• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

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Friday Fragments

ASAP, a dog in need and more.

 

December 1, 2016
 

I’m glad to see the ASAP project getting some traction outside of New York CIty.

In its purest form, ASAP is an attempt to make community college students fit the mold of full time students at traditional campuses. It requires students to take fifteen credits per semester, and it provides a host of wraparound services (including very intensive advising) to keep them on track. It covers the cost of textbooks, and fills in the gap between financial aid and the actual cost of living. In New York City, the students even get MetroCards, which are subway passes, so they don’t need to worry about paying for transportation.  

I’ve gazed upon it from afar with a mixture of fascination, envy, and skepticism. CUNY spends about 60 percent more on a per-student basis on ASAP students than on others; lo and behold, a 60 percent spending increase leads to better results!  Brookdale’s annual operating budget is a hair over $80 million; if anyone wants to give us another $48 million per year for a decade or so, I bet we could improve our graduation rates, too.  

That’s a serious offer.  My phone works.

Its champions tout the lower per-graduate cost, which is true; it produces so many more graduates that even with much higher spending, the per-graduate cost is lower. The catch is that colleges aren’t funded per graduate.  

Several Ohio community colleges have apparently adopted and adapted versions of ASAP, and the early results are encouraging. They’ve kept the focus on 15 credits per semester and intensive advising; they’ve adapted the subway pass to gas cards, by necessity.  

Susan Dynarski and Meghan Oster’s writeup softpedals the fiscal sustainability issue, noting that the Ohio version is supported by foundations with the expectation that colleges will absorb the cost over time.  That absorption will require substantial new operating funding (or new donors), the source of which isn’t obvious.  

It also treads lightly on the question of who can participate. Guttman CC, the home of ASAP, can skim the students from CUNY whose lives allow them to attend full-time.  When you have a population base the size of New York City, even a smallish segment can be pretty big. But at most places, the cohort that could do ASAP (if it were available) would be a smallish subset of the student population. I’d love to know how the model co-exists with a larger population of part-time students on the same campus.

Still, caveats noted, I’m glad to see that the basic concept is portable. It’s aspirational in the best sense.

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A couple of weeks ago, The Wife discovered Curly online.  He’s a sweet but troubled shelter dog whose shelter time is running out. Her heart broke when she saw his video, so we drove up to Patterson, NY, to see if we could foster him.

As it turned out, his needs were greater than we could accommodate. He needs an experienced foster who can provide a lot of structure. We brought our dog, Sally, with us, to see how he’d do with another dog. He did better when Sally was in the room than when she wasn’t. She wasn’t afraid, and she sat contentedly while we petted her.  He imitated her and let us pet him.  He just needs structure and, ideally, a canine role model.

If you’re within driving distance of Patterson, NY (near the Connecticut line), and you know how to foster a delicate dog, please take a look at Curly.  He’ll win you over.

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As a parent, you sometimes do things you would never do otherwise.

This weekend, I’m going with TW and The Girl to see a live, musical production of “Elf,” based on the Will Ferrell movie.

So, yeah.  

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