College without end

Yet another study has found California’s community colleges aren’t helping many students earn degrees.

Only one-quarter of community college students seeking transfer to a four-year college or a two-year degree or certificate succeed within six years, according to a study released Thursday.

Educators and policy-makers have spent more time and money helping students get into college than on helping them earn their degrees, researchers at California State University-Sacramento found.

“Two-year” college is a misnomer.

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Comments

  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    There needs to be a place to go and learn a specific, albeit non-degreed subject.
    Why not eliminate lower division in universities and put that money in JCs?
    Of course that would play hell with football, so forget it.

  2. “Educators and policy-makers have spent more time and money helping students get into college than on helping them earn their degrees”…kind of like a sleazy corporation that is very interested in marketing but not very interested in actually delivering useful products or services.

    And I don’t think this phenomenon is limited to *two year* colleges.

  3. I took a class at a local CC in 1976, and a second one last year.

    I guess that makes me a 30-year student of the community colleges – and one without a degree (at least from that college).

  4. Marshall, the study only looked at students seeking transfer, a degree or a certificate. It excluded students like you who just signed up for one or two courses.

  5. But aren’t these students the lowest of the low as far as high school predictors of college success?

    I think we should quit pretending that everyone is capable of going to college or once in college, of graduating.

    We’ve already dumbed down high school; are we now going to insist it’s the colleges fault when people don’t graduate too?

    People who can’t or won’t do the work shouldn’t move on. Let’s not fault the schools for this.

  6. Well, it’s not like there’s an incentive for the JCs to actually get the students out of there. If the students get their credentials, they stop coming, and therefore tuition and fees stop coming. As there’s no repercussions for the JCs when students don’t move on, it doesn’t seem like a problem for them.

  7. Cardinal Fang says:

    From the article:

    “The Sacramento researchers, legislators and college leaders agreed that better financial-aid programs could help more students finish college by devoting themselves to their studies full time. Other studies have shown that full-time students have higher graduation rates.”

    BZZZT! BZZZZT! Correlation is not causation. It’s naive to think that fulltime students and part-time students are identical except in their class schedules.

  8. wayne martin says:

    > BZZZT! BZZZZT! Correlation is not causation.

    And neither does correlation discount causation.

    > It’s naive to think that fulltime students and part-time
    > students are identical except in their class schedules.

    This is true. The problem turns out to be how expensive CCs are in California. Their budget turns out to be over $4B, almost as much as the UC and CSU system combined. If part time students really have no idea what they are doing, or have little chance of ever graduating from college—then it’s a poor use of public money to subsidize their dabbling with “education”. Same for people who have already graduated, and are inclined to sit in a class somewhere, rather than a bar or watch TV. Distance learning classes should be offered to such folks, rather than paying top dollar (salary and benefits including pension) for teaching staff (not to mention the huge capital expense of the CC campuses). The CCs should charge full boat for people with BS (or better), and a surcharge for capital building projects. The same for people who have been there beyond some reasonable timeframe, such as two years.

  9. “these students the lowest of the low as far as high school predictors of college success?”

    This isn’t always the case–my son, who left American high school to study in Hungary for his Sr. year, is at Pasadena City College, and his classmates are either too broke or too burdened by family obligations to go away to a 4 year school. Or they’re like he is, bright, semi-motivated, and somewhat immature. He’s had excellent teachers and complete morons, and PCC is at the top of the heap of CCs.

    One problem is that it’s very hard to get the credits needed to transfer to a UC, and if you mess up (and get academic probation), you basically sit out 2 semesters in terms of advance registration. It’s a weird system.

  10. It depends upon how narrow or broad your idea of education is. I, for one, don’t claim to know whether clay pottery classes taught at West Valley College in Saratoga, have a positive or negative effect on the economy of California.

    But I can see 2 strong arguments for continuing them – (1) that people are happier when they have hobbies, and healthier when they are happier, and thus there is probably a positive correlation between providing hobby classes and reducing the health care costs of the state. (2) that a number of the people involved in these kind of classes are artistic types who might occasionally end up being actual pottery artists, and the product they make will enhance the state economy.

    A distant third is that being in those classes is healthier than “sitting in a bar or watching TV”.

  11. wayne martin says:

    > It depends upon how narrow or broad your idea of education is.

    The question is not about “education”, but the funding of “education”. These are not the same things, and should not be folded together. There is some reason to provide a certain amount of state-subsidized education for purposes of creating a baseline for a literate society. Lifetime education subsidy should not be the responsibility of the state.

    > But I can see 2 strong arguments for continuing them –

    > that people are happier when they have hobbies, and
    > healthier when they are happier, and thus there is probably a
    > positive correlation between providing hobby classes and
    > reducing the health care costs of the state.

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard a reason like this to justify state-sponsored “hobby” classes. Presumably you can point us to on-line data that justifies this point-of-view? (If not on-line, then the publication number from the state health service will do.)

    Personally, I doubt reason (1) is true, or very true. Health care costs tend to be about 16% of the national GDP, so I’ll assume that the same is true here in California. Given a roughly $1.5T GDP, the health care costs for the state (all sources of spending) come to about $240B. It’s very difficult to believe that “hobby” classes at CCs will shave very much off this amount.

    Note – according to the Governor’s most recent State-of-the-State speech: “Overall Health Care Spending Has Nearly Doubled In A Decade. Overall health care spending in California was nearly $170 billion in 2004, up from about $90 billion in 1993 and under $60 billion in 1988. Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of the Actuary, “2004 State Estimates,” May 2006.”.

    So, medical spending has almost tripled in California since 1988, even though the CCs have been offering “hobby classes” during this period of time. So, where’s the payoff in terms of real cost reduction that we can attribute to “hobby classes”?

    > that a number of the people involved in these kind of
    > classes are artistic types who might occasionally end up
    > being actual pottery artists, and the product they make
    > will enhance the state economy.

    Perhaps true, perhaps not. Certainly having hard data on this would be useful in the arguing this point. Any data to share on this point?

  12. I believe that hobby classes taught by California community colleges must be supported entirely by student fees. Of course, many subsidized classes are taken by people who aren’t going for degrees. I took darkroom photography at a community college in the vain hope it would help me get a newspaper job. All my photos were very dramatic — because they were underlit.

  13. wayne martin says:

    > I believe that hobby classes taught by California
    > community colleges must be supported entirely by
    > student fees.

    I vaguely remember something along these lines. Looking at the West Valley College WEB-site, the cost per credit seems to be $20. Looking at the catalog, there didn’t seem to be a section that explicitly called out “hobby” courses, so it’s not clear that there are any “hobby” courses that are self-supporting offered at this CC.

    The issue of total-cost recovery has been fought tooth-and-nail by college administrators, who have built an impressive domain for themselves by virtue of the State Legislature’s giving them $4 B yearly, with no accountability. Full cost recovery (for classes) would include a surcharge for campus site costs (bonds for some CCs in California have gotten to be as big as $500M of late). These costs appear on the property tax bills of property owners, not students–who believe that they should get a free ride.

    > I took darkroom photography at a community college
    > in the vain hope it would help me get a newspaper job.

    This sort of class could just as easily be taught in the private sector. There is nothing about darkroom (or any other skill-based course of instruction) that needs to be taught in a college, much less a publicly-subsidized college.

    West Valley (for instance) does have a small number of on-line classes. This is a growing trend in California CCs, the acceptance of these classes by students in the CCs is not generally known.

  14. Cardinal Fang says:

    At Foothill College, the “hobby” classes are not listed on the website or in the regular academic catalog. Instead, they are sent out in a flyer that goes to local residents. I don’t have a flyer in front of me, but if I recall correctly they are on such subjects as Feng Shui, making money in real estate and flower arranging.

    Right now I’m taking two online academic classes from community college. Both are vastly inferior to the bricks-and-mortar academic classes I’ve taken there. My son is taking a brick-and-mortar section of one of the same classes I’m taking online, and as far as I can tell, his class is way better, way more interesting and way more demanding. I’m disappointed in the online classes.

  15. wayne martin says:

    > Right now I’m taking two online academic classes from
    > community college. Both are vastly inferior to the
    > bricks-and-mortar academic classes I’ve taken there. My
    > son is taking a brick-and-mortar section of one of the same
    > classes I’m taking online, and as far as I can tell, his class is
    > way better, way more interesting and way more demanding.
    > I’m disappointed in the online classes.
    .
    Thanks for the data point.

    Hopefully you will take and hour or two and write a thoughtful critique of this class when it’s over—pointing out its strength’s and weaknesses. Some have suggested that class participation is important for “education” to occur. Perhaps this is true in come cases, perhaps not in all. If this case is one of those where class participation is perceived as lacking, would the introduction of software that allowed group participation (2-4 people at a time) add some of the needed interaction?

    With the $4B (plus) resources, there is no reason that the California CCs should not develop first class distance learning delivery platforms (even if the work is done in the UC system and used by the CSU and CCs).

    It would be interesting to learn who developed this course, and if the courseware will be incrementally improved, or dropped for some other courseware that will be offered at a later date.

    You have a unique opportunity to contribute to the improvement of distance learning technology here—why not take full advantage of this opportunity?

  16. Cardinal Fang says:

    I’ll be happy to write a description of why I’m unhappy with the two online classes, but then where should it go?

  17. the professor, the departmemt chair, the dean are good starts.

  18. wayne martin says:
  19. Cardinal Fang says:

    Wayne: Typo? You provided the link to the “hobby” courses at Foothill/De Anza. That doesn’t answer the question of where I ought to send my writeup of the online classes.

    However, it does demonstrate that those “hobby” classes are much more expensive than the academic classes. You might want to argue that some of the academic classes ought to be reclassified as hobby courses. (I don’t want to argue that, but you might.)

  20. wayne martin says:

    > Typo?

    Not exactly .. I couldn’t find a WEB-site or telephone number for on-line course development, other than the one which I posted. I called the 408- number and asked to whom one would speak to talk about course critiques. The representative said that F/D contracts with a company called: Education-2-Go: http://www.ed2go.com/

    The F/D representative asked if the course in question was an Ed-2-Go course? If it is, you might want to look over the Ed-2-Go WEB-site. The fellow said you could call the 408- number and chat if you were enrolled in an Ed-2-Go class.

    As to the course costs, I expect that we would have to convert the cost cost to a per-unit cost to make a comparison with the “academic” courses.

  21. Cardinal Fang says:

    Here’s the website for F/D online courses. In addition, the two courses I’m taking use Beoga (in my family we’ve taken to calling it “Statistics for Stupid People”) and Aplia(excellent software badly used in this course).

  22. Cardinal Fang says:

    Here is Rules of the Game(pdf), the actual report on how community colleges are not doing enough to ensure that students who are seeking degrees get them.

    The report is somewhat over-counting in determining which CC students are seeking a degree, certificate or transfer. Anyone who meets one of these criteria is counted:

    1) 17-19 years of age, but not a high school student
    2) completed 12 units and attempted a transfer-level English or math course
    3) indicated a goal of completion at enrollment or to a counselor