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Subject:

How Community Colleges Can Reach Obama's Goals

From:

Dan Kern <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 13 Oct 2009 06:55:38 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (291 lines)

How Community Colleges Can Reach Obama's Goals 

October 13, 2009 

By  <mailto:[log in to unmask]> Davis Jenkins and
<mailto:[log in to unmask]> Thomas Bailey 

Americans have long prided ourselves on our higher education system, but
lately a much more negative image has emerged. The U.S. has fallen behind
other developed countries in postsecondary attainment, and large gaps in
college access and completion remain for low-income and minority students.

In July, President Obama announced a plan to close these gaps and to reverse
the slide in overall postsecondary achievement. His plan recognizes the
central role community colleges can and must play in getting more students
to attend and complete college. This is particularly important for the
growing number of non-traditional students - those who balance work and
family obligations with their studies and who represent the majority on 2-
and 4-year college campuses today.

To ensure that the country can maintain its competitive footing and close
gaps in attainment among traditionally underrepresented groups, President
Obama called for an additional five million community college graduates by
2020. The administration proposed to spend $12 billion over the next 10
years to support reform efforts by colleges and states. The legislation is
now moving through Congress.

Can community colleges deliver the additional graduates to meet the
ambitious goal? In 2007, the latest year for which data are available,
community colleges awarded about 855,000 associate degrees and occupational
certificates. To meet the president's target, we estimate that community
colleges will have to increase the number of associate degree and
certificate graduates by at least 280,000 per year on average over the next
10 years, an annual increase of 33 percent over the current rate.

One thing is clear: enrollment increases alone will not be enough to reach
the goal. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that undergraduate
enrollment will increase by 12 percent by 2018. Even if 2-year college
enrollment increases substantially outpace those of higher education
institutions generally, that alone would not get enough students to the
goal. In addition to continuing to expand the number of students who enroll
in college, community colleges will have to increase the rate at which
students complete their programs. And there is substantial room for
improvement. The latest available data suggest that only about 35 percent of
community college entrants complete a certificate or an associate or
bachelor's degree within six years.

So colleges won't be able to reach the goal by continuing business as usual.
And while many community colleges have tried to improve, these efforts
typically involve "boutique" innovations that serve small numbers of
students, but leave the basic functioning of the institution unchanged.
Community colleges will only be able to produce the needed increases in
productivity by making broad systemic changes in the way they operate. And
since community colleges are primarily funded and regulated by state
governments, those systemic changes will only occur if states put in place
policies that promote and support needed college reforms.

What specific changes are needed in community college operations to enable
them to help meet the president's goal? Recent research provides some
guidance on this question.

Strengthen the pipeline to college. Too many students arrive at community
colleges academically unprepared for college-level work. Nearly 60 percent
of recent high school graduates who enter higher education through community
colleges take at least one remedial course. Clearly, college preparation for
secondary students needs to be strengthened. What can colleges do to help
make this happen? Increasingly 2- and 4-year institutions are administering
college placement tests to high school sophomores and juniors. Many high
school students do not realize that they are not making adequate progress
toward college. "Early testing" reveals this problem and gives them a chance
to strengthen their skills before they graduate. This promising strategy is
the focus of several ongoing studies. One recent study
<http://education.ucdavis.edu/faculty/downloads/kurlaender/eap_april_2009.pd
f>  using data on students entering the California State University found
that participating in early testing reduces the probability that students
will require remediation in math and English once they enroll in college.

Another approach being tried by a growing number of colleges and schools
across the country is to offer college courses to students while they are
still in high school. This can help students learn what is expected of them
in college. A <http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=578>  study
we conducted in Florida indicated that students who take such "dual
enrollment" courses are more likely to graduate from high school and to
enroll in college, and they earn more college credits three years after
graduation.

Efforts to improve college preparation cannot be confined to high school
students, however. Each year around 2.5 million adults who lack a high
school credential or basic English literacy enroll in adult basic skills
programs through community colleges, schools, and community centers. Many of
these students can benefit from programs that seek to accelerate their
progression to college-level career-technical programs by integrating the
teaching of basic skills with instruction in occupational skills and
knowledge. When we studied
<http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?uid=695>  one such model in
Washington State, we found that students in the program were almost four
times as likely to earn a college-level occupational credential within two
years as were similar students not in the program.

Provide clearer guidance and pathways for students. Many students arrive at
community colleges not only academically unprepared but also lacking in
skills and knowledge that are essential for college success. A
<http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?uid=667>  study we conducted
found that students who took a "college success" course, which helps
students learn how to study and take tests, manage their time, and develop
college and career plans, were nearly 10 percent more likely than other
students to earn a degree or transfer to a public university within six
years. A study at Chaffey College in California
<http://www.mdrc.org/publications/514/execsum.pdf>  by the nonprofit
research organization MDRC found positive benefits for probationary students
of a program that included a college success course and required visits to
the college's "success centers."

Recent research by James Rosenbaum of Northwestern University and colleagues
comparing community colleges with private, for-profit career colleges
suggests that the more structured programs and guidance provided by the
career colleges may lead to substantially better educational outcomes for
students whose demographic characteristics and educational backgrounds are
similar to those who enroll in community colleges. Additional studies are
underway to test these findings further.

Explore ways to accelerate college attainment, particularly by students
needing remediation. Studies indicate that students whose college placement
exam scores are close to the cutoff point that is used to assess whether a
student is ready for college-level coursework do as well in college-level
courses whether or not they first take remedial courses. This finding has
led a growing number of community colleges to "mainstream" students who are
not far below college level directly into college-level courses with added
supports, thus accelerating their progress toward a credential. Preliminary
analyses by the Community College of Baltimore County and other colleges
that were early adopters of acceleration strategies for remedial students
show promising results. More rigorous studies of acceleration strategies are
currently being conducted by CCRC and other researchers.

Align resources to support student success. A study we completed in Florida
in 2006 found that colleges with the greatest success in graduating
disadvantaged students do more to align their academic programs and student
support services toward the goal of helping students complete.

To better promote success, it appears that not only do particular student
support services need to be in place - including in-depth orientations,
proactive advising, early warning systems, and well-organized tutoring and
other academic supports - but those services must be well coordinated among
themselves and with academic programs. Seamless integration of programs and
services from the student's perspective and collaboration among faculty,
staff, and administration are what seem to contribute
<http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?uid=629>  most to student
success. This finding is reinforced by research on organizational
effectiveness in other sectors outside of education. A growing movement
among community colleges nationally, led by initiatives such as Achieving
the Dream: Community Colleges Count, emphasizes the importance of using data
on student progression to continuously align and improve programs and
services to support student success. In addition to aligning programs and
services within the institution, research indicates that students benefit
when colleges build strong connections with employers and baccalaureate
programs and other outside partners.

Each of these reforms appears promising, but they will not be adequate to
meet the president's ambitious goals if they are carried out in isolation.
They must become part of a comprehensive strategy for improving student
outcomes that will only succeed if colleges have strong incentives to pursue
them. On its own, the $1.2 billion per year proposed by the Obama
administration would provide important seed funding, but that figure
represents less than 3 percent of national expenditures by community
colleges. These dollars alone won't yield the needed improvements. More than
half of community college funding comes from states and localities (only 15
percent comes from federal sources), and those resources also need to be
directed toward comprehensive strategy. That is why the administration has
proposed a strong role for state policy.

There is wide variation across states in the rates at which community
college students complete credentials. Indeed our research suggests that,
after controlling for student demographics and institutional
characteristics, the factor with the largest effect on community college
graduation rates is the state in which a college is located. So state policy
has a substantial bearing on college performance. As
<http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=648>  we observed when we
studied the Ford Foundation's Bridges to Opportunity Initiative, an effort
to strengthen community college state policy, changes in state policy can
support efforts by community colleges to increase success by students,
particularly those from underrepresented populations.

The bill recently passed by the House provides support for states to use
performance measures and strengthen data systems to promote evidence-based
improvements in practice and policy. It also provides a key role for states
in promoting sharing of effective approaches to ensure that innovations that
have strong empirical support are adopted by colleges broadly, not just by
the lucky few that receive federal grants. We hope that these aspects of the
legislation will be adopted and even strengthened in the Senate version.

Research suggests that community colleges can help meet the President's goal
for increasing postsecondary attainment. To do this, colleges will have to
change the way they do business, and states will need to motivate and
support colleges in making these changes. Both will have to rely more on
evidence of what works to improve student success on a wide scale. The
legislation making its way through Congress provides a sound framework for
the needed reforms and a real chance for five million more Americans to have
the benefits of a college credential. 

Davis Jenkins is a senior research associate at the Community College
Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University. Thomas Bailey is the
George and Abby O'Neill Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers
College, Columbia University, and director of the Community College Research
Center and of the National Center for Postsecondary Research, also housed at
Teachers College.

C Copyright 2009 Inside Higher Ed 

 

Related Stories

*	 <http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/10/13/forprofit> In Search
of Evidence, and Acceptance
October 13, 2009 
*	 <http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/10/12/acct> Whose Metrics?
October 12, 2009 
*	 <http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/10/09/acct> Remediation
Worries and Successes
October 9, 2009 
*	 <http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/10/08/bonds> Crowding Out
For-Profit Colleges
October 8, 2009 
*	 <http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/10/08/pell> Served, Yes,
But Well-Served?
October 8, 2009 

Sources:
http://www.insidehighered.com/layout/set/print/views/2009/10/13/bailey

 

http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2009/10/13/bailey

 

 

 

Dan Kern

AD21, Reading

East Central College

1964 Prairie Dell Road

Union, MO  63084-4344

Phone:  (636) 583-5195

Extension:  2426

Fax:  (636) 584-0513

Email:  [log in to unmask]

 

http://www.studentveterans.org/

 

Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is
it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks
the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a
position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it
because one's conscience tells one that it is right. (Martin Luther King,
Jr.) 

Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner. Put

yourself in his place so that you may understand what he learns and

the way he understands it. (Kierkegaard)

 

To freely bloom - that is my definition of success. -Gerry Spence, lawyer
(b. 1929)    [Benjamin would be proud, I think.]

 


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