Improving Math Pathways

Colleges nationwide have been embracing developmental education reforms. A popular reform is math pathways, which places students in math classes that relate to their intended majors and abilities, rather than forcing all students to take the same math courses.

But there's some concern that this could track some students -- especially students of color -- away from more lucrative pathways, like science, technology, engineering and math.

A new report from Just Equations, a project aiming to improving math policies, looks at whether implementing new math pathways strategies can improve math success for students, especially those are traditionally underserved.

The report found that misinformation and self-placement created the most risk for inequity in the process of placing students in math pathways.

Misinformation can hamper students' abilities to choose equitable pathways, and self-placement can often lead students to avoid STEM math pathways due to math anxiety, according to the report.

Colleges can do several things to improve math pathways for students, such as increasing support strategies, like corequisite courses, and providing more support for undecided students to explore major and career options.

Just Equations recommends that colleges offer professional development to counselors and math faculty and extended counseling for students who are undecided on their majors and eliminate structural barriers that can lead to students pursuing lower-level pathways than they should.

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Former Obama Official to Lead Calbright

California's new online-only community college has named Ajita Talwalker Menon, a former Obama administration official, as its new interim CEO.

Menon will replace Heather Hiles at Calbright College, which opened its programs in October, according to a news release. Hiles announced last month she was leaving after less than a year on the job. She is on paid leave through March.

Menon will start in the position once the Board of Trustees approves her contract on Feb. 24. She will serve as CEO until the board finds a permanent leader for the college. Her contract will cost the college about $23,750 per month, if approved by the board. Hiles had a base salary of $385,000.

Calbright has faced several challenges since the project began with funding from former California governor Jerry Brown. Its goal is to serve working adults and help low-income Californians get skills to move up in their careers. Faculty at the state's community college system say the money would be better spent at programs that already existed. But some advocates have said the college, which only just started, needs time to work through the growing pains.

Menon will be leading the college through this tumultuous time, as it seeks to establish itself and to prove its detractors wrong, while also making the case for its existence to the Legislature.

“I’m excited to temporarily lead the effort to help Californians improve their skills and find better jobs,” Menon said in a statement. “I firmly believe in Calbright’s potential to tackle income inequality in California through new high-quality learning opportunities designed to fit the lives of working adults and respond to the talent challenge facing California employers.”

Menon previously served as special assistant to the president for higher education during the Obama administration, as well as a senior policy adviser for higher education in the U.S. Department of Education. She is also a principal at EX3 LLC, a management systems company.

“As a nationally recognized expert on higher education and workforce training innovation, Ajita will evaluate the progress Calbright has made and bring new ideas to refine and improve our service to Californians,” Tom Epstein, president of the board, said in the release. “She brings excellent management skills, public sector experience and a commitment to educational equity that will keep the college moving forward during this transition period.”

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California pilot encourages students to give back to community

A pilot program in California will pay students to participate in public service as part of their degree. Given the administrative burden, will it be possible to scale?

Struggling California District on Probation

After years of struggle, the Peralta Community College District in California is being placed on probation.

The district, which includes four colleges in the East Bay area serving about 50,000 students, is facing the severe sanction from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges after struggling to address ongoing financial issues, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

The district's accreditors told the new chancellor, Regina Stanback Stroud, that the district had failed to address ongoing financial problems, including a structural deficit, lack of adherence to policies, poor financial controls and growing pension obligations, according to the Chronicle.

Stanback Stroud told the Chronicle that probation is in the middle of three possible sanctions from an accreditor. The district has until Nov. 1 to fix the issues or face tougher sanctions.

A previous report from the state's Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team had 75 recommendations for changes to the district, and it scored the district's fiscal health risk at nearly 70 percent (a score of 40 percent or higher indicates high financial risk).

In response, Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of California's community college system, appointed a fiscal monitor to attend board meetings of the district.

Former faculty and Frances White, the district's interim chancellor before Stanback Stroud, described a culture of mismanagement and ignoring problems to Inside Higher Ed in September.

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Report: California Ahead on Dual Enrollment

New research shows that California is ahead of the curve on dual-enrollment participation, but Latinx and black students still lag behind their peers.

The brief from Wheelhouse, the Center for Community College Leadership and Research, found that 12.6 percent of public high school students in California are part of a dual-enrollment program. Nationally, only 11 percent of high school students participate in dual enrollment.

These programs let high school students take college courses while still in secondary school, which gives them credits for a future college degree and exposure to college experiences. Research has shown that students who participate in dual enrollment are more likely to graduate from high school and persist in college.

Previous reports had underestimated the number of students in dual-enrollment programs, according to Wheelhouse. The new report matched high school and community college data sets to get more accurate numbers.

While the overall number of student participation is promising, the report also found that Latinx and black students were underrepresented in dual-enrollment classes. Only about 9 percent of black students and 11 percent of Latinx students were in dual-enrollment classes, compared to nearly 14 percent of white students and 18.5 percent of Asian students. Socioeconomically disadvantaged students were also less likely to take a dual-enrollment course than their peers.

The report also found that more than 80 percent of California's public high schools didn't have any students in dual-enrollment courses.

“Dual enrollment benefits students, as well as the schools and colleges they attend,” Susanna Cooper, managing director of Wheelhouse, said in a news release. “While the benefits are clear, and we celebrate that participation is higher than once thought, many schools do not yet facilitate access to dual enrollment, and too many students of color do not benefit from the opportunity to participate.”

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San José State Plans Housing for Students and Employees

Located in California's Silicon Valley, San José State University is grappling with one of America's most expensive housing markets. The university today rolled out a "comprehensive housing" solution that includes plans for student, faculty and staff members' housing needs.

The plans include more than $3 million in grants from the California State University system chancellor's office for student housing insecurity and basic needs support. Students with the least financial resources also will be able to qualify for a new housing grant program, the university said.

San José State said it is developing a new "village" for student housing, which allows students to live with their peers and be immersed in learning communities and student life activities. The new housing facility will be aimed at undergraduate and transfer students and will offer nine- and 12-month leases as well as per-night commuter housing.

The university also plans to construct a new mixed-use project with 800 to 1,200 units of housing that will be intended primarily for university faculty members, staff, graduate students and student with families. Most of the units in the building, which will be one block from campus, would be available below market value.

“We recognize that our faculty and staff are faced with the challenge of the cost of living in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area,” Mary A. Papazian, SJSU's president, said in a written statement. “Our goal is to create a solution that encourages them to be a part of creating a very dynamic downtown San José.”

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Calif. Power Outage Closes Campuses, Threatens Research

Citing fears about severe weather and possible resulting wildfires, Pacific Gas & Electric this week cut the power for large swaths of Northern California. The outages have affected up to 2.5 million people and resulted in the closures of several colleges and universities, while also threatening research laboratories, some of which lack adequate backup power systems, according to news reports.

The University of California, Berkeley, canceled classes Thursday, as power was out on the core campus. The university told students, faculty and staff members to stay away from campus, noting that some buildings were running on emergency power systems.

"There is no PG&E power, and the campus’s emergency power could fail if it is overloaded," the university said in a written statement. "While some buildings may appear to be functioning fully and normally, with lights on, for example, they actually are being partially energized through temporary battery backup, backup generators and, in some cases, power from Berkeley’s small co-generation power facility."

Also closed Thursday due to the PG&E shutdown were Mills College, Santa Rosa Junior College, Humboldt State University and Sonoma State University.

Several researchers at Berkeley took to social media or spoke to the news media to describe how the outage and inadequate backup power was threatening research labs and projects.

“Many friends and colleagues barely have enough emergency power to keep freezers cold and incubators running,” Julia Torvi, a graduate student and researcher at Berkeley, told The New York Times. “These two things hold millions of dollars of research, tens of years of effort, their contents being irreplaceable.”

Dennis Sun, a graduate student researcher in molecular and cell biology at Berkeley, on Twitter said he rescued thousands of crustaceans that were part of a research project.

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California's athletes' rights bill could be disruptive, but it is only a start (opinion)

California governor Gavin Newsom has just signed SB206, allowing college athletes to market their names, images and likenesses. The bill is already disrupting college sports. This is welcome news, but it is not nearly enough.

For generations, going back even before the first college football game 150 years ago, America’s unique approach to promoting big-time sports in college has segregated athletes from the student body, walling them off from some educational experiences while demanding that they give up basic rights to support the machine.

An entire industry has been built on televising the actions of 18- to 22-year-olds on the court and field, and only a handful benefit. The costs, however, are spread much more widely. Consider the control athletic programs exercise over athletes’ lives and academic careers. A growing number of athletics programs use location trackers to check class attendance. Athletes at many institutions are discouraged from pursuing challenging academic programs for fear of impinging on practice times.

Seasons are getting longer, taking more time out of the learning environments of the classroom and larger campus culture. And of most concern, all athletes must participate in strenuous, sometimes barbaric off-season workouts. A number of football players have died as a result of workout regimes put together by strength and conditioning coaches whose careers hinge on athletes’ performances on the field.

At the same time, college leaders themselves are handing over access and control of their students' schedules to media companies in pursuit of royalty payments. This results in travel, additional stress and more missed time on campus and in the classroom. And such practices spread to teams whose contests never appear on television.

SB206 is welcome. It wrenches some of the control over athletes from the hands of college sports administrators and coaches. It allows athletes to do what enterprising students do every day: access the value afforded by their innate talents and abilities. The bill has already inspired similar legislation in New York and South Carolina, along with warnings of doom and perdition from the NCAA and athletics directors in other states.

However, it does little to address the broader issues we identify above and that we see on campuses every day. First, most of the athletes who could actually profit from their names, images and likenesses already do profit from their time in college sports: on draft day. The exposure provided by college sports enhances the value of athletes to professional leagues in football, basketball, baseball and hockey.

Second, and much more broadly, it reinforces the short-term pursuit of wins, championships and exposure that has transformed college athletics into a winner-take-all market that commodifies athletes and sacrifices their long-term development as people, students and athletes. The control over athletes exerted by adults with a financial stake in the enterprise is a much more insidious problem that must be addressed both within and outside higher education.

When we’re done litigating and legislating over athletes’ economic rights, we should give a lot more thought to these bigger issues. How can we ensure that coaches are actually preparing athletes for success on the playing field? How do we evaluate whether athletes are gaining the maturity and skills to navigate both their academic pursuits and their later careers? How do we know if participating in college sports actually provides the learning experiences we think it does -- leadership, self-discipline, team play, sportsmanship and so on?

The goal of higher education is, or should be, to empower students to pursue their dreams, equipping them with skills and knowledge while opening their eyes to the challenges and opportunities of the world. Participating in sports can enhance this process tremendously, but inside the machine that is big-time college athletics, it is no guarantee.

One of us was recently on the campus of a Pac-12 school, home to one of college football’s most prominent teams. Following a gathering of athletes where players shared how they were faring personally and spiritually, a football player revealed some personal details about his life and issues he was struggling with as a newer college student.

As he was in conversation with his peer athletes from different sports, one of his football coaches walked by and gruffly exclaimed, “You need to go to bed.”

Everyone in the group got the message: you of all people aren't here for the philosophical conversations that shape college students. Your body needs rest so that it can perform for the machine.

Solomon Hughes is a research fellow and actor who played basketball at the University of California, Berkeley. Welch Suggs is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Georgia who ran track at Rhodes College.

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Financially troubled two-year college district needs a turnaround, Calif. agency says

The financially troubled two-year college district in the East Bay could face a state takeover unless it makes big changes to its management and communication.

How a uniform set of rules for all colleges can help prevent unintended consequences in policy making (opinion)

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently put as many as 80,000 students who live in California but attend an out-of-state public or nonprofit postsecondary school in peril. But it wasn't her fault! A federal court earlier this year ordered the U.S. Department of Education to enforce an Obama-era law on state authorization for online programs despite the Trump administration’s repeatedly stated concerns with the rule’s unintended consequences and attempts to pause implementation of the rule until next year to rewrite it.

The department’s state authorization rule, which became effective in May, requires a state to have a complaint process in place for their residents who are enrolled in online programs that originate from a postsecondary institution in another state. Alternatively, a state could participate in a reciprocity agreement that would satisfy this requirement, though California has decided to be the single holdout state to participate in such a compact.

In its continuous effort to single out for-profit colleges, California created a complaint process aimed solely at for-profits that enroll California residents. The law does not apply to out-of-state public and nonprofit schools. As a result, under the state authorization rule now in effect, the department has said public and nonprofit schools located outside California are no longer allowed to provide federal financial aid (like Pell Grants and federal student loans) to California residents who are enrolled in online programs. It remains unclear whether the department intends to claw back from these public and nonprofit colleges the millions of dollars they provided to their California students from when the rule took effect.

No one wins in situations like this. But there is an important message here for all policy makers, especially those in California, as they seek to resolve this difficult situation. Higher education policy is complex on its own merit. But when policy makers begin creating and imposing rules for only one sector of higher education, they risk creating the kind of situations these colleges and students now face. In some ways, it is the greatest of irony that the for-profit sector complies with the state authorization rule and can theoretically serve students online from anywhere in the nation while the public and private nonprofit schools no longer can do so and award federal financial aid to their California students.

California has a great and diverse higher education delivery system made up of public, nonprofit and for-profit institutions. But California’s policy makers in Sacramento have consistently attacked the proprietary sector, most of which are family-owned colleges providing postsecondary career education and not liberal arts degrees.

Current Education Department data show that no fewer than 329 for-profit institutions in California served 342,345 students in 2016-17. The current California Legislature has considered multiple legislative attacks on these colleges. In essence, some legislators want to impose on California for-profits laws that are now being eliminated for similar institutions in all other states. Unfortunately, a small group of policy makers want the for-profit sector eliminated -- no matter how good their programs and outcomes might be. For example, The Chronicle of Higher Education’s College Completion website shows that California’s two-year for-profit colleges have a 67.5 percent graduation rate, while the state’s two-year public schools have a 26.2 percent graduation rate.

For some time, the nation’s -- and California’s -- for-profit colleges have advocated for one set of rules for all of higher education. Our sector is willing to comply and compete with any other college on an equal and fair basis. Today, every state Legislature and the U.S. Congress should be establishing minimum outcome metrics for every program in every college, regardless of the corporate tax structure. A poor-performing program does not serve the students or the taxpayers well -- irrespective of the institution’s tax status.

Today, we see the negative impact of selective governance in the state authorization rule. If California’s Legislature had established a complaint process for all students enrolled at any postsecondary school, there would be no problems for these 80,000 students. But selective regulation -- based on ideology alone -- results in unfair and inconsistent policies and unintended consequences that harm students.

Now is a good time for all parties and all sides in higher education to set aside the ideological debates of the past and establish a common set of rules for all colleges -- and for all students they serve. If California had done so, thousands of students now losing access to millions in federal financial aid could focus on their studies rather than whether they can even afford to attend college.

Steve Gunderson

Steve Gunderson is the president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities. He is a former member of Congress who served on the Education Committee from 1980 to 1996.

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
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