Community colleges

State budget cuts make completion goals difficult for community colleges

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Citing severe state budget woes, community college leaders are pessimistic about the feasibility of the push to graduate more students, survey finds.

For-profits lag behind other colleges in student outcomes

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New research attempts to better compare the performance of for-profit colleges with nonprofits by controlling for differences in student populations, with largely negative results for the industry.

Students who attend college full-time for even one semester are more likely to graduate

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A growing body of research shows that full-time college students are more likely to graduate, yet experts caution against policies that neglect part-time students.

3 Police Officials Removed at St. Louis CC

Three top police officials at St. Louis Community College were relieved of duty and escorted off campus Thursday, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The three police administrators included the college’s director of public safety and emergency management as well as two chiefs of police from branch campuses. They have been placed on administrative leave.

The college named Alfred Adkins, a retired St. Louis police officer, interim director of public safety and emergency management, but the other two spots remain open. St. Louis Community College has not decided whether to merge the three positions into a single role or fill the other two.

In a statement announcing the departures, Chancellor Jeff Pittman said the officials were each leaving “to pursue other professional opportunities.”

“Our campuses are safe and secure, thanks to the efforts of our college police,” Pittman said. “However, we need to refocus those efforts to adopt best practices, increase safety awareness and, finally, align our policing function with other departments to demonstrate a … culture of care for our students, employees and visitors. We are, therefore, bringing new leadership to our college police to carry on this important work.”

Two of the men had been hired at the college in the last few years, and the third had worked there since 1998.

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New Chancellor for City Colleges of Chicago

Juan Salgado (at right) will become the next chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago, succeeding Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Friday.

Salgado has worked with the community college system, which is the largest in Illinois, with seven colleges, 114,000 students and almost 6,000 faculty and staff members. Since 2005, he has partnered with the administration to advance the careers of bilingual students by creating opportunities in health care, according to a City Colleges press statement.

He has held the position of CEO of the Instituto del Progreso Latino since 2001, using education and skill development programs to help connect people with jobs and economic stability. Salgado was also a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur "genius" award for innovation in 2015.

Hyman, the current chancellor, announced last year that she would not extend her contract beyond this academic year. She has held the position since 2010.

Faculty members have not always supported Hyman. In February 2016, they voted no confidence in her, citing what they called a lack of communication and shared governance, program consolidation, and changes in the tuition model. Hyman's supporters have pointed to gains in graduation rates, which were exceptionally low when she arrived.

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A challenge to college presidents to fight for low-income students (essay)

To: All 2,000 delegates at this weekend's annual meeting of the American Council on Education

Your assignment for this annual meeting: make history for low-income students. What proposals can you have live and moving by the time the lights go out Tuesday there at the Washington Marriott Marquis?

No, we may not rest on the restore summer Pell idea. That’s paying a fine. We should not have lost summer Pell in the first place.

To inspire you, to offer conversation starters, I’ve contacted for you as many higher ed leaders and thought leaders as I could to offer my spotlight for their best ideas, right here, in this obscure column.

Their ideas:

  • Equitable funding through state and federal litigation, as in K-12.
  • Admit once and for all the greater needs of low-income students and stop providing these students with less funding per student than elementary school students.
  • A student hope survey each semester, with help for those without.
  • Much more day care and early childhood education, essential for children and parents, especially those who are college students.
  • Free lunch and bus/subway passes for the college students who received these in K-12.
  • Expand Pell to include more job training; measure college success with job placement in the field of study.

One of ACE’s plenary speakers, Sandy Baum of the Urban Institute, said that the power shift in Washington cannot sideline federal action to improve opportunity for low- and middle-income students. “To be effective, we have to think about what kinds of policy changes could really have an impact on the prospects for upward mobility. That means not just asking for more money, but ensuring that government, institutions and students use the funds equitably and efficiently.”

Baum looks back to the start for all students. She would start “by ensuring high-quality, affordable day care and early childhood education, so parents, including student parents, know their children are well cared for.”

Delegates: find Sandy Baum. Bring sharp pencils. Make a plan for better day care.

Start with the tough end of the question. Start the discussion with the people around you right now and in every hallway and by every coffeepot. The harder end of the question? Example: “To have expanded day care for all Pell students who are parents, we would have to …”

For solutions, I mean ones that take as a given the current difficult federal budget situation, with a proposed $54 billion increase in defense spending and cuts to all other agencies. Think! My teaching self believes in every one of you. Yes, you can. Remember, you are the stars of what you yourselves call the greatest higher education system in the world.

Who are these low-income students? I mean the students, grasping for a postsecondary credential, who may not today, Friday, have a full weekend’s worth of food to eat.

I mean the legal immigrant whose trip from a distant continent to my windowless basement office to edit a transfer essay included a stop in a six-foot-square underground jail cell, with more than a dozen other prisoners crammed in. (Naming even the country could put the student and his/her family at risk.)

With President Trump proposing a $54 billion increase in defense spending at the expense of other agencies, we need as many approaches for these students as we can field. I have gathered plausible ideas from thoughtful realist higher ed leaders I know. Grab and improve on these ideas with your neighbors as you wait for an ACE session to start, as you file in out and out of plenaries, as you wait for coffee or sit down for superb free meals that many low-income students will not have during this meeting.

Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College and a national champion for low-income students, suggested judicial remedies, the long-haul chess game of desegregation litigation such as Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund took to prepare for 1954 U.S. Supreme Court desegregation decision, Brown vs. Board of Education. Mellow today shares the same reasoning as Marshall did then for turning to the courts: legislative strategies are not working.

“In the U.S., justice has often been found in the courts, and it might be time to seek justice for low-income students that way,” Mellow said.

Delegates: send an Uber and invite the civil rights lawyer John Brittain at University of the District of Columbia to join you. Find Gail Mellow. Sit down and stay seated until you have a plaintiff, funding and a litigation strategy.

“Hope is important,” said Hal Plotkin, an Obama deputy under secretary of education and a community college graduate himself. “Students who have hope are more likely to move through adversity. The absence of hope is self-fulfilling. Why don’t we measure hope? We could ask students questions that are about hope but grounded in reality. If I were a college president, I would want to know if my students were mostly hopeful about their futures or mostly hopeless -- and what the trends are/were.” Plotkin is now senior open policy fellow for Creative Commons USA.

Richard Kahlenberg and the Century Foundation have created a new task force to take next steps from the foundation’s excellent 2013 “Bridging the Higher Education Divide: The Report of the Century Foundation Task Force on Preventing Community Colleges From Becoming Separate and Unequal.” The report stated again that in U.S. higher education the students with the highest need, most of whom are in community colleges, receive the least funding. This is at odds with much of the policy and practice for K-12.

More funding for high-need students in higher education? “The idea sounds pie in the sky, but Tennessee and other states are already moving in this direction, providing an 80 percent premium in funding to colleges that graduate Pell students,” said Kahlenberg. “What if that 80 percent principle was applied nationally?” The Century Foundation has funding from the William T. Grant Foundation to think through just this question. Delegates: find Rick Kahlenberg there and sign up for the task force.

Anthony P. Carnevale, also an ACE plenary speaker and research professor and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, wonders if higher education in this environment needs to reconsider past objectives.

“Do we go whole hog on gainful employment?” Carnevale asked. “Completion is not enough. Graduates have to get a job.” As measures, he asks if new degree/certificate holders have an increase in wages in a job in the field of their training. Delegates: find Tony. Listen. With magnificent clarity and plenty of evidence, he this week opened my mind to this new-to-me idea.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, also author of Paying the Price, College Costs, Financial Aid and the Betrayal of the American Dream, restated her recommendation for a federal lunch program for the college students who were eligible for federal free and reduced-price lunch in K-12. Some studies indicate that more than 50 percent of low-income college students may be both food and housing insecure. Delegates: send an Uber to the Longworth Building on Capitol Hill and invite U.S. Representative Bobby Scott (D-Va.) to join you. Scott already wants to put such a plan into the budget. Let Scott advise you on a relentless strategy in spite of Republican gloom.

Pam Y. Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College, is advocating against student hunger with Goldrick-Rab, and sees every day both the benefits of proving food and the costs of student hunger. Bunker Hill (where I work) helps students enroll for and renew food stamps, has food available, and hosts a monthly food pantry for which the Greater Boston Food Bank delivers 5,000 pounds of groceries.

“Food, housing, transportation are essential to academic completion,” Eddinger said. “They are simply necessities. There are no silver bullets.”

Paying for this? Remember, we are a nation that is funding an unbudgeted $5 trillion war. For these low-income students? We can succeed.

Wick Sloane is an end user of a most highly selective higher education. Follow him on Twitter @WickSloane.

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Financial insecurity could keep some community college students from completing

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New survey of community college students reveals financial insecurity, including rising housing, food, transportation and child care costs can keep them from completing. 

Community colleges step up outreach to Latinos

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Two-year institutions across the country are getting creative with Latino student recruitment as Hispanic populations grow.

Institutional action makes a difference on community college transfer (essay)

Millions of community college students started the new school year with big plans: study for a couple of years before transferring and earning a bachelor’s degree. Meet with students on any comprehensive community college campus and you can hear the determination in their voices as they talk about their focus on getting to graduation so they can make a good life after college.

The odds are against them.

As many as 80 percent of entering community college students aspire to earn a bachelor’s degree. But research by our colleagues Davis Jenkins and John Fink of the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College tells us that only 14 percent do so within six years of entering community college. What can be done to close the gap between community college student aspirations and the reality of their incredibly low transfer and bachelor’s attainment rates?

When answering this question, many tend to look for state policy solutions. State efforts to strengthen transfer outcomes by, for example, creating articulation agreements, establishing common course numbering and guaranteeing community college students’ admissions to a state university may be promising. But there is evidence that those policies alone are not capable of helping significantly more students attain a bachelor's degree. In other words, state policy matters, but something else is needed.

In the end, institutional action can and does make a big difference regardless of the policy context. And the approach of individual institutions to helping students is also much more important than the student characteristics, like socioeconomic status, that so often are assumed to drive completion rates.

CCRC’s January 2016 report published with the Aspen Institute and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows that variations in transfer outcomes among two- and four-year institutions cannot be explained by institutional characteristics such as location in a city, suburb or rural area and the relative wealth of the student population. Similar groups of students at similar community colleges have very different transfer rates and levels of bachelor’s attainment. Transfer outcomes vary by state, but within states outcomes among institutions vary enormously. We cannot pin transfer outcomes to the category of institution, the type of students they serve or the state in which they are located.

This strongly suggests that what individual two- and four-year colleges and universities do matters a lot to student outcomes. It was with this research in mind that the Aspen Institute and CCRC published a Transfer Playbook, which summarizes research into the practices of highly effective two- and four-year transfer partnerships. What the research behind the playbook tells us is that achieving better transfer outcomes requires action at multiple levels both within institutions and among partners.

Within institutions, achieving exceptional outcomes necessitates action at three different levels.

  • Institutional leaders at all levels, but starting with the president, must make clear within the institution that transfer student success is a priority, reflected in guiding strategic documents, oral communications, data summaries, the college website and budgets.
  • Faculty and department heads need the tools and time to work alongside their two-year and four-year counterparts to develop clear bachelor’s degree program maps and to establish communications channels to allow consistent updates and additions to those maps as disciplines and workplaces change.
  • Student advisers, both academic and others, must have the ability to access, translate and use data on student success, knowledge of transfer pathways and requirements, and training on how to accelerate student decisions on major and four-year destination (and why that matters so much).

Success for all students who aspire to transfer requires deep change not just within institutions but in the ways institutions partner across sectors. A host of disincentives, real and perceived, impede those partnerships. And yet, the best transfer outcomes nationally are often the result of community college and four-year partners that have overcome these barriers and set common goals, established common measures of success, examined student outcome data together and crafted joint solutions to challenges their students experience while transitioning between them in ways that facilitate -- rather than impede --bachelor’s degree attainment. Ultimately, these partners understand their interdependence in accomplishing bachelor’s degree attainment goals for students who begin in community colleges.

Improving transfer outcomes can and should be a central goal of state policy. But doing so will also require engaging college professionals in changing the day-to-day practices of their colleges and universities to ensure that they prioritize transfer students’ success as a key to fulfillment of their institutions’ missions. Doing that will in turn require a redefinition of student success. Just as many higher education institutions have come to understand that access without completion is inadequate, so too must they now come to accept that -- for many students -- completion that stops short of a bachelor’s degree may fail to deliver what they came to college to achieve.

Josh Wyner is founder and executive director of the college excellence program at the Aspen Institute. Alison Kadlec is senior vice president and director of higher education and work force programs at Public Agenda.

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Oregon's public universities criticize state's free community college program

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Oregon's free community college scholarship faces money woes and criticism, particularly from the state's four-year university leaders, who cite the program's higher-income beneficiaries while also worrying about enrollment declines at their institutions.

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