December 3, 2009
A new study surveying community college students in Virginia shows that more attention should be paid by those schools, and perhaps at schools across the country, in making sure students are getting the proper guidance when making course decisions and are being placed in the appropriate classrooms.
The study, from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College, tracked more than 24,000 students entering Virginia's community colleges in 2004. It found that most of those students never completed, or even reached, the important "gatekeeper courses" necessary to complete most fields of study. Gatekeeper courses are typically prerequisites that students must take - and pass - before moving on to more advanced courses that may have more to do with their intended degrees. These are considered the fundamental college courses, often in subjects like math and English, that often make up general education requirements at four-year institutions. Most of those students surveyed never made it past the remedial courses they were placed in when their academic records suggested core courses would be too intense for their first semesters on campus.
Academic credit is usually not awarded for remedial coursework. A long-standing criticism of remedial courses has been that the classes do little in the way of preparing students for college-level work. The study found mixed results on the issue. Students who were placed in remedial courses and completed them did just as well in the gatekeeper courses as those who didn’t need remediation, but the researchers suggest getting rid of remedial courses would be a mistake. Instead, students should take remedial courses at the same time as gatekeeper courses, to use what they learn in remediation in courses that may be more difficult for them.
So what kind of supports do community college students across the country need in place? Schools should consider having additional supports for those targeted for remediation. While those students may need more help in terms of developmental coursework, they should also be introduced to college-level coursework as soon as possible, as the study found that students who needed multiple remedial courses rarely reached the gatekeeper courses.
Schools should also maintain the financial supports many community college students rely on to attend those institutions. The new NBC comedy "Community" plays with the idea of a stereotypical community college and stereotypical community college population, but the reasons college-bound students choose two-year schools are much more complex, and often not as funny, than the show allows. Most often, cost considerations and personal responsibilities come into play when students are considering alternatives to four-year schools in their college search. If you're planning on attending a community college for your post-secondary education, make sure you and your study skills are prepared for the rigors of a college education just like any traditional four-year student so that you're successful, and that you know of the financial aid options available to you to pay for that education.
December 9, 2009
You've already heard about rising enrollment rates at community colleges as many across the country look to make themselves more desirable job candidates in a tough economy by returning to school. But you may not know how some of the two-year schools have been accommodating the large numbers of students flooding their campuses: courses offered at midnight.
Typically offering classes between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., some community colleges have found modest success by offering midnight course offerings to those who were shut out during an overcrowded registration process or whose day jobs and lifestyles conflict with sessions within more traditional time frames. An article in Inside Higher Ed today takes a look at Clackamas Community College's "graveyard welding classes," courses that run from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. in both introductory and specialized welding. The classes made their debut last spring with two classes offered, but their popularity caused administrators to offer them four times a week this fall. The classes were the idea of an adjunct welding instructor who compared the classes to early welding jobs where he would stay at manufacturing shops until 2:30 in the morning, often later (or earlier, depending on how you look at it).
The College of Southern Nevada will offer six classes from midnight through 1:30 a.m. next semester. The Community College of Allegheny County will offer welding classes similar to those at Clackamas this spring. Bunker Hill Community College started offering two graveyard shift classes this fall that start just before midnight and go until 2:30 a.m. Administrators say that the classes, introductory courses in English and psychology, were successful enough that they will both be offered next semester, along with an introductory sociology course.
An opinion piece in Inside Higher Ed last fall from one of the instructors at Bunker Hill criticizes the need for courses at such an unorthodox hour. Courses there were already being offered through 10 p.m., which wasn't enough. Two thirds of the writer's class enrolled in the late course because all of the day, evening, and weekend classes were full, making it difficult for students to move forward in their programs and meet course requirements. The writer went so far as to call it a "national nightmare."
"Actually give these institutions enough money so that there are professors and classroom space before midnight? No one is really talking about that – and students are being denied sections in massive numbers, nationwide this year," the Bunker Hill instructor Wick Sloane wrote.
As even President Obama continues to urge more students back to college, and with more of an emphasis on community colleges to absorb those rising enrollment numbers, midnight courses may be here to stay.
December 15, 2009
A growing number of high school students are considering their options outside of Advanced Placement courses when it comes to pursuing early college credit. More are now looking into dual enrollment courses at community colleges to pad their academic resumes and get a taste of college life before they graduate high school. Some high schools have even begun offering fewer AP offerings in favor of partnering with community college programs.
An article in The State Journal-Register today explores the options available to students across Illinois. Nearly 1,900 high school students are currently taking courses online and on campus at Lincoln Land Community College, according to the article, and many are foregoing the typical high school experience of proms and pep rallies in favor of a preview of the college experience. Most of the courses are general education requirements students would take their freshman year. One student quoted in the article said she enrolled in college classes while in high school so that she will be able to work as a certified nursing assistant while going to college after her high school graduation.
We see value in both options. Dual enrollment at a community college may help prepare high school students for the college experience, giving them the confidence they need to excel that first year. There also won't be an AP exam to take at the end of your course, putting less pressure on students who may not be the best test-takers. (Most colleges require that you get a score of 3 or better on an AP exam to receive credit for the course.) Your academic transcript will also be more impressive when you're ready to apply to college, and you could be looking at a shorter, and subsequently less expensive, college experience. (This last point could be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective.)
But AP courses aren't bad either. If you do well on your AP exams, you could be saving thousands of dollars on college costs because you’ll be testing out of those basic general education requirements. While you won't be taking classes on a campus, the rigors of AP courses could still help you prepare for college and the study habits you'll need to succeed after high school. If your school offers both dual enrollment and AP classes, consider all of your options to find the program that will work best for you, and you may be drawn toward one over the other.
December 18, 2009
If you're a student at a community college, you may have noticed campus has been a lot more cramped lately. Anecdotal reports of students flocking to community colleges have been steadily rolling in over the course of the last couple years. But now a study by the American Association of Community Colleges has numbers to back up these reports. It appears enrollment is up at community colleges nationwide, especially among full-time students.
Nationwide, full-time enrollment at community colleges is up 24.1 percent since 2007, with overall community college enrollment increasing 16.9% over the same period. Enrollment increases are most pronounced in the Rocky Mountains region of the country, where overall enrollment has climbed 36% between 2007 and 2009. In most regions, full-time enrollment increases have significantly outdistanced increases in part-time enrollment. Considering the majority of community college students traditionally attend part-time, this represents a dramatic shift for schools and a greater drain on resources.
Several community college systems have had to cap enrollment, while many others have effectively done so, as they have more students interested in enrolling in classes than they can accommodate. Over 34 percent of respondents to the AACC survey reported that they believed some potential students had been turned away due to capacity issues. Some schools are adding "graveyard shift" sections of classes to try to find room for all of the students who are interested in taking classes. Others, including administrators interviewed by Inside Higher Ed, reported reshuffling administrative and classroom space to try to accommodate more students.
It appears this enrollment boom has not come at the expense of more costly private colleges. Several private schools are reporting that early enrollments for the most part are either flat or up, as compared to last year. Based on these and other reports, it appears college admissions and financial aid may be even more competitive this year than last. If you're planning to attend college next year, whether it's a community college, state college, or private college be sure to meet application deadlines for admission and financial aid, and apply well ahead of deadlines if possible. You may also want to look at broadening your college search and applying for a couple extra schools to maximize your chance of getting in and winning scholarships.
December 29, 2009
Community colleges are enjoying a growth in enrollment numbers like never before. Nationwide, full-time enrollment at community colleges is up more than 24 percent over the last two years. The American Association of Community Colleges suggests the economic recession has led to more adults returning to college and improving upon their skills, or learning new ones. And the community colleges themselves are taking notice and planning for the future as their institutions become increasingly important on the higher education landscape.
In California, lawmakers are considering allowing the state's community colleges the authority to award bachelor's degrees, a move that is already in practice in 17 other states across the country. In Florida, for example, a number of community colleges offer nursing and teaching bachelor's degrees to address shortages in those fields across that state and, more generally, a shortage in college-educated residents. (Community colleges typically offer two-year associate degrees and certificates for a number of different professions.) While California's community college administrators agree the move would be a good one at a time when the state's four-year institutions are overcrowded and, many students say, overpriced, the state would need to budget it doesn't really have at this time to cover the costs of new programming. According to an article in the Contra Costa Times recently, California's community college system consists of 110 schools and nearly 3 million students. The campuses are also already overcrowded, according to state administrators.
Meanwhile, in Tennessee, lawmakers are looking to introduce proposals that would have the state's 13 community colleges working more closely together with the state's four-year institutions. One plan would make it much easier to transfer credits from community colleges to four-year schools, something that has been a problem among students transferring after two years on the community college level. Legislators also hope to raise the state's graduation rates from both two- and four-year schools by offering remedial classes solely on the community college level rather than at four-year institutions and coming up with a broad curriculum that would remain the same across the board at all of the state's community colleges.
In Florida, the state administrators say is the best example of how a community college system should work, the graduation rate from the two-year schools is about 30 percent, the highest out of anywhere in the country. According to an article today in The Tennessean, this is thanks to how easy it is to transfer credits in Florida between two- and four-year schools. Indiana and North Carolina are also moving to similar models, making community colleges more "feeders" to four-state private and public universities rather than independent entities that only award associate's degrees.
January 4, 2010
Michigan's ABC School of Bartending and Casino College has been capitalizing on out-of-work career-changers with classes in training potential new employees for new casinos planned across the border. Unemployment rates remain significant in Ohio, the site of the future casinos, despite a more positive economic outlook for 2010, and those looking for jobs with earning potential - casino dealers may make up to $60,000 a year - and a change of pace are learning to deal cards and count poker chips, among other tricks of the trade, at the casino school.
Many at the school hope to leave the school prepared for the more than 7,500 potential jobs at casinos to be built in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune says nearly 200 Ohio residents have come through the school's doors over the last two years. Students pay the base price of $1,000 to get through nearly 300 hours of training for a dealer certification, spending about 40 hours a week with current and former professional dealers. (The tuition increases if the students wish to learn more beyond properly counting chips, managing a game and dealing blackjack and basic poker.)
While the certification isn't a requirement of casino jobs, the students at the school feel their participation in the program could give them a leg up in a hiring process that will be undoubtedly competitive no matter the state's job outlook. The college has been so successful that it plans to open locations in Cleveland and Columbus next spring. In the Tribune article, John Pifer, who directs the Sacramento, Calif.-based Casino College, described the gaming industry as a field that "survives all economies."
The schools are good examples of certificate programs tailored to prepare residents of a community or state for local employment options. The Midwest has a number of technical schools specializing in automotive fields that have both suffered and thrived depending on changed in the auto industry. Other places offer certificates for those, like many of the students at the casino school, who have lost their jobs or are looking to build up their resumes. The Chicago Botanic Garden offers a horticultural therapy certificate program through a partnership with Oakton Community College. The focus of that program is on-site education with hands-on training in the field of horticultural therapy. Northern Essex Community College offers a certificate in sleep technology, a program that focuses on teaching students how to diagnose sleep disorders.
Many community colleges offer certificates in accredited programs that could help you land a job in even the toughest market, or to specialize a degree you may already have in your chosen field of study. If you're interested in adult programs or returning back to school to learn a new skill, consider your local options, as they may cost you less and even have ongoing relationships with local employers that hire a large number of applicants from those schools.
January 8, 2010
Most would agree that 2009 wasn't a banner year in higher education. As the country dealt with a recession, colleges and universities were forced to find ways to make up budget deficits, at times increasing tuition and fees for incoming freshmen. Enrollments at some schools increased, but so did the number of financial aid requests. Several states were forced to cut aid programs at a time when students needed funding the most.
Could it get any worse? Some administrators think so.<
An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week describes many administrators' belief that schools will need to continue to weather the storm through fall 2010. At a meeting of the Council of Independent Colleges this week, about 60 administrators from schools across the country discussed "keeping morale up" in the wake of a persistent recession and competing with community colleges, where enrollments only continue to grow as more adults return to school to improve their skills and become more competitive in a weak job market. Some college leaders said they were even working more closely with their local community colleges to improve not only relationships among institutions of higher learning, but transfer rates between community colleges and four-year institutions. One president said she now had at least two recruiters focusing solely on recruiting on the community college level.
The administrators also said this past year wasn't as bad as they had thought, so perhaps their predictions won't come to fruition. Most met the enrollment numbers they were hoping for, despite community college competition, by getting creative - targeting more graduate students and returning adults. Unique academic programs specific by campus also did well, as did athletic programs. (Recruitment efforts of athletes on two-year campuses also increased.)
What do you think about the outlook of 2010? Is there anything for administrators, and perhaps more importantly, students, to worry about? Is this the year we'll see changes to the federal student loan program? Tuition rates will probably continue to rise, but that was happening before the recession. Will enrollments drop at four-year colleges? So far it would seem that even at schools where available financial aid has decreased, enrollment has remained steady. There are reasons to be positive, so even if college leaders think 2010 will be the tough one, the college-bound should never use that as a reason to put off going for a college degree, especially with all of the scholarship opportunities out there.
January 28, 2010
As a college degree has become increasingly necessary in our global economy, career colleges have rapidly risen in popularity. Career colleges are run as businesses and their degree programs are substantially more expensive than the equivalent at community colleges. However, their course offerings appeal to students, with online classes, flexible scheduling, and accelerated programs. Now, a new study shows there are additional draws to for-profit career colleges: compared to community colleges, students who attend career colleges are more likely to graduate.
The Imagine America Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides research and support for career colleges, released a report this week analyzing the retention and program completion rates of career college students in two-year programs, compared to those attending community colleges and not-for-profit two-year colleges. The study found that career colleges have substantially higher rates of both retention and graduation compared to public community colleges, and slightly higher rates compared to other private schools.
Currently, only 57 percent of full-time students at community colleges return the next year, compared to 72 percent of full-time students at career colleges and 68 percent of students at private not-for-profit two-year schools. Part-time students, the group typically seen as most at risk of dropping out, also fared better in retention at career colleges, with 60 percent returning the next year, compared to 42 percent at public two-year schools and 56 percent at private institutions.
Degree completion rates were also significantly higher at for-profit colleges, compared to community colleges. At for-profit schools, 59 percent completed their degree programs, compared with only 23 percent at community colleges. At not-for-profit private schools, 55 percent of students graduated. The degree completion rates at for-profit and private two-year schools are comparable to graduation rates at four-year colleges.
However, there are still questions about whether attending a career college is the best choice. Many in the higher education community have raised concerns over career colleges’ ability to educate students and prepare them to land lucrative jobs, especially given the high rates of student borrowing and student loan default among career college attendees. Currently, the Department of Education is debating increased regulation of career college recruiting to prevent students from borrowing more than they can afford or enrolling in costly programs that don’t produce a measurable economic benefit.
If you’re considering an associate’s degree or certification program, be sure to explore your options. There are pros and cons of both community and career colleges, as well as a number of other factors to be weighed in your college search.
February 12, 2010
Remember that Monroe College student who sued her alma mater when she failed to find a job? Lansing Community College plans to introduce a new program next month that would provide training in high-demand fields and a guarantee of employment upon completion, or your money back. (The Monroe College student, Trina Thompson, sued for the full cost of her tuition, or about $70,000.)
The Michigan community college announced the plan at a State of the College speech yesterday morning. An article in the Lansing State Journal included an interview with the school's president, Brent Knight. "Why spend money, take time to learn when you may not get a job?" Knight said in the interview. The program will be called "Get a Skill, Get a Job or Your Money Back."
The program will be offered only to those pursuing short-term, non-credit training programs for high-demand occupations, according to the Lansing State Journal. Those include programs targeting pharmacy technicians, customer service call center workers, certified quality inspectors, and home technology integration technicians. (You didn't think this was a blanket guarantee, did you?) Students interested in the program will be asked to sign contracts where they agree to attend all of their classes, complete all assigned work, and participate in a job preparedness workshop. The students will also need to make "good-faith efforts" to find a job once they complete their programs. The college plans to begin offering the program this May.
As the economy has only just begun to rebound and students' job outlooks continue to suffer, colleges have been getting creative to address not only declining enrollment numbers, but an increase in applicants. Most community colleges have actually seen a growing number of returning adults coming onto their campuses, and are in need of more funding to accommodate all of those students. Nationwide, full-time enrollment at community colleges is up 24.1 percent since 2007, with overall community college enrollment increasing 16.9 percent over the same period.
These growing enrollments have also caused some problems on the four-year college level. Last fall, Ithaca College offered 31 students $10,000 each to defer their enrollment for one year after they ended up with an incoming class that was 20 percent larger than expected. The University of California plans to use a waiting list for incoming freshmen if it does not receive the necessary funding that would fund 5,121 out of around 14,000 currently unfunded enrollments. This would be the first time in history that the university system is considering a wait list, and more than 1,000 students may be affected by the change.
March 9, 2010
As the number of returning and adult students continues to grow in an economy where advanced skills are necessary to not only land a good job but keep that job, it was only a matter of time when we'd start seeing more students in school at the same time as their parents.
We've already written about growing community college enrollment. The numbers speak for themselves—nationwide, full-time enrollment at community colleges is up 24.1 percent since 2007, with overall community college enrollment increasing 16.9 percent over the same period, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. Many of those enrolled are returning adult students who want to amp up their skill sets or start on a path toward a new career, perhaps due to a recent layoff or desire to go into a more desirable field. Community colleges have also always been an affordable option for traditional students either looking for a two-year start before transferring to a four-year university, or a two-year associate's program that will get them out onto the market faster. It's only natural then that there would be some overlap, with students and their parents taking courses at the same time.
In Illinois, college students who are 40 and older make up about 23 percent of the community college populations. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune looks at mothers and daughters taking community college courses together, such as Diana Gudowski, a 52-year-old attending Prairie State College in Chicago Heights with her 19-year-old daughter Marissa. The two found themselves on the same campus when the family decided collectively that they could not afford Marissa's first choice, the $30,000 per year St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. Marissa plans to complete her prerequisites at the community college and then transfer to Northern Illinois University. Meanwhile, her mother is taking classes toward a bachelor's of fine arts in photography; she already has an associate's from Prairie State in photographic studies. Although their courses don't overlap, their schedules do—the two carpool to campus, as the family shares one car.
"When I got out of high school, I thought ‘Cool. … Now I can take my first class at noon.' But four out of five days, my Mom starts at 8 a.m.," Marissa said in the article.
The article's focus is on mothers and daughters because the female population has been hit harder by the struggling economy. Despite some upturns, there are still more than 15 million people out of work across the country, and many of those are older women with limited educations, according to the Tribune. Are you (or your parents) interested in the community college option? Try our free college search or look through our library of resources for more information.
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