April 21, 2010
Community Colleges Pledge to Raise Graduation Rates
The Wall Street Journal (4/21, Banchero) reports that officials attending the annual meeting of the American Association of Community Colleges signed a “call to action” in which they pledged to raise graduation rates to above the 50% mark over the next ten years. They also pledged to increase students’ workforce readiness. The Journal quotes Susan Traiman, the public-policy director for the Business Roundtable, who said, “We are hearing from companies-even in this down economy-that they cannot find people with the right skills.” Traiman added that “community colleges can play a key role,” as they are already integral to job training for many Americans.
KPLU-FM Seattle/Tacoma (4/20, Davis) reported that, according to research from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “2-year colleges need to reform their remedial education programs to improve low graduation rates. The Gates Foundation study concludes most new community college students – many with a high school diploma in hand – need at least one class to catch up to basic competency levels.” Speaking at the AACC conference in Seattle, Melinda Gates “urged school leaders to better track their students, to find out who’s struggling and in need of help. Her foundation is offering over 100 million dollars in grants to fund programs that can show they keep students enrolled and on track to graduation.” One grant recipient, the I-Best program, “combines basic skills courses with degree programs, so that students who are catching up can also earn credits toward graduation.”
“A recent study showed that students in I-BEST classes earn a certificate at much higher rates than their peers,” the Seattle Times (4/21, Shaw) reports. Meanwhile, “in the high-school arena, the foundation moved away from breaking up big schools into smaller ones, and focused more on defining and rewarding effective teaching. At the same time, it expanded its education giving into community colleges, largely because that’s where so many college students are.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education (4/20, Gonzalez) reports that “Ms. Gates highlighted several remedial-education programs that have proved successful at two-year colleges” in addition to I-Best, including a fast-track remedial program at Virginia’s Mountain Empire Community College that allows students to “review basic mathematics in a single week during the summer, and algebra in just two weeks.” Also, “El Paso Community College is working with local high schools to make sure students making the transition to college know what’s expected.”
The PBS NewsHour (4/20, Brown) reported an interview with Mary Spilde, president of Oregon’s Lane Community College and chair of the board of directors for the American Association of Community Colleges, and Hilary Pennington, who oversees higher education programs for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “about [the] new national accountability standard aimed at bolstering graduation rates.” Pennington said there were “many reasons” behind the low completion rates, including the need for remedial education, and the need for community colleges to “do a much, much better job of innovating to help students complete those courses.” Spilde emphasized the importance of getting students credentialed, adding, “We need to do whatever it takes to help them complete certificates, degrees, and get ready to move on, either to universities or to work.”Posted by: gwixom