Archive for ‘community college’

February 19, 2015

Do kids only need ‘college’ because high schools are failing?

by Grace

Amy Otto believes the Obama administration’s overall push for more school before and after K-12 is a way to avoid solving the real problem”.

The “real problem” that needs urgent attention is K-12 education, but President Obama proposes “to spend money on preschool or community college instead of substantive reform of K-12″.

Do Kids Need ‘College’ Because High Schools Aren’t Doing Their Job?

Mandating “free” thirteenth and fourteenth grades via community college should make one wonder what is going wrong in tenth through twelfth grade that makes two more years of de facto public school now necessary. Only increasing opportunity can reduce poverty. More “free” preschool or thirteenth grade only serves as palliative care for those in poverty. These programs don’t spark real change, as demonstrated from studies from Obama’s own administration. It’s a tacit admission from Democrats that their goal is not to eliminate poverty but to paper over it with politically charged policy. In fact, what would animate the Democratic Party if poverty were significantly reduced? They much prefer the self-satisfaction of saying they care without ever having to produce results. If no one were poor, whom would they have to feel superior to?

That’s the problem Democrats won’t be addressing any time soon and it’s the one that deserves this nation’s attention. Institutionalizing children earlier and longer won’t lead to more creativity and innovation, which are the real stimulus of economic growth. Real-world experiences—whether it play when young or entry-level jobs when they’re teens—are being taken off the table while politicians mandate more isolation and testing within the confines of public school. Don’t fall for the bait and switch. It’s time to tackle the real challenge that we are already paying too much for universal education and getting diminishing returns.

Even though Head Start produces no long-term benefits, Obama pushes for more of the same.  His recent idea of “free” community college only emphasises the failure of our existing K-12 system to produce competent graduates.

… More “free” preschool or thirteenth grade only serves as palliative care for those in poverty. These programs don’t spark real change, as demonstrated from studies from Obama’s own administration….

Otto offers only vague ideas for alternative solutions: more real world experiences in the form of less structured child care and entry-level jobs for teens.  Those may be helpful, in theory at least.  Actually implementing them successfully is a whole other challenge.  Poor single parents are not easily trained to properly nurture their children and jobs are not instantly created by government dictum.  But if Otto’s ideas are not the best solutions, then “free” preschool and college certainly also fail the test for the best use of taxpayer money.

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Amy Otto, “President Obama Pushes Pre-K And ‘Free’ College Because He’s Got Jack For K-12″, The Federalist, January 23, 2015.

January 14, 2015

‘Free’ community college for all?

by Grace

The Obama administration thinks taxpayers should fund “free” community college for everyone.

President Barack Obama on Thursday proposed offering free community college nationwide, in effect extending government-funded education from kindergarten through a two-year degree.

Federal costs are estimated to be about $6 billion per year, with states picking up some of the tab.

Federal funds for the plan would go only to community-college programs the White House deems effective as determined by whether most students graduate and find employment or transfer to four-year schools. Students also would be required to attend at least half time, maintain a 2.5 grade-point average and “make steady progress” to remain eligible.

It would be for anyone, of any age, and of any income level.  Politically speaking, spreading benefits across the entire population improves chances of widespread support.

Community college, in effect, would be universal the way high school is. This approach could make the program more popular, as Social Security and Medicare have strong political constituencies in part because all elderly Americans receive them.

According to the pundits I’ve read, this proposal is going nowhere.  Besides the fact that there is no appetite to spend this kind of money on a new program, there is a basic question of how effective this proposal would be in improving student outcomes.

Will “Free tuition” automatically improve community colleges’ often dismal rates of student success?

Federal data show that at two-year colleges, 31 percent of first-time, full-time students graduate within three years. The implicit assumption of free-tuition plans is that the main reason students don’t finish community college is the cost of tuition. Not, say, the fact that somewhere around 50-60 percent of community college students are not college-ready, or that many community colleges are not designed with student success in mind.

Color me skeptical that a federally-funded free option will solve all of these problems. To be clear: research shows that tuition prices and grant aid do influence enrollment rates, and we’re learning more about how they influence student success.

But the notion that making college free will mechanically improve student outcomes is naïve. Take community colleges in California, where students pay the lowest published tuition in the nation ($1,429 this year). Attendance is essentially free to many students who qualify for Pell Grants. In a 2012 analysis, I found that retention and completion rates across California’s community colleges were above the national average. But completion rates were even higher at two-year colleges in Wisconsin and North Dakota, where tuition is two to three times as high and Pell Grant recipients make up a larger percentage of enrollments than in California.

A free option would almost certainly boost enrollment rates. But these cross-state outcomes do suggest that pushing tuition to zero may not be a silver-bullet solution to lackluster student success.

Approximately one-half of all community college students take remedial courses.

… Even if students pass such remedial classes, research shows they’re less likely to graduate than their peers who start directly in college-level classes.

Instead of paying for remedial classes that won’t improve the odds of graduating from college, maybe it would be better to focus more effective efforts on finding ways to produce more high school graduates who are college and career ready.

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Douglas Belkin, Byron Tau, & Colleen McCain Nelson, “Obama Calls for Two Years of Free Community College for All Students”, Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2015.

Perry Bacon Jr., “Inside Obama’s Proposal to Make Community College Free and Universal”, NBC News, January 9, 2015.

Andrew P. Kelly, “Four reasons to be skeptical about Obama’s free community college proposal”, Forbes, January 9, 2015.

August 20, 2014

Enrollment in two-year colleges continues to grow

by Grace

As families seek ways to make college affordable, the percentage of students choosing two-year colleges continues to grow.

Enrollment by School Type, Over Time

20140805.COCTwoYearCollegeGrowth2

School choice may be a key driver in containing total average spending.

This year, families reported the highest enrollment in two-year public colleges since the survey began, 34 percent in 2013-14 from 30 percent the previous year. At the same time, enrollment at 4-year public colleges declined from 46 percent to 41 percent. Although the proportion enrolled at 4-year private colleges remained the same year-over-year (22%), the average spending at that type of institution appears to reflect a reduced cost to the families who chose them.

In 2013 the private college tuition discount rate – the amount of financial aid as a percentage of tuition and fees – was “again at an all-time high”.

Not surprisingly, the amount spent to attend four-year schools is higher than two-year schools. The average yearly amount spent for two-year public schools was $11,012, a slight increase of $344 from the prior year but $10,060

In affluent Westchester County, New York, more high school graduates seem to be “choosing community college as a way to save money”.

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How America Pays for College 2014, Sallie Mae & Ipsos Public Affairs, August 2014.

June 19, 2014

Quick ways to get training for a ‘livable wage’ job

by Grace

What are some relatively short (2-6 months) courses i can take to become certified in something that provides a livable wage?

A Reddit poster asked this question, and here are the top responses as of June 17.

  1. Welding.
  2. Hairstylist / Massage therapy, nail tech, aesthetician. / Culinary degree.
  3. CPR instructor
  4. forklift operator
  5. GCODE, etc
  6. TEFL certificate
  7. Phlebotomy
  8. deal table games like blackjack and roulette
  9. driving semi trucks
  10. HVAC-R

Not all these suggestions may sound appealing, but some of them do seem worthy of further exploration.  In looking at comments on the TEFL certificate idea, it appears that a college degree is almost always a prerequisite.

Related to suggestion #5 is the newly announced NanoDegree.

A Smart Way to Skip College in Pursuit of a Job

Udacity-AT&T ‘NanoDegree’ Offers an Entry-Level Approach to College

This week, AT&T and Udacity, the online education company founded by the Stanford professor and former Google engineering whiz Sebastian Thrun, announced something meant to be very small: the “NanoDegree.”

At first blush, it doesn’t appear like much. For $200 a month, it is intended to teach anyone with a mastery of high school math the kind of basic programming skills needed to qualify for an entry-level position at AT&T as a data analyst, iOS applications designer or the like.

This is another quick way to qualify for a “livable wage”.

… offering a narrow set of skills that can be clearly applied to a job, providing learners with a bite-size chunk of knowledge and an immediate motivation to acquire it.

It may not offer all the advantages of a liberal arts education, but it could offer a plausible path to young men and women who may not have the time, money or skill to make it through a four-year or even a two-year degree.

AT&T will accept the NanoDegree as a credential for entry-level jobs (and is hoping to persuade other companies to accept it, too) and has reserved 100 internship slots for its graduates. Udacity is also creating NanoDegrees with other companies.

The hardest part is finding the motivation and persistence to follow through.  All these options require a motivated person willing to put in the hours needed to obtain the skills and certification.  The short time span is an advantage here, certainly compared to the four-plus years needed for a bachelor’s degree.

Another challenge is to avoid taking on crippling student loan debt, so students must be careful about choosing schools that offer a good value.

Related:  “Should we go back to more vocational high school options?” (Cost of College)

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Eduardo Porter, “A Smart Way to Skip College in Pursuit of a Job”, New York Times, June  17, 2014.

January 9, 2013

Quick Links – Top-paying jobs for community college graduates; no mandate relief in New York; high salary for high school principal; plus more

by Grace

◊◊◊ Top ten jobs for two-year graduates (Community College Spotlight)

The top job is an air traffic controller,with a median 2010 salary of $108,040.

ALBANY, N.Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Mandate Relief Council voted down 51 of 65 requests for help from local governments and school districts Tuesday, approving 14 suggestions for review of state mandates for special education and two other school issues….

The Council also recommended further study of a request to drop the state mandate for school districts with fewer than 1,000 pupils to have internal auditors on staff; and a state Education Department rule that mandates students get a “minimum number of minutes per week (seat time), by grade level and subject area.”

Requests to reduce the crippling pension costs were among those that were rejected.

They rejected requests to reduce the mandate to transport private school students; to reform teacher tenure and “last in, first out” work rules; to change the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law that keeps automatic teacher pay raises in place after a contract has expired; and to reduce the cost of public employee and teacher pensions. The requests included letting school districts create pension reserve funds, but that was rejected because it was an expansion of district authority, not a state mandate.

Also rejected were local government requests regarding the Wicks public works contracting law, health insurance contributions, restrictions on new unfunded mandates, tax cap exemptions, legal services for the poor and the MTA commuter tax.

Staff of the panel said that the rejected requests were beyond the scope and the authority of the council to decide because they were matters of state law, covered by local union contracts, or otherwise not a qualified candidate for elimination or reform.

I believe a constitutional amendment is needed to reduce pension costs, one of the most costly state mandates.  If that’s the case, the Council could have made that recommendation.  You can see a copy of the full report at the Mandate Relief Council site.

New York’s highest-salaried school principal, James Ruck, who has led Harrison High since 2006, will earn $245,728 this year, setting a new standard for a building administrator in the nation’s hottest market for education leaders.

Ruck, 68, the former schools superintendent at Suffolk County’s Sachem Central schools, augments his Harrison pay with an estimated $131,352 a year in pension payments, pushing his annual income to more than $377,000. Ruck, of Northport, intends to step down from Harrison in June

About 1,000 students attend Harrison High School.


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  ‘Motivation, Not IQ, Matters Most for Learning New Math Skills’ (Time)

But IQ does matter in overall math achievement levels.

… While some element of math achievement may be linked to natural inborn intelligence, when it comes to developing skills during high school, motivation and math study habits are much more important than IQ, according to a new study…

To their surprise, the researches found that IQ does not predict new learning — in other words, intelligence as measured by the IQ test does not indicate how likely students are to pick up new concepts or accumulate new skills. While children with higher IQs did have higher test scores from the beginning of the study, how much newmaterial the kids learned over the years was not related to how smart they were, at least not once demographic factors were taken into account.

“Students with high IQ have high math achievement and students with low IQ have low math achievement,” Murayama says. “But IQ does not predict any growth in math achievement. It determines the starting point.”

November 15, 2012

Virginia offers guaranteed admissions to universities for certain community college graduates

by Grace

One commonly recommended option for cutting college costs is to attend two years of community college before finishing up at a four-year school.  This option is even more attractive in those cases where colleges and universities offer guaranteed admission to graduates of selected community colleges.  Virginia is one place where this occurs.

Virginia’s community colleges offer students more than the opportunity to earn a degree or certificate. They provide a gateway to the Commonwealth’s four-year colleges and universities.

Through system-wide agreements, students who graduate from one of Virginias 23 community colleges with an associate’s degree and a minimum grade point average may obtain GUARANTEED admission to more than 20 of the commonwealth’s colleges and universities.

A student wishing to attend the University of Virginia, a selective school with a 33% admission rate and ranked #24 among national universities by US News & World Report, could save thousands of dollars and secure guaranteed admission by completing his first two years at Northern Virginia Community College.  The agreement between the two schools stipulates the following:

At least 54.0 credits from Northern Virginia Community College
At least 45.0 credits must be completed at University of Virginia
A cumulative GPA at Northern Virginia Community College of at least 3.4
No grade below a C in any Northern Virginia Community College course

The estimated cost savings over four years would be about $40,000
, assuming the student lived at home for the first two years.  Guaranteed admission to a selective university along with the savings make this a very attractive option.

Other locations have similar programs.  The UMass Amherst Community College Connection offers guaranteed admission for community college graduates who meet certain criteria, including a  cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher.  The  California State University system gives priority admissions to community college graduates, but waiting lists have recently made this option less secure.  The University of California Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) has also been affected by funding that has failed to keep up with enrollment, even leading to the termination of the program at UC San Diego.

Advice for students considering first enrolling at a community college as a way to save money on their bachelor’s degree?  Do your research, including this recommendation from CNNMoney:
Ask the community college if they have any guaranteed transfer programs to four-year universities and what course and grade requirements you must meet to qualify. If they don’t have guaranteed programs, ask which universities have “articulation agreements” that will at least give you some guaranteed credits.
October 22, 2012

New web tool shows salary data broken out by college and major

by Grace

CollegeMeasures. org has a new web tool that allows you to compare salaries of recent college graduates, “with data that is broken out by college and major”.  College applicants making decisions about schools and fields of study should find this data helpful.

For example, a bachelor’s degree-holder from George Mason University who majored in computer engineering can expect to earn $59,000 in his or her first year after graduation, according to the College Measures website, which is 56 percent more than the state average in that discipline. On the other side of the earnings scale, the average George Mason graduate who studied biology earns $32,000, still 15 percent more than peers from other Virginia colleges.

So far, this resource is only available for colleges in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Virginia, but plans to add more states are in the works.

CollegeMeasures.org 

Choice of college makes a difference.

I spent some time looking at various salary comparisons, imagining myself as the parent of a kid in the process of applying to college.  The data shows that for a mechanical engineering degree there was not a huge difference in salary outcomes among the various colleges, ranging from $53,441 to $50,917.  However, salaries of graduates from several different electrical engineering tech programs showed substantial differences, ranging from $42,223 to $25,141.  This is good stuff to know.

For graduates with a bachelor’s degree in economics the average salary was $39,298.  But the range was signficant, from $42,895 at the University of Virginia to $29,532 at Radford University.  Similar differences were reported for business majors, depending on the specific areas of study and on the schools.

Choice of major makes a difference.

Comparing associate’s degree programs at Northern Virginia Community College, the data averages showed that dental hygienists earned over $59,000 their first year after graduation and radiographers earned about $46,000, but childcare workers only made about $32,000.  Meanwhile, EMT Paramedic graduates earned almost $60,000.  While other factors besides yearly salary, such as hours worked and previous experience/age of graduate, must be taken into account when making comparisons, this basic salary data is a good starting point.

The individual student makes a difference,

Students, with varying interests, strengths, and levels of persistence self-select themselves to particular schools and majors.  For example, a student who lacks the skills to pursue a rigorous quantitative-based major at a top-ranked college has already established the groundwork for the path to particular areas of employment and salary.  Within any given field of study, a person who works hard and is strongly motivated by financial success will usually do better than a slacker.

Some shortcomings of the web tool

  • Only first-year salary data is available, which fails to capture long-term earnings potential.  (How will the salaries of the dental hygienist and the engineer compare in 10 or 20 years?)
  • Only graduates employed in that state are included.
  • Data for federal employees and members of the military is excluded.

Even with these shortcomings, checking this website could be a valuable wake-up call for students  unaware of the consequences of taking on large student debt.

Related:  College ROI results by PayScale for Bloomberg Businessweek (Cost of College)

July 31, 2012

Parents cut down on college spending while students take on more of the costs

by Grace

College students are borrowing a higher share of costs as their parents cut back on college spending.

A study released Monday by the country’s largest student lender shows parents spending less on college costs and students shouldering more of the burden, a trend that demonstrates how families are strategizing to cut college expenses….

Parents spent an average $5,955 on college from their income and savings, results showed. That was down from $6,664 a year earlier and $8,752 the year before. They also borrowed slightly more — $1,832 compared with $1,573 in the 2010-11 survey — although that was still less than they did two years ago.

Students took on more of the burden by digging deeper into their own funds. They spent an average $2,555 on college from their savings and income in the last academic year, up from $1,944 the previous year. But their spending wasn’t enough to make up for cutbacks by their parents.

All told, parents funded 37 percent of college costs through spending or borrowing, down from 47 percent two years ago. Students accounted for 30 percent; grants and scholarships footed 29 percent; and relatives and friends paid for 4 percent, according to the survey.

It looks as if reality has bumped up against the aspirations expressed by parents in this 2011 Pew Survey, Is College Worth It:

Given the rising cost of college, saving for a child’s education has become a daunting task for many parents. Being able to pay for a child’s education is an important long-term financial goal for most parents of school-aged children. Among all parents with at least one child under age 18, eight-in-ten say this is an extremely important (35%) or very important (45%) goal.

More students from upper-income families are commuting from home, foregoing the luxury of  going away to college.

Just over half of the students in the survey lived at home while they attended college this year, up almost 9 percent from a year ago. Most of that increase was accounted for by families with income of more than $100,000.

Community colleges are becoming a more popular option.

A shift toward two-year colleges also was evident for a second straight year, Sallie Mae said. Respondents included 29 percent who attended two-year public schools, up from 21 percent the previous year.

Related:  Families in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley adjust to rising college costs (Cost of College)

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June 28, 2012

Families in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley adjust to rising college costs

by Grace

The high cost of college is playing an increasingly important role in the way Lower Hudson Valley families go about choosing schools.  Students representing a wide range of economic demographics – from New Rochelle HS (41% students qualify for free lunch) to Fox Lane HS (only 5% qualify) – are choosing community college as a way to save money.

A high school guidance counselor sees more students who have decided to cut costs by giving up the dorm experience.

“If it’s their first time around, the price tag is shocking to parents,” said Cleary, noting that in recent years more of her school’s graduates live at home and commute to colleges within an hour’s drive to save money.

One student’s story offered a window into how the faltering economy may actually be causing families to make wiser choices.

New Rochelle High School graduate Chanelle Cawley considered attending Queens College and The Art Institute of New York.

“It was really expensive, basically, to pay that much money for my freshman year,” said Cawley, 17, who graduated Thursday from New Rochelle. She decided against the more expensive schools and opted to start at Westchester Community College, where she will study Web design.

“It’s a great program to start, and once I do my two years I can just go and transfer to a different school,” she said. “I’m planning on going to The Art Institute.”

Yearly tuition at The New York Art Institute (AI) is approximately $25,000, with housing costs adding about $20,000 more.  AI’s parent company, Education Management, is battling government charges it violated federal law in garnering billions of state and federal financial aid.  It is hoped that Cawley will look carefully at potential job prospects before she takes on student loans to study web design at this school.

July 14, 2011

Starting out at community college works out well for academically prepared students

by Grace

This might be good news for those who start their four-year degree program at a community college to save money.  If you’re among the 25-40% of community college students who actually make the transition to four-year colleges, your chances of degree attainment compare favorably with those students who started as freshmen there.  However, this is only true if you are similar to the rising juniors in terms of academic preparation and other characteristics.  The average community college student still lags behind in graduation rates.  Overall, these new study results are not too surprising.

… Authors Tatiana Melguizo, Gregory S. Kienzl and Mariana Alfonso present what may be good news for such students in their article, Comparing the Educational Attainment of Community College Transfer Students and Four-Year College Rising Juniors Using Propensity Score Matching Methods, which was published in theMay/June edition of The Journal of Higher Education. Using two separate statistical analyses, they found that transfer students were just as likely to succeed at four-year colleges as similar students who started at the studies four-year colleges.

The authors culled data from the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) on students who “graduated from high school on time, enrolled in college, and attained junior status at a four-year college either by enrolling only at a four-year college or by transferring from a community college.” The former group of rising juniors was then compared to the latter group of transfer students based on the average number of non-remedial credits they earned and their bachelor degree attainment rates.  Without controlling for any differences between the two groups, the authors found that rising juniors earned slightly more credits than transfer students and outpaced transfer students in degree attainment 73 percent to 60 percent.

Using a linear regression analysis, the authors controlled for observable, pre-existing differences between the two groups including differences in high school academic preparation, financial aid and work opportunities, county-level labor market characteristics and individual demographic characteristics. The results of the analysis showed no difference between the two groups in the average number of non-remedial credits earned and no difference in their overall rates of bachelor’s degree attainment. Similarly, a propensity score matching analysis which “allows obserservationally similar people to be compared,” revealed no differences between the outcome measures of the two groups. As such, the authors conclude that “community college transfer students earn equivalent numbers of non-remedial credits and attain baccalaureate degrees at similar rates than four-year rising juniors.” They go on to point out, however, that a relatively small percentage of community college students (25 to 40 percent) make a smooth transition to four-year institutions, and that those who failed to transfer with junior status were not taken into account in the study.

Success of Community College Transfer Students and Rising Juniors Compared

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