Community Colleges

Overview

Community College

When President Obama proposed the American Graduation Initiative during a July 2009 speech at Macomb Community College in Warren, Mich., he brought “unprecedented” attention to community colleges, institutions that in some ways had previously been overlook

When President Obama proposed the American Graduation Initiative during a July 2009 speech at Macomb Community College in Warren, Mich., he brought “unprecedented” attention to community colleges, institutions that in some ways had previously been overlooked in higher education policy. Six years later, he upped the ante by announcing his America’s College Promise proposal, an initiative that would two years of community college free “for everybody who;s willing to work for it.”

As policymakers look for ways to train people for the jobs that are available and increase the number of adults who have earned a postsecondary degree or certificate, the role of community colleges in postsecondary education is being re-examined and, ultimately perhaps, redefined. This Topics section focuses on the evolving role of community colleges, by gathering research, news articles and other resources that examine these institutions.

As of January 2015, there were just over 1,100 community colleges, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. The vast majority (986) were public institutions, but there were 115 independent community colleges, plus another 31 tribal campuses. And, contrary to some perceptions, not all of these institutions are commuter campuses: More than 100 community colleges offer on-campus housing to students.

Public community colleges traditionally have offered among the most accessible and affordable options in higher education, with an average annual tuition in 2010-2011 that stood at $2,713 compared with $7,605 at four-year public colleges. These institutions, where the highest degree offered usually is a two-year associate’s degree, offer specific career training and education as well as some entry-level college courses to more than 12 million students—most of whom attend part-time and are disproportionately low-income, first-generation and academically underprepared.

The accessibility of community colleges is often cited as both their main benefit and criticized as their biggest weakness. By enrolling students who might not be able or inclined to pursue college otherwise, community colleges expand access to higher education, advocates say. But there are critics who argue that the disparate demographics between the student make-up of two-year colleges and four-year colleges essentially show that universities are being relieved of accountability for educating some types of students and that these groups are being deprived of full academic opportunities.

Graduation Rates

Regardless of perspective, nearly everyone who examines community colleges express concern over the low graduation and retention rates at these institutions. Just 60 percent of students who attend community college full time and only 40 percent of those who attend part time return for their second year, according to a 2011 report from the National Center for Education Statistics. The three-year graduation rate for all community college students was only 27 percent, the report showed.

As a result of statistics such as those, much of the research and policy debate regarding two-year colleges focuses on improving graduation rates. Some researchers say that part of the problem is measurement: Community colleges tend to enroll students with different academic goals and obligations than the students who enroll in the traditional four-year colleges for which the retention and graduation measures were principally designed.

Recently, the momentum has shifted in favor of the critics of current measures. In December 2011, the U.S. Department of Education’s Committee on Measures of Student Success submitted a report lamenting that federal measures of student achievement often disadvantage two-year colleges:

“Currently, the federal government gauges community college performance by calculating the percentage of first-time, full-time students that complete a degree or certificate in three or four years. … However … the measure does not accurately capture the outcomes of the many two-year college students who attend part-time, take longer than four years to complete a degree, or transfer or re-enter the workforce without obtaining a community college degree … In addition, community colleges are open-access institutions and admit many students who need remediation, which lengthens their time to a degree.”

In April 2012, the Education Department released an action plan to enact the revised graduation rate data collection policies that the committee recommended, but did not set a date for revised measurements to be in place.

Budget Cuts

Because the vast majority of the nation’s more than 1,100 community colleges are largely public institutions, they also have had to contend with significant budget cuts in recent years as states have struggled to recover economically. These cuts generally have meant that community colleges have had to limit enrollment despite increasing student demand, raise tuition, or both. Such steps have been controversial—particularly in California—because of community colleges’ historical role as open-access, affordable institutions. 

Some colleges, such as Santa Monica College in California and Lone Star College in Texas have either considered or enacted differential pricing for tuition, which charge some students different prices for the same courses. Such proposals to “ration” access to courses by prioritizing students who by various measures—whether it is previous grades or financial investment—are deemed more likely to earn a degree, led to angry protests at Santa Monica in April 2012 that scuttled that pricing proposal.

The federal government has offered some assistance.  Congress did not approve President Obama’s 2009 proposed American Graduation Initiative, which would have been used, among other purposes, to establish competitive grants meant to foster innovation, improve graduation rates at community colleges and modernize community college facilities. But as part of the March 2010 passage of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, Congress authorized the $2 billion Community College and Career Training Grant Program. The program appropriated $500 million to community colleges each year for fiscal years 2011 through 2014. The first round of grants was awarded in September 2011. As part of his proposed 2013 budget, Obama requested an additional $8 billion over three years for job training programs at community college.

Latest News

DeVos Says Community Colleges Key to Workforce Development

Community colleges will play an important role in advancing President Donald Trump’s workforce agenda, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said at a meeting of community college leaders Thursday. It was DeVos’ first appearance at a conference event in her new role.

Speaking from prepared remarks at the National Legislative Summit of the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), DeVos characterized the nation’s community colleges as “nimble, inclusive and entrepreneurial.”

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Who Benefits from New York’s Free College Plan?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to make tuition free year at New York’s public colleges and universities for students from families earning less than $125,000 is being touted as a shot across the progressive bow. As the new Congress and White House tout a conservative agenda, the governor is offering a playbook that states could use to capitalize on the liberal currents that crisscrossed the Democratic presidential primaries.

Member Stories

December 8-15
Some of our favorite stories by EWA members this week

Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel investigates how Orange County school board members spent $500,000 of taxpayer money over the last two years. “One board member paid $2,500 for a school mural that depicts herself,” she writes.

 

Starting in January, Portland Community College will teach a specially designed curriculum for nursing students left stranded by the closure of the for-profit ITT Technical Institute earlier this year, Andrew Theen reports for The Oregonian.

Latest News

Homeless U: How Students Study and Survive on the Streets

Brittany Jones is burrowed into her seat on a BART car, catching some sleep before the morning commuters arrive. As the car starts to fill with people, she finally pulls down her jacket, uncovering her face. The whoosh of the doors, the sweaty surge of denim and backpacks: This is her alarm clock.

Jones is 24, a student at Laney College in Oakland, and homeless.

EWA Radio

The Chronicle of Higher Education Turns 50
EWA Radio: Episode 101

Liz McMillen, the editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education, looks back at a half-century of milestone stories, memorable headlines, and key moments on the national higher education beat, many of which continue to echo today. Among them: equity and diversity, classroom technology, and free speech on campus. She discusses the Chronicle’s commitment to narrative journalism, lessons to be learned by looking back, and what’s ahead for the nation’s colleges and universities.

Latest News

Report: Housing, Food Insecurities on Rise for Community College Students

Food and housing insecurities continue to be a major issue for community college students across the nation, particularly African-American and Southeast Asian students. Dr. J. Luke Wood Those are the findings of a new report released by the Community College Assessment Lab at San Diego State University. In addition to physical health concerns, mental health concerns are also higher among students who experience housing insecurity and successively higher levels of food insecurity.

EWA Radio

Why A Trump Presidency Has Higher Ed on Edge
EWA Radio: Episode 98

Benjamin Wermund of Politico discusses the uncertainties ahead for the nation’s colleges and universities following the presidential election. While Donald Trump has offered few specifics on education policy, his surrogates suggest he will reverse course on many initiatives put in place under President Obama. That could have a significant impact on areas like Title IX enforcement, federal funding for research, and more. Higher education leaders are also facing a surge in reports of hate crimes and harassment on campuses that were already struggling with issues of free speech and diversity.

Seminar

Doing More With Higher Ed Data: From Policy to Newsrooms
Philadelphia • February 2–3, 2017

With colleges and universities under increased pressure to ensure that more students earn degrees without amassing mountains of debt, journalists are at the forefront in examining how these institutions  measure up. But there’s one major obstacle that both colleges and reporters share when it comes to making sense of how well these schools are meeting their goals: insufficient data.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Programs Providing ‘Excelencia’ in Latino Education

The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Excelencia in Education has released its annual list of college programs and community groups that are effectively supporting the educational advancement of Latino students in higher education, or “Examples of ¡Excelencia!“ 

Here’s a look at this year’s honorees.

Pathway to the Baccalaureate Program, Northern Virginia Community College

Member Stories

September 23 – September 29
What we're reading by EWA members this week

Melissa Sanchez does some digging for The Chicago Reporter to learn that undocumented students represented roughly a quarter of all the learners who benefited from the city’s free community-college tuition program. Undocumented residents are barred from receiving federal aid for college.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

College Completion Failures Must Be Tackled in Tandem With Costs, Report Says

By Shenandoah University Office of Marketing and Communications (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Two numbers haunt the college landscape: $1.3 trillion and 40 percent.

The first is the ever-increasing debt Americans are shouldering to pay off the cost of a degree. But a growing chorus of experts believes that extraordinary sum obscures another crisis: For many, those debts wouldn’t be as devastating had they earned a degree. But only 40 percent of Americans complete a bachelor’s degree in four years.

The upshot is that millions of Americans earning meager wages are on the hook for thousands of dollars with almost nothing to show for it.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Understanding the Student Loan-Debt Picture

By Dwight Burdette, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“There’s a lot of talk about the student debt crisis and I’m going to tell you that I don’t think there really is a student debt crisis,” said Debbie Cochrane, vice president at The Institute for College Access and Success. “What there are are multiple student debt crises.”

Webinar

Know the Score: Finding Stories in College Scorecard Data

Know the Score: Finding Stories in College Scorecard Data

How many first-generation students does a college have? How much does the school charge students from families earning $30,000 versus more than $75,000? And how many students are repaying their student loan debt three years after college?

EWA Radio

Same As It Ever Was: The Pitfalls of Remedial Education
EWA Radio: Episode 88

Pixabay/Karsten Paulick

Millions of high school graduates show up for the first day of college academically unprepared for the rigors of higher ed. And that’s where remedial (or “developmental”) education comes into play. Students don’t get academic credit for these classes even though they still cost them in time and money. And there’s another problem: being placed in even one remedial class as a freshman — particularly at a community college — can significantly reduce a student’s odds of ever completing a degree.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

The boys (and girls) are back in town. For class, that is.

See how forced that lede was? Back-to-school reporting can take on a similar tinge of predictability, with journalists wondering how an occasion as locked in as the changing of the seasons can be written about with the freshness of spring.

Recently some of the beat’s heavy hitters dished with EWA’s Emily Richmond about ways newsrooms can take advantage of the first week of school to tell important stories and cover overlooked issues.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Calif. Community College System Gets First Latino Boss

Eloy Ortiz Oakley was named the California Community Colleges' first Latino chancellor this week. Source: Twitter @EloyOakley

The California Community Colleges Board of Governors voted unanimously this week to appoint Eloy Ortiz Oakley as the system’s next chancellor. This decision marks the first time a Latino has been at the helm of the 113-college system, where Hispanic students make up 42 percent of the student population and represented nearly half of all new students last fall.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Recent Tragedies Hit Home for EWA

Jay Torres, 57, was killed in Garland, Texas, this week. He was an inaugural member of EWA's annual Spanish-language media convening and beloved by many as a respected journalist and photographer in the Forth Worth area. Source: Rebecca Aguilar (Used with permission)

It feels like we were just in Orlando at Valencia College, sharing a campus with seven students who lost their lives early Sunday morning in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. 

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Higher Ed: Hunger on Campus

Flickr/Salvation Army USA West (CC BY 2.0)

The stereotypes of the financially struggling college students are well-known. They live on ramen, share an apartment or house with several roommates, and work part-time for money to buy beer. They get summer jobs to cover college tuition and expenses. And they come from middle- and upper-class families, so if they do struggle sometimes to pay the bills, that scarcity is hip and cool.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report: Latino Graduation Rates Highest at Selective Institutions

Source: Flickr/ via Alan Light (CC BY 2.0)

The more selective the institution, the higher the graduation rate for Latino students, a new study by Excelencia in Education shows. 

At selective colleges and universities — those that admit less than half of applicants — 68 percent of Latino students graduate and are more likely to do so on time. At other four-year institutions and two-year colleges, the Latino graduation rates are 47 and 17 percent, respectively. 

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Psychology, Mentoring and Dollars: Innovations in Graduating More Students from College

Flickr/Cat Branchman (CC BY 2.0)

College students enter their institutions excited about learning and eager to succeed. Yet many don’t.

Hurdles like the cost of attendance certainly exist, but researchers are also now starting to examine the effects psychological barriers such as social group dynamics, self-confidence and feelings of isolation have on college students’ success.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Progressives in Massachusetts Shortchange Poor Kids, Governor Says

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker speaks at EWA's National Seminar in Boston. (Photo by Katherine Taylor for EWA)

Massachusetts has long been the poster child for education.

For years now it’s ranked at the top in the country for math and reading achievement, boasted impressive graduation rates and made a significant financial investments over the last few decades to get there.

It’s no slouch when it comes to higher education either. Massachusetts harbors some of the best colleges and universities in the world, and it’s joining a growing number of states looking to make college more affordable.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Obama Official: To Lower Cost of College, States Must Spend More

U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell spoke at EWA's 69th annual National Seminar in Boston. Source: U.S. Department of Education

“The most expensive degree is the one you don’t get.” That’s Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell quoting former U.S. Ed Secretary Arne Duncan at the Education Writers Association’s National Seminar on Monday. Mitchell’s talk focused on how to prevent such a costly slip.

EWA Radio

Why President Obama Should Teach
EWA Radio: Episode 65

(Flickr/The White House)

When President Obama leaves office in January, there will be no shortage of big-name corporations and Ivy League universities clamoring for his skills. But in a recent essay for The New Yorker Magazine, contributor Cinque Henderson — a former writer for Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” — suggests President Obama consider teaching at a historically black college or university (HBCU), community college, or even an urban high school.

Seminar

Higher Ed 2016
September 16–17 • Tempe, Arizona

What new techniques and practices should higher education embrace to ensure that more students graduate? Join the Education Writers Association September 16–17 at Arizona State University to explore cutting-edge innovations that aim to address financial, academic, and social barriers. More on the seminar theme.

This annual seminar is one of the largest gatherings of journalists covering postsecondary education. Network with others covering this beat and step up your coverage for the upcoming academic year.

Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona
Report

Hungry to Learn: Addressing Food & Housing Insecurity Among Undergraduates
The Association of Community College Trustees

According to a new survey of more than 4,000 undergraduates at 10 community colleges across the nation, half of all community college students are struggling with food and/or housing insecurity. Fully 20 percent are hungry and 13 percent are homeless. These numbers are startling and indicate the need for a multi-pronged, comprehensive set of institutional, state, and local policies to alleviate the barriers presented by poverty, so as to improve educational success.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Saving on College by Doing Some of It in High School

Gov. Dannel Malloy announces the creation of Connecticut's first P-TECH high school, modeled after the IBM-backed school in Brooklyn, New York. (Source: Flickr/Dannel Malloy)

Last week the White House announced a new higher education experiment that will direct federal grants to some high school students who want to enroll in college classes.

The plan is to start small, with the administration offering $20 million to help defray the college costs of up to 10,000 low-income high school students for the 2016-2017 academic year. The money will come from the overall Pell Grant pot, which is currently funded at more than $30 billion annually and used by 8 million students.

Webinar

Seven Challenges First-Generation College Students Face & How to Write About Them

(Bigstock/michaeljung)

While many first-generation students are excited and ambitious when they step on campus — eager to beat the odds and become the first in their families to earn a college degree — others struggle with guilt, fear and loneliness, sometimes even struggling to remember why they decided to attend college in the first place. And they grapple with these feelings while they also have to figure out how to apply for financial aid, register for classes, and manage the other necessities of undergraduate life knowing they can’t turn to their families for guidance based on experience.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Their Roles in Higher Ed

Panelists Alicia Diaz, left, of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and Kathleen Plinske, a Valencia College campus president, discussed the roles of Hispanic-serving institutions at EWA's 2015 Spanish-Language Media Convening. The discussion was moderator by Adolfo Guzman-Lopez or Southern California Public Radio. 
Source: Valencia College/ Don Burlinson

In recent years, the United States has seen overall enrollment declines in the numbers of students seeking postsecondary degrees, but in a panel about Latinos in higher education at the Education Writers Association’s second annual Spanish-Language Media Convening, the executive director of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities reminded journalists of one area of growth: The number of Hispanic-serving institutions is on the rise and accelerating.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

How Community Colleges Are Helping Transfer Students

Source: Bigstock

Students who transfer between colleges and universities on their path to achieve a college degree often encounter obstacles — barriers, like lost credits, that could keep them from finishing their degree altogether. At EWA’s recent seminar in Orlando focused on higher education, reporters got a lesson in the data on transfer students and heard from experts who are making the process of transferring and going on to earn degrees easier for students at their community colleges.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Florida Colleges Face Life Without Remediation

Letting students decide whether they need remedial courses is shortsighted, Valencia College President Sandy Shugart said. Valencia College/Don Burlinson

Each year, hundreds of thousands of new college students arrive on campus unable to handle freshman level work and wind up in remedial classes. That’s a major frustration not only to the students but also to lawmakers who believe public dollars are being used twice for the same instruction – once at the K-12 level, then again in postsecondary financial aid.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

The New Effort to Link College to Careers

Students of the culinary program at Valencia College in Orlando demonstrate their kitchen skills. (Source: Twitter/@GabrielleRusson)

As tuitions swell and student loan debt climbs further, one aspect of higher education that has been overlooked is the recipe required to transform a college education into a set of skills that prepares students for the workspace.

As it turns out, neither colleges nor employers have a firm grasp on what flavor that special sauce should have, reporters learned at “The Way to Work: Covering the Path from College to Careers” – the Education Writers Association’s seminar on higher education held in Orlando Sep. 18-19.

Webinar

Escaping the Ordinary: The Best Back-to-School Story Ideas
Back-to-School Webinar

Escaping the Ordinary: The Best Back-to-School Story Ideas

For education reporters, coming up with fresh angles for back-to-school stories is an annual challenge. Two veteran education journalists—Steve Drummond (NPR) and Beth Hawkins (MinnPost)—share smart tips for digging deep, and keeping ahead of the curve on the latest trends. We discuss new ways of approaching the first day of school, ideas for unique profiles, strategies for data projects and how to make the most of your publication’s multimedia resources. 

Speakers

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Money Magazine’s College Rankings Examine How Much ‘Value’ Students Get

The folks at Money magazine are largely doing the work the White House sought to do but hasn’t: rate colleges and universities by the extra boost they give students in landing financially rewarding careers.

Released this week, Money’s rating system ranks more than 700 schools according to an in-house rubric for measuring how much value a college offers students given its price of attendance. 

EWA Radio

After Pushback, White House Yields on College Ratings
EWA Radio: Episode 28

After nearly two years of public debate, and vociferous pushback from the higher education community, the White House announced it is pulling back on plans to rate the nation’s colleges based on a complex matrix of performance measures and student outcomes. Paul Fain, news editor for Inside Higher Ed has been following this story closely since the beginning, and he helped break the news that the Obama administration was scrapping the most controversial parts of its original proposal.

He spoke with EWA public editor Emily Richmond about who’s surprised by the decision (hint: not a lot of people), and the role played by aggressive lobbying against the rating plan by much of the higher education community. Fain and Richmond also discussed college ratings and consumer tools already available, and how to answer parents and students who ask for advice on choosing a school.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Can the Community College ‘Promise’ Be Fulfilled?

Scott Jaschik, left, moderates EWA's National Seminar session on community colleges on April 21, 2015.

Nine million.

That’s how many students the White House believes will be able to attend a community college under the president’s proposed America’s College Promise program. During the session at EWA’s National Seminar held last month in Chicago, U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said nine million students see college as unaffordable.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Hispanics More Optimistic Than Most About Higher Ed Access, Affordability

Source: Flickr/ COD Newsroom (CC BY 2.0)

When asked in a recent poll whether education beyond high school is available and affordable to those who need it, Hispanic respondents were optimistic.

The results of a recent Gallup-Lumina Foundation poll reveal that while overall, Americans feel higher education is not affordable, the majority of Hispanics feel it is. And on the issue of access, Hispanics were also more confident than white and black survey-takers. 

Report

The Condition of Latinos in Education: 2015 Factbook
Excelencia in Education

Excelencia in Education

Excelencia in Education is committed to using data to inform public policy and institutional practice to achieve our mission of accelerating student success for Latinos in higher education. We know college success does not begin at the college gates. Every educational experience from early childhood to high school and into the workforce influences the potential for college success.

Report

What We Know About Transfer
Davis Jenkins and John Fink

This research overview reviews recent findings on transfer from community colleges to four-year institutions, including student transfer patterns, student outcomes, barriers to transfer, the economic benefits of transfer, and the potential benefits of vertical transfer for four-year colleges and universities. Overall, the returns to transfer are strong, and transfer offers a vital route to a bachelor’s degree for many underserved students.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The 2015 Education Beat: Common Core, Testing, School Choice

Students at New York University work on a computer programming project. More interactive learning is expected to be a hot topic in the coming year on both the K-12 and higher education beats. (Flickr/Matylda Czarnecka)

There’s a busy year ahead on the schools beat – I talked to reporters, policy analysts and educators to put together a cheat sheet to a few of the stories you can expect to be on the front burner in the coming months: 

Revamping No Child Left Behind

Multimedia

(Community) College Readiness
2014 Higher Ed Seminar

(Community) College Readiness

While high schools across the nation have increasingly turned their attention toward making their graduates “college and career ready,” many community colleges are pondering the best way to educate those adults who enroll underprepared. One approach that appears to be gaining momentum—in Connecticut, Florida and Texas, for example— is to eliminate developmental or remedial education offerings altogether, arguing that these costly courses deter students from earning degrees.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Experts: Community College Results Weighed Down by Remediation

Jeffrey Beall/Flickr ( CC BY-SA 2.0)

From politicians to policymakers, the argument goes that sustaining America’s competitive edge will rely largely on more students graduating college.

But while the nation has notched successes in sending more students to postsecondary institutions, the college dropout rate remains stubbornly high. One major reason for the attrition: Millions of high school graduates are academically unprepared for the rigors of higher ed.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Deciphering Student-Loan Default Rates

© PamelaJoeMcFarlane (Source: iStock)

The federal government today released a snapshot of how well borrowers with federal student loans are repaying their debts, indicating that fewer Americans are defaulting on their college loans compared to past years, but that the figures still exceed pre-recession levels.

Report

At What Cost? How Community Colleges that Do Not Offer Federal Loans Put Students at Risk
The Institute for College Access & Success

In 2013-14, nearly one million community college students across the nation were denied access to federal student loans, the safest and most affordable way to borrow for college. Our report includes national and state-by-state analyses of loan access by race/ethnicity and urbanicity, and takes an in-depth look at North Carolina, California, and Georgia.

Report

At What Cost? How Community Colleges that Do Not Offer Federal Loans Put Students at Risk
The Institute for College Access & Success

In 2013-14, nearly one million community college students across the nation were denied access to federal student loans, the safest and most affordable way to borrow for college. Our report includes national and state-by-state analyses of loan access by race/ethnicity and urbanicity, and takes an in-depth look at North Carolina, California, and Georgia.

Post

At What Cost?
How Community Colleges that Do Not Offer Federal Loans Put Students at Risk

With Americans increasingly having to borrow to pay for college, a new report from The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) finds that nearly one million community college students cannot get federal student loans because their school chooses not to offer them. Without access to federal student loans, students may not be able to stay enrolled without turning to more costly and risky forms of borrowing such as credit cards or private loans, or reducing their chances of graduating by working longer hours or cutting back on classes.
 

Seminar

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Covering the College Student Experience
2014 Higher Ed Seminar

For many college students — whether fresh out of high school or adults returning to school — their most serious obstacles to a degree won’t be homework or tests, but rather the challenges of navigating student life. Colleges are now being forced to face the longstanding problems that have often led to students’ flailing and failing on their own. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Top 10 Higher Education Stories You Should Be Covering

Scott Jaschik addresses reporters at EWA's 67th National Seminar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

For higher education reporters, Inside Higher Ed editor Scott Jaschik’s annual top-10 list of story ideas is a highlight of EWA’s National Seminar. This year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Jaschik kicked off his roundup with  an issue that has affected many institutions around the country: sexual assault. The key to covering this story, he said, is not to imply that this is a new problem. Increased attention from the White House has challenged the ways that many colleges have addressed these incidents.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Tennessee’s Haslam Aims for Mantle of Education Governor

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam addresses attendees at the 67th National Seminar.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam laughingly admitted during a speech at the Education Writers Association’s National Seminar this week that his state hasn’t always been known as a “hotbed of education reform”—or frankly, a place known for its academic achievement.

Moreover, he wasn’t the state CEO who ushered in a series of dramatic education policy changes that has put the state on the national school reform map. Still, he said at the May 19 appearance in Nashville, he’s been the guy “standing in the doorway making sure we don’t retreat.”

Key Coverage

Community Colleges Increasingly Adding Bachelor’s Degrees

An increasing number of community colleges around the country have started offering four-year bachelor’s degrees in fields for which there is high job demand. Critics and supporters of the trend say alternately that it is helping fill an important social need most universities aren’t, or that it’s an ego-driven, money-wasting cry for prestige and respect from institutions at the low end of the higher-education hierarchy.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Making the Jump to a Four-Year Degree Difficult for Community College Students

Several reports dropped this week about the difficulties community college students face transferring into a four-year college.

Nearly half of all postsecondary students are enrolled at a community college, and a poll from 2012 indicates 80 percent of those students aim to complete a degree at a four-year college or university. But while that goal is shared by many students, few actually successfully jump from a two-year to a four-year program.

Report

The Community College Route to the Bachelor’s Degree

It is well established that students who begin postsecondary education at a community college are less likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than otherwise similar undergraduates who begin at a 4-year school, but there is less consensus over the mechanisms generating this disparity. We explore these using national longitudinal transcript data and propensity-score methods. … 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

States Balk as GED Gets More Expensive

Life for the nearly 40 million Americans without a high school diploma could be about to get harder as testing companies who create high school equivalency exams are rolling out tougher — and in some cases — more expensive

EWA Radio

Can Community Colleges Get Better?

More than ever, community colleges are being seen as key to getting millions of Americans the education they need to thrive. Yet while many students enter community colleges for job training that does not culminate in a degree, many more intend to get a degree but fall short. What can change?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Campus Coverage Project: College Journos Gather at Arizona State

I’m in Phoenix for the next few days at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. EWA is helping out with IRE’s (Investigative Reporters and Editors) third annual Campus Coverage Project conference. Roughly 75 of the nation’s top college journalists were selected to spend four days learning the latest techniques and tips for writing investigative stories.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

A New Year: What’s Ahead For Education

Here were are in January, and I’m still trying to figure out what happened to October. The fall sped by as I adjusted to a new city and a new job. This winter isn’t going much slower.

For many people, myself included, 2011 was a year of intense highs and lows. In the education world, there is much unfinished business that carried over from the old year to the new. We still don’t know what’s going to replace No Child Left Behind. School districts nationwide are dealing with massive budget shortfalls that could result in layoffs and cuts to programs and services.

Organization

League for Innovation in Community Colleges

The League for Innovation in Community Colleges is “specifically committed to improving community colleges through innovation, experimentation, and institutional transformation.” Founded in 1968, the League played a key role in helping to increase the number of community colleges nationally during the 1970s and currently is working to help community colleges improve their graduation rates.

Organization

The Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute awarded its first Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence in 2011. Valencia College in Florida won the $600,000 award because of its comparatively high graduation rate and success helping students find jobs. The next prize is schedules to be awarded in 2013.

Organization

Community College Research Center

The Community College Research Center is a key resource for information and data about community colleges. The CCRC is based at the Teachers College, Columbia University. Their research regarding the impact of remedial and developmental courses at community colleges has been particularly notable.

Organization

Association of Community College Trustees

The Association of Community College Trustees is “a non-profit educational organization of governing boards, representing more than 6,500 elected and appointed trustees who govern over 1,200 communities, technical, and junior colleges in the United States.” One of the key services the ACCT offers is an executive search program that helps trustees find leaders for their institutions.

Organization

American Association of Community Colleges

The American Association of Community Colleges is the leading organization for the nation’s nearly 1,200 two-year colleges. The AACC provides guidance and advocates and lobbies on behalf of community colleges. Most recently, the AACC has worked to revise the reporting standards for graduation rate data and has initiated a 21st Century commission to address the changing roles of community colleges.

Organization

Achieving the Dream

Achieving the Dream is a nonprofit initiative “dedicated to helping more community college students, particularly low-income students and students of color, stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree.” Nearly 100 community colleges nationwide are participating in the project.

Key Coverage

California Community Colleges Release Completion Scorecards

California’s community college system on April 9 unveiled Web-based “scorecards” on student performance at its 112 colleges. The new data tool is user-friendly and often sobering, with graduation, retention and transfer rates for each of the colleges and for the overall system, which enrolls 2.4 million students. 

Key Coverage

The Great Aid Gap

As certificates grow in number and importance, many educators are calling attention to what they see as an overlooked problem in the nation’s efforts to upgrade workers’ skills and deal with soaring higher-education costs: Federal financial aid goes overwhelmingly to students in traditional degree programs, while little goes to the many students in noncredit certificate programs who may need it more. 

Key Coverage

California Bill Seeks Campus Credit for Online Study

Legislation will be introduced in the California Senate that could reshape higher education by requiring the state’s public colleges and universities to give credit for faculty-approved online courses taken by students unable to register for oversubscribed classes on campus.

If it passes, as seems likely, it would be the first time that state legislators have instructed public universities to grant credit for courses that were not their own — including those taught by a private vendor, not by a college or university.

Report

Completion Matters: The High Cost of Community Colleges

This report examines the potential financial costs to regions where the community college graduation rates are low. According to the report, “Cutting the dropout rate by half would generate substantial gains: the 160,000 “new” graduates would earn $30 billion more in lifetime income—and create an additional $5.3 billion in total taxpayer revenue.”

Report

Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future

This report from the AACC’s 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges essentially offers a mission statement for two-year institutions as the nation’s economy still seeks to recover from the 2008 financial crisis. The report calls for improved measures and performance on student graduation rates, along with better ties to high schools, the workforce, and four-year colleges. 

Report

Predicting Success in College: The Importance of Placement Tests and High School Transcripts

This study delves into the questions of how best to determine whether students who enroll in community colleges should be placed in college-level or remedial courses, and the effect remedial placement has on graduation rates. The authors find that high school grade point average is more useful when it comes to predicting student success. 

Report

Committee on Measures of Student Success

This final report from a committee gathered to re-evaluate how the U.S. Education Department collects data regarding student graduation rates for postsecondary institutions recommends ways the department could better account for transfer students other students overlooked by the “first-year, full-time enrollment” standard the department had used. Most advocates believe such changes in practice—In April 2012, the Education Department announced plans to enact the recommendations—would benefit community colleges, whose students often transfer.