communitycolleges

A national workforce and technology program earns bipartisan support

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NSF's Advanced Technological Education program, which helps community colleges train technicians and build ties to key industries, enjoys rare bipartisan support.

Disparities Among Asian-American Students in California

A new report from the Campaign for College Opportunity, a nonprofit group, breaks down how Asian-American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students are faring in higher education in California. The group is the fastest growing racial and ethnic segment in California. It is also heavily reliant on public colleges -- 87 percent of Asian-Americans first enroll in a California community college or a California State University or University of California campus, the report found.

There are wide disparities in the college attainment levels among the group. The report said that looking at Asian-Americans as one monolithic group can lead to inaccurate assumptions, particularly that Asian-Americans are doing well in earning degrees.

For example, 70 percent of adult Indian-Americans in California hold at least a bachelor's degree, according to the report, compared to only 10 percent of adult Laotian-Americans.

Typhoon Soudelor devastates Northern Mariana Islands community college

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An American community college closer to Australia than the United States is wracked by typhoon.

President of Indiana's Ivy Tech to Retire

Thomas J. Snyder, president of Indiana's Ivy Tech Community College, announced Wednesday that he will step down as leader of the statewide system. Snyder, 72, was recently named as a member of the White House's College Promise Advisory Board, a coalition of educators, politicians and business leaders organized to promote free community college.

Ivy Tech's Board of Trustees approved a transition contract for Snyder that will allow him to retire in 2016. He has led the system, one of the nation's largest, since 2007.

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Free Community College in 2 North Carolina Counties

Students in North Carolina's Richmond and Scotland Counties now have an option for two free years at a community college, The News & Observer reported. Richmond Community College is offering two free years if students earned a 3.0 grade point average in high school and have passed two college courses through the college's dual enrollment program. The program is the first of its kind in North Carolina.

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Advocates of free two-year college agree debt-free movement is a help

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As the hot higher education policy idea shifts from free community college to debt-free four-year degrees, advocates of two-year free initiatives aren't worried.

California's community colleges may seek a new accreditor

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California community college system panel recommends the state's two-year colleges find a new accreditor, capping years of tension with its regional commission.

Construction Accreditor Scrutinizes Baton Rouge CC

Baton Rouge Community College is being investigated by the National Center for Construction Education and Research, an accrediting agency, for allegedly giving students trade credentials despite their having failed tests or not completed activities, according to a report from the local ABC affiliate.

The college had received a multimillion-dollar Trade Adjustment Community College and Career Training federal grant, which allowed at least 400 students to earn the credentials in fields like welding and pipe fitting. Some students have claimed that they "sailed through" the college's courses, but didn't complete all the work.

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California Community Colleges May Seek New Accreditor

A California community college system-convened task force has decided that the state's 113 two-year colleges should seek to be overseen by a new regional accrediting body.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) is one of seven regional accreditors and the only one to specialize in two-year colleges. For years the commission has feuded with supporters of City College of San Francisco over that institution's accreditation status. City College is one of many California community colleges the accreditor has sanctioned in recent years, which periodically has led to tension between ACCJC and the community college system's leadership.

California's community colleges also this year began offering a limited number of four-year degrees. That change and the dispute over sanctions led the office of the two-year system's chancellor, Brice Harris, to create a committee to review the current state of accreditation for the colleges. The system released the report Friday.

"The task force concluded that the structure of accreditation in this region no longer meets the current and anticipated needs of the California Community Colleges. Furthermore, the task force concluded that several past attempts to engage with the ACCJC to make the accreditation process more effective and collegial have yielded very little in the way of progress," the chancellor's office said in a written statement. "Simply put, the task force concluded that the California Community College system and its member institutions have lost confidence in the ACCJC and that change is needed. The recommendation is to develop a plan by spring 2016 to begin transitioning California community colleges to a different accrediting body."

Several state lawmakers have introduced bills to move the California community colleges away from the ACCJC's oversight. But Harris will not take a position on those bills, the system said. The discussion about whether, and how, to seek a new accreditor will take much longer than this legislative session. And the transition could take up to 10 years to complete.

The unemployment rate, community college enrollments, and tough choices (essay)

Employment and unemployment rates, much more than the number of high school graduates or other population trends -- which are important over time but very slow moving -- are the biggest factors driving enrollment for community colleges, for-profit colleges and some open-access four-year institutions.

Selective public and private colleges can control the size of their incoming classes by tinkering with admission criteria, and they tend to draw students whose decision is not whether to attend college but where. But community colleges accept anyone with a high school diploma who wants to enroll, and the size of that potential market varies depending on what the alternatives are.

For low-income students, especially at colleges where tuition is low and often covered by financial aid, the biggest cost of college is the opportunity cost -- the money a student could have earned by working instead of going to school.

In times of high unemployment, that cost for many is zero, and however hard someone might be struggling to make ends meet, going to college doesn't necessarily make it any harder. (Whether they can succeed in college without enough money for food or rent is the real question.)

But when unemployment is low and jobs are relatively plentiful, the choice to enroll is also the choice to leave money on the table, money students may need in the short term to cover basic necessities.

In that case, working in the short term also has its own long-term opportunity cost -- in the higher lifelong earnings available to college graduates.

For middle- and higher-income students, it is easy to choose the much greater long-term benefit over the short-term prospect of poor wages in a low-skill job. But for those with no savings or support from family members, and who may be supporting others with their income as well, work may seem like the only viable option.

So it is not surprising that when unemployment goes up, community college enrollments tend to spike, and when unemployment goes down, enrollments drop. (See image below.)

For every 1 percentage point change in the unemployment rate from May to May, community colleges can expect a 2.5 percent change (up or down) in fall full-time enrollment.

For this fall, if the past is any indication, the 0.8 percentage point drop in unemployment from 2014 to 2015 should translate into between a 1 and 3 percent enrollment decline. Regions hitting a rough patch -- say, the energy-producing areas of the country -- may see the opposite trend.

But with states, institutions, philanthropic organizations and the federal government all working to improve college access and attainment, perhaps one day this correlation will weaken, and low-income students will be able to make the kinds of long-term trade-offs and choices for the future that their better-off counterparts have always found so easy.

Nate Johnson is a higher education researcher and principal of Postsecondary Analytics, LLC.

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