Credit creep raises community college costs

Credit creep is making it harder for community college students to complete an associate degree. Instead of 60 credits, many degrees require 70 credits or more. That  costs students time and money and lowers the odds they’ll earn a degree.

After two years at community college, transfers to four-year institutions are just as likely to earn a bachelor’s degree as similar students who started at the four-year college or university, an Illinois study finds.

Competency credits ‘unbundle’ college

When nearly three out of four students aren’t enrolled in full-time, four-year degree programs, it’s time to drop “seat time” credits in favor of credits for competency, writes Daniel Greenstein of the Gates Foundation. “Unbundling college will help adult students.

However, documenting students’ competency is challenging.

Lifelong learners

California will continue to let community college students take as many credits as they wish at very low rates. Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to limit low-cost credits to 90 — 30 more than the minimum for a two-year degree — died in the Legislature.

Uncounted credits cost time, money

College credits that don’t count cost transfer students time, money — and often the opportunity to complete a degree.

A third of students transfer at least once, almost always losing credits along the way. The average associate degree graduate has earned 80 credits for a degree that requires 60. Full-time students average 3.8 years to complete a two-year degree. Bachelor’s degree graduates average 136.5 credits and 4.7 years for the 120-credit, four-year degree.

Little college aid for job seekers

Federal college aid overwhelmingly goes to students pursuing degrees, while many seeking vocational certificates don’t qualify for aid. Taxpayers should support people who want to learn high-demand job skills — computer techs and nurse’s aides — not people who want to spend four years studying Shakespeare, argues a workforce researcher.

Students who earn credits for competency, not just “seat time,” will be eligible for federal student aid, if their college’s competency-based program is approved by accreditors.

What do transfer students want?

What do transfer students want? They want to get credits for their credits. Many universities reject credits earned elsewhere, even though students were told the classes would count. That raises costs and  lowers the odds students will complete a degree.

Carnegie eyes replacing Carnegie unit

The Carnegie Unit, which measures learning based on time in class rather than actual learning, may be on the way out. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which developed the measure in 1906, will study ways to measure competency.

A credit here, a credit there

Assembling credits from a variety of online courses, one man earned an associate degree from an accredited college for a total cost of $3,000. Courses ranged from art appreciation, music appreciation, macroeconomics and accounting to a series of Federal Emergency Management Agency courses, including Livestock in Disasters. Just a wee bit incoherent?

Also on Community College SpotlightSmoothing the rocky road to higher education.

College credit for MOOCs?

If students could earn transferable credits for MOOCs (massive open online courses), the cost of higher education will go way down. The American Council on Education and Coursera, a MOOC provider, are looking for ways to translate MOOC learning into college credits, reports the New York Times.

 The council’s credit evaluation process will begin early next year, using faculty teams to begin to assess how much students who successfully complete Coursera MOOCs have learned. Students who want to take the free classes for credit would have to pay a fee to take an identity-verified, proctored exam. If the faculty team deems the course worthy of academic credit, students who do well could pay for a transcript to submit to the college of their choice. Colleges are not required to accept those credits, but similar transcripts are already accepted by 2,000 United States colleges and universities for training courses offered by the military or by employers.

Coursera, founded last year by two Stanford computer professors, Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, has 33 university partners and nearly two million students, who currently can earn certificates of completion, but not academic credit, for their work.

The Gates Foundation is funding research on using MOOCs in remedial math and writing classes.

A free remedial math MOOC is being developed by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  The six-week course will be open to high school students and adult learners who hope to avoid the remedial track and start in college-level math classes.

In a “Fast Track” pilot this summer, 38 low-scoring students took the online course. After six weeks, all but one qualified for college-level math and science courses.

Competency vs. the credit hour

Instead of earning credits for “seat time,” colleges are offering degrees based on showing competency – usually by doing well on a test. Southern New Hampshire University is partnering with employers on a $5,000 online, competency-based associate degree.

Connecticut’s community college presidents are worried about a new state law that lets unprepared students skip remediation and take college-level classes. Those who resist — or all 12 presidents, depending on who you believe —  have been told to apply for “expedited termination” by the end of the month.