Data: Many com­mu­nity col­leges are un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated

New study shows schools do­ing bet­ter than first thought.

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - Kevin Carey

A col­lege de­gree is the key to un­lock­ing many of the best ca­reers in the mod­ern la­bor mar­ket. But more than 20 mil­lion work­ing-age adults in the United States are col­lege dropouts, failed in some way by in­sti­tu­tions that col­lec­tively re­ceive hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars in pub­lic fund­ing ev­ery year.

For the last few decades, the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion has tracked grad­u­a­tion rates at col­leges. Al­though a hand­ful of elite col­leges have grad­u­a­tion rates above 90 per­cent, many are be­low 50 per­cent — of­ten, far be­low. col­leges to re­port gradua- But col­leges have long com- tion rates for their bas­ket­plained that the fed­eral rates ball and foot­ball play­ers — are in­ac­cu­rate. Back in 2008, and, while they were at it, Congress di­rected the de­partev­ery­one else. ment to study the mat­ter. The mea­sures were lim-

Two years later (the wheels ited to stu­dents who en­roll of gov­ern­ment turn slowly), in col­lege for the first time the 15-per­son Com­mit­tee and take a full course load. on Mea­sures of Stu­dent This is a per­fectly rea­son- Suc­cess con­vened. I was a able way to mea­sure grad­umem­ber. So was Wayne Bur- ation rates at Bradley’s alma ton, the pres­i­dent of North mater, Prince­ton, be­cause Shore Com­mu­nity Col­lege nearly all un­der­grad­u­ates in Dan­vers, Mas­sachusetts. there start full time, a few Over sev­eral months, Bur- months af­ter fin­ish­ing high ton ar­gued force­fully that school. his col­lege was a lot bet­ter The fed­eral grad­u­a­tion than fed­eral grad­u­a­tion rates rates also cal­cu­lated the sug­gested. The com­mit­tee per­cent­age of stu­dents who de­cided he was on to some- grad­u­ated within six years thing and rec­om­mended that of en­roll­ment. This made the Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment sense for four-year univer- cal­cu­late grad­u­a­tion rates sities, where the vast ma­jor- in a new way. ity of bach­e­lor’s de­grees are

Six more years went by earned within six years. (there was a lot go­ing on). The prob­lem was that the Then this month, the Edu- grad­u­a­tion rate rules were cation De­part­ment re­leased then ap­plied to the en­tire the re­vised set of grad­u­a­tion higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, rates. It turns out that Bur- in­clud­ing two-year com­mu­ton, who has since re­tired nity col­leges, where nearly from academia and joined half of all un­der­grad­u­ates New Hamp­shire’s cit­i­zen Leg- be­gin. The typ­i­cal com­muis­la­ture, was right all along. nity col­lege stu­dent isn’t a

The new data sug­gests that fresh-faced 18-year-old tak­some com­mu­nity col­leges ing a full slate of cour­ses. are do­ing a much bet­ter job Most com­mu­nity col­lege of pre­par­ing stu­dents for stu­dents are non­tra­di­tional — fu­ture suc­cess than they’ve adults, par­ents, peo­ple with got­ten credit for. Law­mak­ers full-time jobs, peo­ple re­turn- and stu­dents may want to ing to school af­ter years away. take a fresh look at them as They of­ten en­roll part time, an af­ford­able start­ing point tak­ing longer to grad­u­ate on the road to­ward a col- than the three years the Edu- lege de­gree. cation De­part­ment used to

The old grad­u­a­tion mea­gauge the suc­cess of peo­ple sures date to the late 1980s, pur­su­ing two-year de­grees. when Sen. Bill Bradley chamMany com­mu­nity col­lege stu­pi­oned leg­is­la­tion re­quir­ing dents also trans­fer to four- age for-profit suc­cess rate to South Univer­sity On­line just 39 per­cent, com­pared re­mains ac­cred­ited by the with 60 per­cent at com­muSouth­ern As­so­ci­a­tion of Col­nity col­leges. leges and Schools, the same

In other words, Gun­der­son body whose re­sponse to a had it back­ward. The new aca­demic cheat­ing scan­dal mea­sures sug­gest that com- at the Univer­sity of North mu­nity col­leges are much Carolina was to put the cam­more suc­cess­ful than for­pus on pro­ba­tion for a sin­profit col­leges, not much less. gle year. They are also far cheaper By com­par­i­son, the grad­uand leave the av­er­age stu­a­tion rate of Ge­or­gia North­dent with much less debt. western Tech­ni­cal Col­lege,

Some for-profit re­sults are a pub­lic school, in­creases cat­a­strophic. Take South Unito 50 per­cent from 25 per­ver­sity, a Sa­van­nah, Geor- cent us­ing the new mea­gia-based for-profit col­lege. sures. Pre­par­ing stu­dents In 2008, it en­rolled 12,233 to trans­fer falls to re­gional new stu­dents in its on­line pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties in Ge­orde­gree pro­grams — more gia, in­stead of com­mu­nity than the Univer­sity of Geor- col­leges. Sa­van­nah State gia and Ge­or­gia State UniverUniver­sity has only a 33 per­sity com­bined. The old mea­cent eight-year grad­u­a­tion sures show South Univer­sity rate. But in­clude trans­fer On­line with a mind-bog­gling stu­dents, and its suc­cess 2.4 per­cent grad­u­a­tion rate. rate rises to 81.2 per­cent. year col­leges be­fore fin­ish- though that group in­cluded But, as with com­mu­nity colThe big pic­ture shows that ing a de­gree — a good re­sult, more than 710,000 part-time leges, most South Univer­sity com­mu­nity col­leges were but one that wasn’t counted stu­dents, who are of­ten less On­line stu­dents are non­tra­di­un­fairly tarred by the old for grad­u­a­tion rates. likely to grad­u­ate, ex­tend­ing tional. What hap­pens when grad­u­a­tion rates. The re­sults

So, fol­low­ing the com­mit­the time frame to eight years all the stu­dents are counted pro­duced by in­clud­ing all tee’s lead, ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­in­creased the av­er­age grad- over a full eight years? stu­dents — and by look­ing cials made sev­eral changes. ua­tion rate to 27 per­cent. An­swer: The grad­u­a­tion over the right time frame They in­cluded part-time and But trans­fers are where rate in­creases to just 7.8 per- and ac­count­ing for tran­sre­turn­ing stu­dents in the cal­com­mu­nity col­leges re­ally cent. Add in trans­fers? 8.1 fers — sug­gest that many cu­la­tion. They ex­tended the shine. Some 510,000 stu- per­cent. In­clude those still prospec­tive un­der­gradu­time pe­riod to eight years. dents trans­ferred be­fore en­rolled? 8.5 per­cent. Three ates may ben­e­fit from givAnd they made sep­a­rate cal­grad­u­at­ing, bring­ing the years af­ter leav­ing col­lege, ing their lo­cal com­mu­nity cu­la­tions of how many stu- com­bined grad­u­a­tion and only 23 per­cent of South col­lege an­other look. And dents trans­ferred be­fore trans­fer rate up to 60 per- Univer­sity On­line stu­dents law­mak­ers who have typ­grad­u­a­tion and how many cent. have paid back even a dol­lar ically un­der­funded comwere still in col­lege. In­clud­ing all of the part- on the prin­ci­pal of their stu- mu­nity col­leges may want

The re­sults paint a very time and re­turn­ing stu­dents dent loans, prob­a­bly be­cause to di­rect more re­sources to dif­fer­ent pic­ture of com­muand look­ing over eight years nearly all of them failed to in­sti­tu­tions that are do­ing nity col­lege suc­cess. The old boosted North Shore’s grad- earn a de­gree. a dif­fi­cult job bet­ter than mea­sures, for ex­am­ple, ca­pu­a­tion rate to 35 per­cent. De­spite these re­sults, we knew. tured about 620,000 stu- An­other 19 per­cent trans­dents who be­gan as first- ferred be­fore grad­u­a­tion. time, full-time fresh­men in Oth­ers were still work­ing 2008. Only 20 per­cent grad- to­ward a de­gree. All told, uated from the com­mu­nity more than half of Bur­ton’s col­lege they started at within stu­dents had a suc­cess­ful out­three years. North Shore come — not, as the old rates Com­mu­nity Col­lege was typ­sug­gested, fewer than 1 in 5. ical — its old grad­u­a­tion rate The for-profit pic­ture is was 19 per­cent. not so rosy. The two-year

Such dire num­bers pro­grams Gun­der­son chose be­came fod­der for peo­ple for com­par­i­son make up de­fend­ing for-profit col- less than one-fifth of all for­leges from heavy crit­i­cism profit en­roll­ment. Four-year of their high cost and poor pro­grams at for-prof­its have out­comes. In 2014, Steve much lower grad­u­a­tion rates Gun­der­son, head of the main than those of com­pa­ra­ble for-profit col­lege trade asso- pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions. Com­ci­a­tion, wrote: “Our in­stitu- bined, they had a 34 per­tions have a 63% grad­u­a­tion cent grad­u­a­tion rate un­der rate in our two-year prothe old mea­sures. And in grams, while our col­leagues con­trast with com­mu­nity at com­pa­ra­ble pub­lic in­sti­col­leges, the new mea­sures tu­tions — com­mu­nity col­make for-prof­its look worse, leges — have a grad­u­a­tion drop­ping their av­er­age gradrate of 20%.” ua­tion rate to 32 per­cent.

The new grad­u­a­tion rates, For-profit stu­dents selby con­trast, cap­tured more dom bring their cred­its elsethan 1.5 mil­lion com­muwhere. In­clud­ing trans­fer nity col­lege stu­dents. Even stu­dents in­creases the aver-


Stu­dents grad­u­ate at Mot­low State Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Tul­la­homa, Tenn. New data sug­gest that some com­mu­nity col­leges are do­ing a much bet­ter job of pre­par­ing stu­dents for fu­ture suc­cess.

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