,000 students over a three-year period. The funding for the initiative comes from a consortium of investors that includes the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, the Shelter Hill Foundation, and the Speedwell Foundation.

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5 California 2-Year College Districts Approve Bonds

Voters in five California community college districts approved measures Tuesday to authorize bonds for construction and renovation projects. The bond total tops $2.7 billion. Here are the districts and the totals approved:

  • Chabot-Las Positas Community College District, $950 million
  • Long Beach Community College District, $850 million
  • Marin Community College District, $265 million
  • Santa Clarita Community College District, $230 million
  • State Center Community College District, $485 million
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Chicago City Colleges Chancellor to Step Down

City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Cheryl Hyman announced Tuesday that she is leaving the two-year system after a one-year transition that will give the institution time to find her replacement, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.

Hyman told the Sun-Times that there isn't a "rift" between her and the board and that she was asked to stay in the system.

“I am now almost halfway through this five-year plan and I’m almost exceeding every goal in this plan …. That’s a perfect time for new leadership to come in …. It also allows me to be more involved in a national focus,” Hyman said.

Hyman was appointed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2010 from the corporate sector. She's been praised by business leaders and President Obama for raising the system's completion rates from single digits. However, Hyman has most recently faced controversy over how those rates were raised, as well as her attempts to reform and change the way City Colleges operates. In February, faculty members voted no confidence in her leadership.

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Addition of certificates to Lumina's completion goal gives boost to several states

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Louisiana and other states are closer to reaching college completion goals as their emphasis shifts to more certificates in addition to degrees.

A professor struggles to cope after a campus shooting (essay)

“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant,” writes Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking.

I call April 12, 2013, “my” shooting, to distinguish it from all the others -- the more than 23 that occurred on college campuses last year alone and now the terrible murder of a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. No one died in the shooting at the college where I teach, although two people were seriously injured. Few people outside my area remember it. For me, though, it possesses startling power: 10 minutes of one afternoon bleed into the 1,000 days that have followed. I went to work that Friday morning with plans to spend the weekend with my father. I ended that Friday afternoon in shock, mutely scrawling a witness statement in red ink.

Like Didion, I turned to information as a way of managing my grief and dislocation: “Read, learn, work it up. Go to the literature.” I spent hours on the library databases, keying in terms like “professor” and “school shooting.” As though I were a patient with a rare malady, I needed an expert to explain the prognosis. What symptoms would ensue? Was I going to be able to continue teaching? There was plenty of research about the psychology of school shooters and assessments of campus safety but nothing about the long-term impact on professors who survived a shooting. That was another shock: if there was no research, maybe I wasn’t going to be OK.

I turned then to a different kind of literature. I read Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score, Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard, Emily Rapp’s The Still Point of the Turning World, Sonali Deraniyagala’s Wave. I read Parker Palmer’s affirmations about the necessity of courage and integrity in higher education. I read Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story and pondered what would emerge from my disoriented grief. I moved to South Africa for a year, finding equilibrium in the middle of cultural dislocation.

David J. Morris, in The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, describes how early cultures regarded trauma as a moral and spiritual crisis rather than as a neurological disorder. Trauma, he argues, was a “social wound, a damaging of the intricate web of relations that keeps a person sane and tethered to the world.” Rather than a pathological reaction to extreme peril, trauma is a natural response to a world of incomprehensible brutality.

It was through an existential lens that I had to address how the shooting had damaged my sense of identity as a professor, my assumptions about safety and my beliefs about the holiness of education. I wasn't concerned with the logistical aftermath; I needed answers to questions that few were willing, or able, to discuss. They remain an endless echolalia: “Is this the cost of teaching in the 21st century? And if so, can I pay it?”

The costs emerge over and over again; the bill is never settled. I have nightmares that my dog is being mutilated and I’m unable to save her. She is the stand-in for my students, the precious thing that I am unable to protect. I prepare myself for a nightmare whenever I speak publicly about that day. I endure the heavy silence that descends when I tell other professors that I have witnessed a school shooting.

I shudder when I recall the campus as it was the morning after: bullet holes in the doors and walls, computer stations littered with students’ abandoned mugs and notebooks, yellow crime tape, plastic sheeting in the doorway. I feel a sickening empathy when I see the faces of other horror-stricken students and teachers on television. I wonder how I will protect my students who use wheelchairs the next time. I am always aware of the ordinary instant in which it all crumbles.

Though a fellow survivor once reminded me that there is no hierarchy of suffering, my story is nothing compared to what others have endured. Yet stories need a listener. Witnesses to campus violence remind others of the toll that these events enact and demand that we have hard conversations about what it means for educators to be expected to accept violence, injury or death as part of their professional lives.

In 2017, despite widespread opposition, Kansas will also allow concealed carry at all public colleges and universities, the ninth state to do so. Supporters invoke the usual rhetoric of preserving public safety and providing defenseless people with deadly recourse in the event of an active shooter. Opponents decry the impact on academic freedom and the potential for impulsivity to overcome reason.

My reasons for opposing campus carry are personal: I do not want another professor to become like me. I do not want anyone else to have to write a document called “Post-shooting lesson plans.” I do not want anyone else to have to spend three years in therapy to find ways to let those 10 minutes settle into the rest of their lives. I do not want anyone else to witness the fearful, childlike, exhausted looks on their students’ faces the day they return to class. I do not wish this journey back to “normalcy” on anyone.

Guns have no place on campuses and in classrooms. One gun made April 12, 2013, the worst day of my life. More guns would not have improved it (and in my case, there was no “good guy with a gun”: the shooter was subdued by an unarmed off-duty security officer who shouted at him to put the gun down). Beware the people who proclaim that they could kill a shooter, if only they were allowed to carry their guns to school. To employ a military analogy, that is the bravery of being out of range. It is swagger masquerading as courage.

No one knows what they will do until it happens. It has already happened to me, and I don’t know what I am going to do the next time. I don’t know if the choices I made that day will always be the right ones. Nor do I even remember consciously choosing. I heard the gunfire, and I acted.

I've been asked so many times, “Don't you wish you’d had a gun that day?”

No. I only wish that he had not had one.

In spite of the label “post-traumatic stress disorder,” I am not disordered. I am the natural response to a shooting in a place that should be a place of inquiry, vulnerability and transformation. What’s abnormal is a country in which students are given active shooter training and teachers are expected to be human shields. What’s deviant is a culture in which witnesses are blamed for not rushing a shooter and derided for not carrying a weapon themselves.

None of us are safe. The challenge for us and for our students is how to dwell in that awareness and still be courageous enough to live and learn unarmed, both literally and figuratively.

Megan Doney is an English professor at New River Community College. She wrote this article while on sabbatical at the University of the Free State, South Africa.

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Vigil at UCLA

Report Looks for Better Results for Remedial Students

A new report from the Century Foundation examines how to improve outcomes for students who begin college needing remediation. "When College Students Start Behind" offers a redesign of how community colleges should approach remedial courses.

The authors state that to produce more college-ready students colleges should accelerate remedial courses, supplement college placement exams with GPA, connect pre-course work topics to students' individual interests and shift from a "drill and practice" type of teaching to more contextual, real-life applications.

The report also points to the City University of New York's Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, or ASAP, as an example of where these types of reforms have been implemented. A recent study of the program found that it nearly doubled graduation rates.

Growing number of community colleges use multiple measures to place students

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More community colleges are moving away from relying on placement exams alone to figure out whether incoming students need remediation, but establishing a substitute system can be tricky.

Tenn. Launches $2.4M College Advising Program

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced last week the launch of a $2.4 million advising program that will add college counselors to 30 public high schools this fall, reported The Tennessean.

The counselors will work with the state's 10,000 juniors and seniors to help them enroll in colleges and universities. The program, called Advise TN, is an extension of the state's Drive to 55 initiative, which includes the Tennessee Promise.

In order to participate, high schools must have an average college-going rate below the three-year state average of 58.5 percent. The high schools that are selected for the program will have an Advise TN counselor for three years, and they're expected to pay some of the counselor's wages. The state will hire and train the counselors this summer.

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Faculty Strike at Washington's Green River College

Faculty members at Green River College began the first of three days of strikes on Monday to protest the president of the two-year institution and a series of proposed cuts.

The Seattle Times reported that the college is proposing to eliminate 11 programs and courses, while five tenured faculty and one tenure-track faculty member could lose their jobs. There are also an unknown number of adjunct instructors who would be affected by the cuts. The faculty have voted no confidence in the college's president, Eileen Ely, multiple times and at least once in the Board of Trustees.

The cuts are expected to save about $1.2 million and help to close an up to $4.5 million budget deficit.

"A college is only as good as its course offerings and faculty, and Green River College has cut both irresponsibly, making decisions based on what makes the most money and costs the least," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a statement. "Students are furious they are losing popular courses and programs, morale is at an all-time low, and faculty have left due to turnover through firings or resignations. The college's president continues to engage in unfair labor practices, refusing to consult with faculty in violation of their contract's principles of shared governance, and the faculty have voted three times that they have no confidence in the president's ability to lead."

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Community colleges fret over overtime rules

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Employees at community colleges may be the most affected by the Obama administration's new rules for overtime pay, especially as the sector continues to see dwindling resources from their states.

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