From Community College to Law School in California

California's community college system today will announce the creation of a smoother pathway for students from 24 of the state's community colleges to eventually gain entry to six law schools in California. The agreement, which was brokered by the State Bar of California, will provide law school-related resources to students at two-year institutions, including financial aid counseling, academic advising and LSAT prep. And the six participating law schools -- which include ones based at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Davis -- agreed to waive application fees and take various other steps to increase the pipeline of community college students.

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Portmont College and Mount St. Mary's chart new territory with online associate programs

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Mount St. Mary's still has high hopes for Portmont College, a new online subsidiary, after partner foundation goes belly-up.

Transfer After First Earning an Associate Degree

Community college students who earn an associate degree before transferring to a four-year institution are more likely to earn a bachelor's degree than their peers who transfer without one, according to new research from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College. After controlling for background characteristics, the study found that transfer students with associate degrees were 49 percent more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree within four years, and 22 percent more likely to earn one within six years.

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Essay says remedial reform efforts face serious limitations

Members of the professional community in developmental education agree with many studies suggesting that simply placing students in remedial courses is an inadequate response to the problems of underpreparedness among entering college students. They would further tend to agree that the current process of identifying and placing underprepared students is flawed and that the entire process of assessing, advising and teaching them needs reform.

But if there is a “solution” to the remediation education “problem,” it is vastly more complex than many reform advocates and most policy makers acknowledge.

It will require that community colleges change the way they do remediation. It will also require that they address non-academic issues that may prevent students from succeeding, improve the quality of instruction at all levels, revise financial aid policies, provide better advising to students at risk, integrate instruction and support services, teach college success skills, invest in professional development and do all of these things in a systematic manner integrated into the mainstream of the institution.

It may be useful for reformers to collaborate with the developmental education professional community, a community that has not only supported but invented many of the innovations reformers have proposed.  Instead many policy makers are ignoring these professionals and requiring colleges to adopt unproven innovations disconnected from institutional systems or existing innovations. .

Policy makers often fail to understand that the majority of remedial courses are taught by adjunct faculty who, although they may possess content expertise, often have no idea how to teach underprepared students. Many of them do not understand the principles of adult learning and development and they are offered no support or training to help them learn techniques to teach these students. Although learning laboratories, tutoring and other support services are often available, few systematic efforts are made to ensure that those enrolled in remedial courses participate in them. The services designed to help students succeed in course work are seldom integrated into the courses they are supposed to support. In addition to this, underprepared students are often placed in some sort of computer-based or online remedial course, frequently without assessing their levels of computer access or literacy.

During the past decade, several research studies of varying quality have indicated this model of remediation doesn’t work -- that too few students complete it -- and those who do often fail to graduate. This has stimulated a nationwide discussion of remediation and a large number of foundation-funded initiatives to reform it.

Historically, reform efforts in remediation have been only moderately effective. Much of this is due to the fact that alternative models were thought to be too expensive and more labor-intensive than the traditional remedial model.  Given the limited funding with which most community colleges operate, those thoughts were probably accurate. Furthermore, many community college leaders had no idea how poorly remediation was working and there were few incentives to find out. It was only after various groups began to measure the outcomes of remediation during the early years of the 21st century that we realized the poverty of those outcomes. Encouraged and supported by foundation funding, colleges across the country then began to experiment with new ways of providing remediation to the large numbers of students who needed it to be successful.

Meanwhile, new players entered the remediation reform game, usually without consulting any of those who were already advocating the reform of remediation. These new players included policy makers, foundation officers, politicians and organizations that sustained themselves with government and foundation grants -- few of them with any knowledge of or experience with underprepared students. Some of these individuals and organizations began the scientific study of remediation in an attempt to find data that might provide pathways to more successful remediation. Others simply announced that they had found the pathways.

The reformers have provided policy makers with an array of proposed solutions possessing various degrees of promise, research support and likelihood of success. The fact that there is often little research evidence supporting the proposed solutions appears not to bother either the policy advocates or the state legislators they lobby. There are two other major shortcomings with contemporary reform efforts in remediation. The first is that most reform advocates are promoting piecemeal, non-systematic change. The second is that none of the proposed reforms address the underlying causes of poor performance among underprepared students.

Many contemporary reformers are promoting specific techniques such as embedded support services, modular instruction, contextualized instruction, computer based instruction or accelerated remedial courses. Some are even advocating that remedial courses be eliminated entirely and replaced with these techniques. What these reform efforts fail to acknowledge, but what experts in the field know well, is that no innovation is going to be successful in a community college unless the institutional system into which it is being introduced also changes. There are those who contend that remediation is broken and needs to be abandoned. Equally likely, the campus system in which remediation takes place is broken and simply adding an innovation to the system or removing remedial courses from it will not fix anything.

Most community colleges do not have the resources to do the sort of intrusive academic advising needed by underprepared students. Academic support services in the community colleges are not systematically connected to the courses they are supposed to support. There is little focused faculty development for those working with underprepared students. The system provides few rewards for working effectively with underprepared students. There is insufficient communication between those who teach remedial courses and those who teach college-level courses. There are, of course, some exceptions to these circumstances, but they exist only at a minority of community colleges. Innovations introduced into environments such as described here are unlikely to be successful because the environment itself mitigates against success.

Furthermore, many of the proposed innovations fail to address the conditions that cause students to be underprepared. There is a naïve assumption among many policy makers that if we just find different ways of presenting the material to students, they will do well in college. If we are to increase success rates for underprepared students, we will also need to address the reasons why minorities and the poor and first-generation students perform poorly in the first place.

If policy makers are so convinced that they have a solution to remediation, then they should at least have the integrity to build evaluation plans into their policies and reforms. Ongoing systematic evaluation is a critical component of successful innovation which has been advocated in the field of developmental education for over two decades. If it turns out that the policies and reforms are successful, there will be proof that others can use to improve their programs. If it turns out that they are not, then the evaluation data can be used to inform the revisions of policies and innovations.

Thus far, few policy makers have bothered to build evaluation plans into their reform plans. In so doing, they are making the same mistake that let the shortcomings of traditional remediation remain for so long. They are not bothering to look at the results of what they have put into place, perhaps because they, too, have no incentives for doing so.

Hunter R. Boylan is the director of the National Center for Developmental Education and a professor of higher education at Appalachian State University. 

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Essay on how to fix remedial education

Remedial education and the instructors who provide it are critical to maintaining college access and increasing student success, but the traditional model deployed by most colleges and universities is badly broken. Complete College America’s call for reform is not about the total elimination of remediation. It is about transforming the system to ensure more students succeed.

The numbers are staggering: of the up to 60 percent of community college students who are assigned to remediation, 10 percent graduate within three years. Even given four years for a two-year degree, chances remain slim that these students will complete college. Further, 70 percent of students placed into remedial math never even attempt a college-level gateway course within two academic years.

These numbers -- which are provided by the campuses and states -- are indisputable evidence that we can no longer defend the status quo when it comes to remedial education. They are also a poignant reminder that we must not measure our success by whether students pass remedial education courses alone, but instead implement models that dramatically increase the number of students who pass gateway college-level courses and ultimately earn a degree. Doing any less would be to deny millions of Americans access to the one proven means to finding a well-paying job and entering the middle class -- a college credential.

In working with the 34 members of our Alliance of States, Complete College America has sought out the strategies and best practices that most effectively address these challenges. Most importantly, these innovations have been developed and implemented by college faculty who are passionately committed to student success.

The Accelerated Learning Program (ALP), developed by longtime community college English instructor Peter Adams, has doubled success rates for students, with 74 percent completing gateway courses in English in one semester. Likewise, the Structured Assistance program, developed by Tristan Denley when he was at Austin Peay State University, provides students who previously required remedial courses additional support in learning labs while they are enrolled in gateway college-level courses. The results have been astounding, with 78 percent of students successfully completing gateway courses in quantitative reasoning and 65 percent in statistics in a single term -- up from about 10 percent under traditional remediation models.

In these approaches, institutions are not eliminating remedial education, as some have suggested. Instead, they are shifting it from a prerequisite requirement to a corequisite, where students receive support while enrolled in the gateway courses. By delivering corequisite remediation alongside the college-level course, we eliminate attrition points -- the moments where students are most likely to fall out of the system -- and give remedial education instructors a framework in which many, many more of their students can succeed. We have found that it is not what happens in classrooms that is the problem -- but what happens from one semester to the next. Lengthening a student’s academic program by adding time and courses reduces the likelihood of their graduation. We are excited that innovators have found a way to solve the attrition problem without compromising the quality of instruction or lowering academic standards.

Around the country, efforts like corequisite remediation are gaining momentum. At a White House summit this past winter, 22 states made commitments to significantly increase the percentage of students placed into remedial education who complete gateway courses in one academic year. In addition, seven states have committed to scaling corequisite remediation statewide by 2015, ensuring that the majority of underprepared students in their states receive the academic support they need while enrolled in gateway courses. 

These principles for reform are based on a recognition that our current system allows too many students to fall through the cracks -- students who want nothing more than an opportunity to chase their dreams and reach their full potential. Our work is not a devaluation of the extraordinary efforts undertaken by remedial education instructors, but a challenge for all of us to work together and empower their work with innovation and ingenuity. 

At Complete College America, we believe -- and research has shown -- that far more students can succeed in college-level gateway courses than are currently placed into them. But we also know that such successes are dependent on additional support. Many students need remediation, but we have to deliver it in a way that is effective.

CCA supports any and all models that can show dramatic improvements in the number of students who successfully complete gateway math and English courses and ultimately earn a college degree. We look forward to continuing to work with faculty and higher education leaders from across the country to accomplish this critical goal.

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Stan Jones is president and founder of Complete College America, a national nonprofit working to significantly increase the number of Americans with a college degree or credential of value and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.

Federal job training programs encourage collaboration with employers

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The White House talks up $550 million in job training programs aimed at community colleges, including $100 million in new funding for apprenticeships.

Tennessee Plan for Free 2-Year Colleges Approved

The Tennessee House of Representatives on Tuesday, following a similar vote in the Senate, approved a plan by Governor Bill Haslam to offer free community college tuition to all graduates of high schools in the state, The Tennessean reported. The plan will take effect in fall 2015. Governor Haslam, a Republican, has pushed the plan as a key way for the state to encourage a larger share of the population to seek college credentials. The idea of free community college tuition has also been discussed in other states, but the Tennessee plan -- with the strong advocacy of a governor -- has attracted attention nationally and is now being adopted.

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Aspen Prize chief writes about high-achieving community colleges and their leaders

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Josh Wyner's new book describes what community colleges do well, and what they can do better.

Unmet Need at Los Angeles Community Colleges

The Los Angeles area has California's most pressing unmet need for community college slots, according to a new analysis released by California Competes, a nonprofit group. Much of the lagging capacity at two-year institutions around the state has been hard to track. But the report, which the group said was the first statewide analysis of student enrollment across district lines, found that greater Los Angeles should receive 24,000 of the 40,000 additional seats that the recovering state budget may fund.

The analysis builds on an interactive data tool the group released last year. That online tool charts community college enrollment and degree production rates across California's 1,700 ZIP codes. Robert Shireman, a former official at the U.S. Department of Education, is California Competes' director.

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Data Standards for Workforce Credentials

A newly formed coalition of 20 states is trying to create joint data standards and data sharing agreements for non-degree credentials, like industry certifications. While demand is high for these credentials, data is scarce on whether students are able to meet industry-specified competencies. The Workforce Credentials Coalition, which held its first meeting at the New America Foundation on Monday, wants to change that by developing a unified data framework between colleges and employers. Community college systems in California and North Carolina are leading the work.

Also this week, the Workforce Data Quality Campaign released a new report that describes states and schools that have worked to broker data-sharing agreements with certification bodies and licensing agencies. The goal of those efforts is to improve non-degree programs and to reduce confusion about the different types of credentials.


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