Massachusetts ties college $ to results

Massachusetts will link 50 percent of community college funding to improvements in graduation rates, workforce development and minority and low-income student success. That’s one of the most ambitious performance-funding programs in the nation.

More Americans are college graduates

More Americans are earning college degrees: 33.5 percent of Americans ages 25 to 29 had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2012, compared with 24.7 percent in 1995, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The number of two-year college degrees, master’s degrees and doctorates has also risen.

Enrollment and graduation rates are up, reports the New York Times. “The recent recession, which pushed more workers of all ages to take shelter on college campuses while the job market was poor, has also played a role.”

However, only about half of first-time college freshmen in 2006 had earned a degree by 2012, according to the National Student Clearinghouse.

Low-income students continue to lag bar behind.  ”Only about 1 out of 10 Americans whose parents were in the lowest income quartile held four-year college degrees by age 24 in 2011, compared to 7 in 10 from the highest quartile.

Lumina’s new report, A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, estimates that 38.7 percent of working-age Americans (ages 25-64) held a two- or four-year college degree in 2011. That’s rising, but not fast enough to meet the foundation’s Goal 2025, which aims to increase the percentage of Americans with “high-quality degrees and credentials” to 60 percent in 12 years.

“There are worrisome signs that the demand for high-skilled talent is increasing more rapidly than we’re actually educating people,” said Lumina Foundation CEO Jamie P. Merisotis.

Lumina announced 10 achievement targets to raise the college attainment trend lines.

A post-Kodak moment

As Eastman Kodak slid into bankruptcy, a Rochester (New York) community college redesigned its workforce development programs to help the city recover. Once the Big 3 – Kodak, Xerox and Bausch & Lomb — employed 60 percent of Rochester’s workforce. That’s down to 5 percent. But smaller companies have spun off from the Big 3. Hot job: optics technician.

Workforce dropouts rise

Discouraged workers are dropping out of the workforce, masking the true unemployment rate. Only 63.3 percent of working-age adults are in the labor force.  Some enroll in community college — or graduate school. Others apply for disability or take early retirement.

Manufacturers are looking for skilled workers in Minnesota, but technical colleges have a hard time filling all the seats in manufacturing programs, even though pay averages $56,000 a year. Factory work has a stigma.

Rubio: ‘We still need plumbers’

Not everyone needs a four-year degree to be successful, said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. “We still need plumbers.” At 41, he just finished paying off his student debt from college and law school — and he had to write a book to do it.

A Republican bill to streamline federal job training programs passed the House last week, but the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act faces strong opposition from congressional Democrats and the Obama administration.

Community colleges’ future is jobs, jobs, jobs

Once called “democracy’s college,” community colleges are becoming job training centers to supply workers for local employers, writes an English professor. Within the next 20 years, 80 percent of classes will be taught online, predicts Keith Kroll. Ninety percent of instructors will be part-timers who may never meet their students or each other.

 

Study art for art’s sake

Why study art? It’s not a way to boost math and reading scores, much less to prepare students for the 21st century workforce, writes Jay Greene. We’re trying to educate civilized human beings.

As he researches the effect of field trips to art museums on student learning, Greene encounters arts educators eager to climb on the economic utility bandwagon. Afraid art will be seen as a frill, they feel compelled to argue it’s a form of job training.

Most of what students learn in math and reading also has no economic utility.  Relatively few students will ever use algebra, let alone calculus, in their jobs.  Even fewer students will use literature or poetry in the workplace. When will students “use” history?  We don’t teach those subjects because they provide work-related skills. We teach algebra, calculus, literature, poetry, and history for the same reasons we should be teaching art — they help us understand ourselves, our cultural heritage, and the world we live in.  We teach them because they are beautiful and important in and of themselves.

Policymakers, pundits and others suffering from PLDD (petty little dictator disorder) use economic utility to club their critics into submission, Greene writes. Even math and reading must prove to be economically useful.

You have folks like Tony Wagner and the 21st Century Skills movement suggesting that we cut algebra because students won’t ‘need’ it.  Instead, students would be better off learning communication skills, like how to prepare an awesome Power Point (TM).  And you have Common Core cutting literature in English in favor of “informational texts.”

If the purpose of school is workforce prep, then let’s do away with it and set up apprenticeships, Greene writes.

His study asked 4,000 students to write short essays in response to Bo Bartlett’s painting, The Box.  ”It may be harder to code and analyze essays about paintings than to run another value-added regression on the math and reading scores that the centralized authorities have collected for us, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important.”

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The diamond economy

The U.S. economy resembles an hourglass with a pinched middle, writes Marc Tucker. Singapore has a diamond economy, thanks to its educated workforce.

(Singapore) built a very high floor under the entire workforce by providing a world-class academic curriculum to all their students and creating a world-class teaching force to teach that curriculum.  They built a system of polytechnics as good as any in the world to provide very highly skilled senior technical workers for a wide range of industries.  Perhaps most impressive, they created a set of post-secondary vocational schools for the bottom quarter of their students as fine as any I have seen anywhere in the world, with facilities that rival those of many American universities.  They turned vocational education and training from a dumping ground into a sought-after alternative that attracts more and more students every year.

Ninety percent of Singapore’s vocational graduates have job offers in their chosen fields within six months of graduation, Tucker writes.  Youth unemployment is very low.

More jobs for 2-year graduates

Employment is surging for community college graduates while four-year graduates wait tables — and wait to start their professional careers.

Employers want universities to collaborate on job training, but it’s a tough sell.

NC creates ‘stackable’ energy jobs credentials

North Carolina community colleges have consolidated energy-related job training, creating “stackable” credentials that let students move easily between work and advanced schooling. A worker could earn an entry-level certificate in skills needed by employers, find a job and return later for a higher-level certificate or associate degree that “stacks” on the work previously done.