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by Agnes Jasinski

Several four-year colleges are already looking into offering accelerated three-year programs, either to bring more revenue into their schools or to offer an official path for students already working to complete their degrees under the traditional four years. Associate’s programs have always been an alternative for students looking for lower-cost options in specific fields and disciplines, and typically take two or more years to complete. One school, however, will launch an accelerated version of the typically two-year program, giving the students the option of receiving a degree in one year flat.

Starting this fall, Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana will offer a pilot program to students interested in completing degrees in health-care support in just one year. Students must commit to an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. school week, five days a week, but in exchange, the cost of the program and any associated tuition and fees will be covered by the college. The fifth day in that school week will be reserved for fields trips, more experiential activities, or additional class time if certain instructors need it.

According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education on the program, this is the first community college in the country to offer an accelerated associate’s degree. The project was made possible by more than $2.5 million in grants from the Lumina Foundation for Education and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, and aims to address low degree-completion and retention rates among low-income students. Only about 25 percent of students who enter associate’s degree programs graduate with that two-year degree, according to The Chronicle.

Is it really possible to squeeze all of that instruction into one year? Ivy Tech administrators say yes. The students who were welcomed into the program for the fall were determined to be “college-ready” by guidance counselors and faculty and staff at the college, based on their academic achievements in college and any relevant test scores and records. Students will be divided into cohorts of between 12 to 20 students, and will receive condensed instruction where they are expected to synthesize quite a bit of information at one time. All of the students will be receiving financial aid. In fact, they must be in need of financial aid to enter into the program, as one of the aims of the program is to improve the success rates of low-income student populations.

According to The Chronicle, a number of technology centers in Tennessee have been experimenting with accelerated certificate programs, although they do not award associate’s degrees in any fields of study. Proponents of acceleration say programs like the one at Ivy Tech are especially useful in areas with competitive job markets or high numbers of unemployment workers who need new skills; graduates are able to get back out into the workforce with new skills in less time than before. What do you think? Is one year too little time to get a degree? Should four-year colleges look to accelerate programs even further?


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by Agnes Jasinski

You probably know all about dual enrollment and Advanced Placement courses, two strategies used by high school students to get into college-level work sooner and set themselves up for graduating from college early (or even on time). But how early is too early to get started on that college education? Lake-Sumter Community College says 13.

Thirteen-year-old Anastasia Megan and her parents have filed an age-discrimination complaint against the community college with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to fight the school’s decision to reject Anastasia’s application for dual enrollment. According to a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, Anastasia, a home-schooled student, has already breezed through her high school curriculum, and her parents say they no longer have the means to challenge her academically.

Officials at Lake-Sumter Community College say it would be inappropriate for Anastasia (or anyone of her age, as the college is unable to talk about the case specially) to enroll at the school because it could pose a safety risk. The college attracts a large number of adult students, and unlike a high school where there may be some limits as to who enters the school, Lake-Sumter is open to anyone who wishes to come onto the campus. In the article, the school’s president Charles Mojock says: “And we have many adult students having adult conversations on adult topics and that may or may not be suitable for some young students.” The growth in young applicants, some as young as 8 years old, even led the school to add a minimum-age requirement of 15, according to the article.

Anastasia’s parents, meanwhile, say their daughter is “well-suited” for college, and has experience among adults from a number of international trips she has taken with her parents and siblings. She has completed online college courses successfully, and had above-average scores on the college-placement tests required as part of the admissions process by Lake-Sumter. If the Department of Education rules on the side of the college, Anastasia’s parents said they may need to supplement their daughter’s education in other ways, perhaps by more world travel. Lake-Sumter is the only college in the area that Anastasia could attend that would not mean a move away from home for the family.

What do you think? Should Anastasia be allowed onto a college campus at 13? Should her parents look instead into high schools for gifted students that may allow her to socialize with kids her age? How young is too young for the college experience?


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by Agnes Jasinski

Open access may become a thing of the past at community colleges if they cannot find a way to accommodate a marked increase in applicants using their limited budgets.

A recent article in The New York Times described the tough spot community colleges were in. On the one hand, President Obama has expressed his desire to see an increase in five million community college graduates by 2020 via his American Graduation Initiative. On the other, an increase in visibility for the two-year schools has led to the colleges being stretched to their limits enrollment- and budget-wise.

The article opens with a student who was shut out of winter-term classes because he was assigned a late registration slot. By the time he was able to sign up for his next round of college classes, the ones he needed were full. Being unable to register for classes has led some students to delay completion of their programs. The article gives another example of a student at Mt. San Antonio College who has taken a dance class three times so far because she has been unable to register for any required courses that would get her on the path to transferring to a four-year university.

The problem is greater elsewhere; some schools have had to turn students away as classrooms are already packed with as many first-year students as they can hold. In California, a state that has had to introduce wait lists in its public university system, about 21,000 fewer students were admitted to community colleges there for the upcoming school year. According to the Times article, some districts had to reject half of those applicants interested in enrolling at the community colleges. The City University of New York and its six community colleges have also had to limit their enrollment numbers for the fall. The schools have introduced wait lists, but hundreds of students will probably not be allowed admittance into the state system.

Unfortunately, the situation won’t improve until community colleges return to the levels of funding they need to accommodate the influx of students. In states like California, both community colleges and four-year institutions have been struggling with cutting classes and consolidating programs to save some money in their budgets. Schools across the country hope to see more generous budgets come the next enrollment cycle.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Although many students are able to complete their associate degrees in two years, a number of community colleges are looking to shorten students’ time at their institutions even further. The changes at one school alone have included moving from semesters to trimesters, shortening courses from 16 to 14 weeks, and offering more options for degree completion in the summer, when most schools offer fewer classes than in the fall and spring terms.

An article this week in Inside Higher Ed suggests more community colleges are looking to meet the call from the Obama administration and organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to get students out in the real world with degrees before they drop out. President Obama is placing great weight on the power of community colleges to double the number of graduates in the United States by 2020.

At Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, for example, all students are able to earn an associate degree in just 14-16 months if they complete one course every two weeks under the school’s trimester system. According to Inside Higher Ed, about a quarter of the students there have been graduating in a shorter amount of time. Lower Columbia College will introduce a program called the “Transfer Express” this fall. Students in the program will be able to earn an associate degree in one year. You may also remember that Ivy Tech Community College will offer a pilot program come fall to students interested in completing degrees in health-care support. Students will be able to earn their degrees in one year if they commit to an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., five-day-a-week school schedule.

So what’s the incentive to community colleges to move students through faster? Doesn’t it hurt their bottom line? According to Inside Higher Ed, students in accelerated programs are more likely to graduate—and less likely to drop out—than those who may be going to school at a less break-neck pace. Allowing students to finish traditionally two-year programs in a year or a little over also opens up room at community colleges for more students to enroll, a significant advantage when a number of two-year schools are having accommodating an increase in applicants.

Accelerated programs aren’t for everyone, though. Students who have no plans to drop out of school may find the pace too challenging, and consider leaving programs for a more traditional two-year program. Some students will also need additional, remedial instruction in introductory courses that have no place in accelerated programs. If you’re interested though, it could be a decent money-saver for you, as many schools that offer the programs do so with tuition discounts attached.


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by Agnes Jasinski

A big selling point of attending a community college is the money you’ll save when compared to the tuition and fees at a public or private four-year college or university. If you’re one of the many students out there with plans to transfer to a four-year institution once your two years are up at the local community college, there are a few things you should know when you’re looking to transfer. The credits you collected at your two-year college may not all transfer to your intended four-year school.

A recent article in the Indianapolis Star took a look at the trouble students at Ivy Tech Community College have been having when looking to transfer to the state’s public colleges, namely Indiana and Purdue universities. What they’ve found is that the public colleges aren’t accepting credits for many of the core classes that make up four-year colleges’ general education requirements.

According to the Indianapolis Star, there are many reasons why credits may be difficult to transfer. For one, there are no across-the-board standards when it comes to what constitutes a first-year English course, for example. It is then up to the discretion of the four-year schools’ administrators to decide whether or not to accept those credits. Credits that don’t transfer must be repeated on the four-year college level, which means students may not be saving as much money as they thought and take longer to graduate than they had initially planned. As most two- and four-year colleges don’t have standard numbering systems when it comes to listing courses in the college catalogs, it may also be difficult for students to know which level English course they should take in the first place to make sure they’re taking transferable credits.

There is no easy way to make sure the community college classes you’re taking will transfer to the four-year university of your choice, but there are things you can do to improve your chances. We’ve come up with some tips to help.

  • If you know where you’d like to transfer early on, develop a relationship with administrators at that four-year college. The more you know about the kinds of college classes that do transfer, the more informed you’ll be when it comes to picking courses out of the catalog at your community college.
  • If you’re flexible about where you’d like to go when you’re ready to transfer, consider the partnerships many community colleges have with state universities. Many two-year schools have long histories as feeder schools, making it easier to transfer credits from one place to another.
  • Know who to talk to, both at the community college and four-year college level. Often, department heads are the ones who approve transfer credits or who know about the kinds of courses that would meet requirements.
  • If you’re denied transfer credit, petition. Many schools will reconsider transfer credit decisions if you give them more information about a particular course, such as evidence of assignments and exams or syllabi. Four-year colleges just want you to be ready to transfer, so show them that you are.

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by Agnes Jasinski

A student who was penalized for swearing at a community college in Mississippi last March will have the punishment reversed following intervention from the civil rights organization Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and attorneys working on behalf of the student.

Hinds Community College initially issued 12 demerits against student Isaac Rosenbloom for using an expletive to describe to another student how the low score he had just received on a late assignment would damage his GPA. (Fifteen demerits would have led to a suspension at the school.) The instructor had found him guilty of “flagrant disrespect,” according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The demerits stopped Rosenbloom from completing the course and receiving financial aid; the demerits were added to his student record.

The school has since decided—probably due to outside pressures or the threat of litigation—that Rosenbloom should be able to return to that class and others, and any demerits will be removed from his record. A spokesman for FIRE said it was still troubling that this could have happened at all, as the college “isn’t some Victorian finishing school – it’s a public institution bound by the First Amendment.” The school has not said whether they would be looking into revising their code of conduct, which bans “public profanity, cursing, and vulgarity,” and assesses fines and demerits based on the severity of a student’s offense. According to an Inside Higher Ed article last spring, fines range from $25 for a first offense and $50 for a second offense.

In a disciplinary hearing last spring, Rosenbloom said the instructor had originally told him he would be sent to detention, which does not exist on the community college campus. The incident seemed to escalate from there. What do you think? Was the punishment too severe for the crime? Does your college have a fairly strict code of conduct? Colleges often have more informal policies in place regulating profanity, although those policies typically only deal with profanity when it is disruptive to the class. In this class, Rosenbloom dropped the swear word among his peers, after class.


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by Agnes Jasinski

California has had it particularly bad during the economic crisis. The public school system there has tried to address millions of dollars in cuts using wait lists and more selective admissions processes in the state’s community colleges to avoid adding to the budget shortfalls. One California community college district, however, is taking a different approach. Several two-year schools in San Diego will be adding about 1,150 classes this fall, rather than following the example of other community colleges and their own district in the recent past, where cuts to course catalogs have become the norm.

According to an article in Inside Higher Ed this week, the San Diego Community College District will be paying for the additional classes using rainy day funds and what’s left of their operating budget. While the school won’t be able to sustain that kind of funding indefinitely, administrators there are hopeful that the state will provide some funding over the next two years to support the extra offerings.

The state’s community college budget was cut by 8 percent overall over the last year; college classes at the schools were cut by more than 6 percent, according to Inside Higher Ed. This led to a more competitive community college system, which had up to that point catered students looking to return to school after a long absence or to build up their transcripts and save some money before transferring to a four-year college. This past year, about 10,000 students were turned away from the San Diego Community College District. Administrators there decided they were being less helpful to students than harmful, as some were forced to postpone their coursework because they were unable to get into required courses. The additional classes will be in the most high-demand subjects, according to the article.

Elsewhere, another college is taking a creative cost-cutting measure to recoup losses from their own budget crisis. Texas A&M University will be getting rid of toilet paper in residence hall bathrooms, a move administrators say will save the college $82,000. The college will still supply toilet paper in larger bathrooms in public areas and administrative offices, according to another recent Inside Higher Ed article. While this may seem like a minor inconvenience—and some students have already said they plan to lift toilet paper from wherever it’ll be on campus—budget cuts at the Texas school have also forced administrators to cut 500 faculty and staff positions, among a number of other amenities.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Community colleges have gotten quite a bit of attention lately as legislators and even President Obama himself have billed the schools as an important bridge in improving higher education across the country. The traditionally two-year schools have also seen an influx of students as both a result of those efforts and the economy, with more adult students returning to college to pick up new skills and make themselves more competitive on the job market.

But it isn’t just associate’s degrees being awarded at community colleges anymore. As some of the schools have begun offering accelerated options, others are going the other way, expanding their four-year offerings with baccalaureate degrees in disciplines that had been typically found only at four-year universities.

A recent article in Inside Higher Ed took a look at Florida, where the trend is most obvious. The state’s community colleges now offer more than 100 four-year degrees, and are on track to offer more. In 2008, 10 out of 28 community colleges offered 70 four-year degrees; today, 18 of the schools offer 111 of the degrees, according to the article. While many of the degrees cover nursing and education, the two disciplines even neighboring four-year colleges said they needed help with due to high demand, community colleges are also expanding into other fields of study, such as international business and interior design.

Some four-year colleges have been concerned that the trend will affect their own programs and enrollment at their campuses, as it is typically much less expensive to attend a community college over a traditional four-year school. But supporters say the two student populations remain very different. Those attending the community colleges are typically older, with many from those student groups who may be wary about doing well academically at a four-year campus. The demand is there, then, as it is at traditional four-year colleges, and the community colleges must receive state approval before adding any new baccalaureate programs as a further safeguard.

No matter where you go, make sure you choose your college based on what you feel would be the best fit for you across all areas—socially, financially, and academically, to start. Community colleges offer cost-savings and flexible schedules, but you may feel like you need more of a campus life at a larger state university. Or your chosen field of study may be better known at a local private college. Consider all of your options during the college search so that you're confident in your choice.


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Community Colleges Seek New Revenue Streams

Schools Try to Keep Lines of Communication Open with Alumni

September 27, 2010

Community Colleges Seek New Revenue Streams

by Suada Kolovic

College is expensive - no one would argue that. That being the case, attending community college is an option students are turning to. But with the economy in a slump, community colleges across the country are faced with booming enrollment amid decreasing financial support from the state government.

State appropriations for community colleges have taken a hit in recent years. In the past decade alone, state funding per full-time equivalent student fell to $3,150 from $4,350. Accordingly, the state’s community colleges turned away about 4,000 applicants this fall alone because of lack of capacity, turning away a similar number last fall.

The Foundation for Maine’s Community Colleges, a newly created development organization courting donations for the state’s seven two-year institutions, has begun a $10 million fund-raising campaign to help with the slumping state’s support. Foundation officials note that they expect the majority of the funds to come from state businesses that see community colleges as serving them, in contrast to the development work many four-year institutions do among alumni.

But as state budgets continue to dwindle, experts expect more community colleges to look to private donations in the future.

"Most donors to universities are alumni who have been carefully cultivated and served," said Linda Serra Hagedorn, professor and interim chair of Iowa State University’s Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies. Community colleges typically do not keep communications open with their alumni. Most do not keep any contact with their alumni. As a result, most CC graduates do not identify with the CC as an alma mater. I think we will see this changing with time."

Hagedorn acknowledges that donors can be very helpful to providing the funds necessary to serve their students and many community colleges have yet to explore the options of naming their buildings or providing endowed professorships.


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An Important Piece of the Economic Puzzle

Obama Reveals Community Colleges Integral to Recovery

October 6, 2010

An Important Piece of the Economic Puzzle

by Alexis Mattera

Yesterday was a big day for community college students and faculty everywhere and rightly so: Not only did a recent poll reveal four-year colleges may not be the right educational choice for all students but President Obama himself stated that two-year colleges are instrumental to our country’s economic recovery.

Yesterday’s summit was attended by more than 100 community college decision makers and was the first of its kind at the national level, thanks to Second Lady and longtime educator Jill Biden. Two-year colleges were heralded as a bridge to jobs and four-year universities – state and private – alike and a key factor to enrolling more students and boosting completion rates. The summit comes on the heels of Obama’s announcement of the Skills for America’s Future program, which will connect businesses with community colleges to help better match workers with jobs now and into the future. Obama also brought to light a Republican plan proposing to cut education spending by about 20 percent – exactly the opposite of what this country needs if it wants to become the nation with the highest college graduation rate. “We are in a fight for our future,” he added, and community colleges are crucial to boosting degrees and competing with countries that are leading in higher-education attainment.

Community colleges have gotten a bad rap over the years but in truth, they are responsible for a number of outstanding individuals, like this 20-year-old who’s concurrently attending the University of Wisconsin-Barron County and serving as his town’s mayor. Pretty impressive!


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