Submitted by Paul Fain on October 15, 2013 - 3:00am
A new report from LearningWorks, a nonprofit group that focuses on California community colleges, takes a look at experiments to reform remedial mathematics by emphasizing preparation in statistics and quantitative reasoning rather than the intermediate algebra pathway that students have traditionally taken. The report found that those experiments are being driven by a deepening belief that: "on the basis of a weakly predictive test, large numbers of students are being prevented from completing college unless they pass a challenging course that may be irrelevant to their futures."
Submitted by Anonymous on October 14, 2013 - 3:00am
The lines for advisers begins to form early in the morning in late summer and early fall at my community college. It is August, six days from the start of classes, and we will likely admit and enroll 35 percent of our new fall students in the next week. These students will need orientation and advising and help with financial aid and so will flood into our student center by the hundreds, facing long wait times and frazzled staff.
In another building, on the other side of campus, the academic deans are working on deciding which low-enrollment classes will get cut in a few days. They are waiting until the very last possible minute to let the last third of our incoming class get registered, which means that there will be adjuncts who find out they are unemployed a day, maybe two, before they were scheduled to teach.
Many of our instructors will plan to wait to actually start covering course content until the second or third class session, knowing that there are significant numbers of students who won’t get registered until five or more days after the semester begins. Since we don’t have mandatory placement and our online registration system doesn’t enforce prerequisites some instructors will, instead of beginning to cover content, spend the first few sessions trying to convince underprepared students to drop their class and take the developmental or introductory course they are actually ready for.
Some of our students will sign up for classes but will not have books for a month while they wait for financial aid to process. Some of our students will sign up for classes the day before the semester starts and will miss the first week entirely as they work to find childcare or adjust their work schedules or figure out the bus schedule to get to school.
This is the time of year when, as an administrator of a community college that is committed to providing access, especially to underserved populations, I can’t help but wonder if we are doing more harm than good. When we have taken the charge to provide access to mean that we shouldn’t have any real restrictions on how a student begins their college career, are we really providing opportunity or are we setting our most vulnerable students up to fail?
In the name of access, we and our community college peers across the country (I know that we are not unique in this discussion) have no deadlines for application or financial aid. We make students take assessment tests but then allow them to self-select into whatever classes they wish to take. We let brand-new students, many of whom are first-generation and in need of academic remediation, sign up for classes that have already met two or three times.
We worry over our rising student loan default numbers. We struggle to improve our retention and completion rates and yet we have created a system that makes it O.K. for college to be a last-minute decision, where our most at-risk students start out behind and many never catch up. We force our professors to take students who will be seriously behind on their first day in class, and who will either sidetrack the instructor or fall more behind. Instructors, especially in our core classes, must balance trying to meet the course objectives while also providing in-class remediation for underprepared students.
Our internal data show that there is a strong correlation between late enrollment and academic failure. The vast majority of our students who come to us in late August will be gone well before the end of the semester, many having student loans that will eventually become delinquent. And yet we continue to have practices that are not in the best interest of either the student or the institution.
I propose that it is time to change how we think about access at community colleges. It is time for:
Application and enrollment deadlines that ensure a student has enough time to get financial aid and payment plans in place before the semester begins. We need to have deadlines in place so a student knows that being successful requires planning and some time getting his or her life organized to be a student. A student who misses the deadline for enrollment isn’t told "no," they are told "next semester."
Mandatory orientation for all new students. We have a moral obligation to ensure that students have been informed of the institutions' expectations, policies and practices before students try to begin navigating our increasingly large bureaucracies.
Required placement and advising prior to the first semester of enrollment. Students should start knowing what they’ll need to graduate, what classes they are truly ready for and what their academic plan will be.
Ultimately, it is time for bold leadership that is willing to begin to reframe what access should mean and is willing to put in place policies that might result in some initial enrollment declines in the hopes of better-prepared students in the long term.
There are, literally, a thousand students who will see an adviser in the next week at my college who are, according to our own data, unlikely to succeed, and I can’t help but think we are at least partially responsible for their failure. Something must change.
The author requested anonymity because her bosses at her community college strongly disagree with these ideas, and she doesn't have tenure.
Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, has encouraged the state's colleges (most of them former community colleges) to develop plans for $10,000 bachelor's degrees (for four years of expenses). But The Sun Sentinel reported that not all of the programs announced have actually started, and that it is unclear just how much demand exists. Broward College, for example, opened registration for such a program a month ago, with 80 slots. To date, no one has signed up.
Submitted by Paul Fain on October 14, 2013 - 3:00am
California's governor, Jerry Brown, last week signed a bill that seeks to nudge the state's public institutions to comply with ambitious transfer pathway legislation. The new law sets a series of timelines for community colleges to create curriculums and begin offering transfer degrees. It also requires the California State University System to accept those degrees whenever possible.
Submitted by Paul Fain on October 9, 2013 - 3:00am
Large numbers of students who have transferred to a four-year institution from a community college before earning an associate degree may be eligible to receive that credential, according to a newly released study from the Office of Community College Research and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The report, which is dubbed "Credit When It's Due," looked at the potential for "reverse transfer" policies in 12 states, finding that 27,000 students who had no credential four years after transferring would have been eligible for an associate degree.
Submitted by Paul Fain on October 7, 2013 - 3:00am
City Colleges of Chicago have begun construction on the new Malcolm X College and School of Health Sciences. The campus, which will be adjacent to the college's current location, will be 500,000 square feet and have the capacity for an enrollment of 20,000 students. The construction is part of a five-year, $524 million capital improvement campaign at the seven-college system.
Submitted by Paul Fain on October 7, 2013 - 3:00am
The Center for Student Opportunity has begun a campaign called "I'm First" that is aimed at first-generation college students. The nonprofit group, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, created a website inspired by Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" videos. The site includes testimonial videos featuring first-generation graduates, as well as tips and guidance about how to navigate college.
Pasadena City College has asked Hugo Schwyzer, professor of women’s studies and so-called “Internet feminist,” to resign or face disciplinary action, the Pasadena Star News reported. The request comes on the heels of Schwyzer’s arrest last week for suspicion of driving under the influence following an accident that left a woman injured. The professor told the Star News he would not resign until January, when he is scheduled to begin receiving his disability retirement benefits.
Schwyzer has been on leave this semester for mental health issues, which he’s discussed openly on social media. He’s called himself a fraud for “conning” his way into teaching women’s studies, although he did not study it in graduate school, and for having multiple affairs with students. Last month, he said he had continued to sleep with students, even though he’d previously claimed that he stopped doing so in 1998. That admission launched a college investigation into his conduct. Gail Cooper, general counsel for the college, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Department of Defense has suspended a program that provides members of the military with money to attend college because of the federal government shutdown. Branches of the armed forces will not authorize tuition assistance for new classes during a government shutdown, a Pentagon official wrote in a blog post this week.
In addition to rejecting new requests for the benefits, the Army said in a statement that it could not process some existing requests that were received before the shutdown began on October 1.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, meanwhile, said it is continuing to process veterans’ education benefits, but that could stop if the shutdown drags on longer than several weeks. The agency has already closed its education call center because of the shutdown.
California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed legislation Wednesday that will tighten the rules on the kinds of bonds that community colleges and school districts can use, The Los Angeles Times reported. The legislation will bar the use of bonds that allow entities issuing them to delay repayment by decades, providing a short-term gain for districts, but creating long-term debt obligations and much more debt than would be the case with shorter term bonds. The new rules limit repayment periods to 25 years (down from 40) and require that interest payments total no more than $4 for every dollar borrowed.