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  • Report: Reclaiming the American Dream. The overall goal of the 21st-Century Initiative by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is to educate an additional 5 million students with degrees, certificates, or other credentials by 2020. In Phase 1, AACC staff gathered information from across the nation on student access, institutional accountability, budget constraints, big ideas for the future, and what AACC can do for its members. The 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges represents Phase 2 of the AACC effort. Recognizing that emerging challenges require unprecedented vision, ingenuity, courage, and focus from community colleges, the Commission was asked both to safeguard the fundamental mission of the community college—ensuring that millions of diverse and often underserved students attain a high-quality college education—and to challenge community colleges to imagine a new future for themselves, to ensure the success of our students, our institutions, and our nation. In this investigation, everything was to be put on the table, including the issues of the nation’s prosperity and its global competitiveness, community college student success and completion rates, equity of access and outcomes across student groups, public accountability for institutional performance and student success, and effectiveness and efficiency in preparing students for real jobs paying family-supporting wages. This report is the culmination of that effort.
  • How Might a Next Generation Higher Education Work? This Getting Smart post describes the three traits that the next generation of higher education will need to survive:
       1. Affordability: Cost-effective learning experiences that provide a superior ROI.
       2. Employability: Graduates leave with a high level of knowledge and skills and experience applying them in work settings.
       3. Flexibility: The ability to secure tailored supports, adapt to complex schedules/lives, and accelerate particularly for adults that have knowledge and skills and are looking for credentially. 
  • The Future of Community Colleges. Many residential university campuses will basically cease to exist over the next few decades replaced by MOOCs and other technology-driven forms of mass learning. Community colleges, too, could outsource many of their courses via MOOCs, but five areas in which they will excel, and which make it unlikely that they will be disappearing anytime soon, are the following: 
       1. Work-force development and training.
       2. Remedial education.
       3. Online education.
       4. Classroom teaching.
       5. Economic value. 
  • Nursing Schools Reinventing Recruitment. Nursing schools devise alternate ways to attract faculty amidst the nation’s nursing shortage. Schools are rethinking and redesigning their traditional recruiting and retention strategies. Their solutions are quite varied, ranging from creating e-jobs and dual appointments to sharing existing faculty. 
  • Predicting Student Success: Beyond the Traditional Approach. By transitioning from a risk-based model for predicting student enrollment and retention to a success-based model, you can look across the student life cycle to identify not only the factors that impede desired outcomes such as yield and student retention, but also the factors that contribute to those outcomes. Here are articles and a complimentary recorded webcast to help unpack this approach. 
  • Learning Spaces: Meeting Expectations for Classroom Teaching and Collaboration. Gone are the days when a basic classroom with a podium and desks was considered an acceptable learning space. Key trends identified in the 2012 Horizon Report, a collaboration between the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative, include the shift in education paradigms to include online learning, hybrid learning, and the collaborative model; a new emphasis in the classroom on more challenge-based and active learning; and a change in the way student projects are structured, driven by the increasingly collaborative work world. Here are examples of how institutions are adapting to shifting trends by creating learning spaces that foster innovative thinking and collaboration—and prepare students for the future. 
  • Liberal Arts Losing to 'High-demand' Degrees. San Antonio area universities have moved to prioritize programs emphasizing science and technology, along with professional degrees such as business administration. Students increasingly take humanities courses only to meet general education requirements in pursuit of professional or “high-demand” degrees. 
  • A Better Transcript? In an attempt to signal workplace readiness to employers, a two-year college in Missouri issues "job readiness work ethic" scores on students' transcripts, as well as a rating for attendance. Instructors score students in six areas: safety, trust, timeliness, work habits, interpersonal skills, and citizenship. 
  • Redefining College-Ready. Long Beach City College and South Texas College have learned that better collaboration with local high schools may be the best way to dramatically reduce the number of students who fall into the quagmire of placement tests and remedial coursework.
  • Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century. This U.S. Department of Education brief takes a close look at a core set of noncognitive factors—grit, tenacity, and perseverance. The brief takes the position that it is the responsibility of the educational community to design learning environments that promote these factors so that students are prepared to meet 21st-century challenges. 
  • Why Rethinking Developmental Education is a Priority. Academic leaders at two-year and four-year institutions offer effective alternative approaches to traditional remedial education. These institutions have seen significant gains in completion and retention rates by accelerating the developmental track and replacing prerequisite coursework with corequisite support.
  • Latin America: Universities Try to Attract English-Speaking Students by Offering More Courses in English and Seeking Accreditation in the United States. Latin American universities are taking steps to attract English-speaking students who may have ignored the region previously, by offering more courses in English and seeking accreditation in the United States. Universities from Tijuana to Tierra del Fuego are part of an increased push to make campuses more inviting for students from the northern hemisphere. But the region needs to do a better job looking out for its own or Latin America risks losing economic ground if the multinationals setting up shop in Latin America look for better-educated work forces elsewhere.
  • Rise of Customized Learning. Western Governors U. and others continue to expand competency-based education amid excitement (and confusion) about President Obama's praise of the approach.
  •  Succession Planning. A year ago, the American Council on Education’s regular survey of college and university presidents issued a warning in the form of demographics. Fifty-eight percent of college and university presidents were 61 years old or older, according to the survey, a finding that presaged dramatic turnover in the composition of the upper ranks of higher education leadership. Examples abound. A large part of the council’s annual conference taking place this week is looking at who will fill vacancies as they arise and how current administrators and institutional governing boards will ensure that the next generation of leaders have the aptitudes necessary to tackle the litany of challenges that await them in the top campus jobs. 
  • Employment Mismatch. Half of employers surveyed by The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media's Marketplace said they had trouble finding recent graduates qualified to fill positions at their company. Nearly a third gave colleges just fair to poor marks for producing successful employees. And they feel that bachelor's-degree holders lack basic workplace proficiencies, like adaptability, communication skills, and the ability to solve complex problems.
  • Colleges Ask Government to Clarify Rules for Credit Based on Competency. Forty years after Regents College became the first in the nation to award degrees based on proof of prior learning, competency-based education, as its model became known, may finally be on the verge of federal approval. Within days, the U.S. Department of Education is expected to approve Southern New Hampshire University's request to award federal student aid based not on credit hours, but on a series of measured ‘competencies.’ Several other programs are seeking recognition from regional accreditors, a prerequisite to federal approval. Yet many college leaders and accreditors say the rules governing competency-based learning remain unclear, and they fault the Education Department for sending mixed messages about its willingness to move beyond seat time in allocating aid. They say the uncertainty is stifling innovation and discouraging more colleges from experimenting with new measures of student learning. (The department declined a request for comment.) In an effort to clarify the rules, a group of influential foundations is planning a spring meeting on the future of competency-based programs. The goal, organizers say, is to create a ‘safe space’ where accreditors, state regulators, department officials, and colleges can figure out ways to promote the programs, while protecting taxpayer dollars from fraud.
  •  The Disruption Higher Education Does Not See Coming. No, not MOOCs. Badges. As they mature beyond where they are currently, badges have the potential to disrupt formal education in a way that none of the technology innovations we have seen in the last couple of decades have.
  • Community College Pathways: 2011-2012 Descriptive Report. Between 60 to 70 percent of incoming community college students typically must take at least one developmental mathematics course before they can enroll in college-credit courses. However, 80 percent of the students who place into developmental mathematics do not successfully complete any college-level course within three years. Many students spend long periods of time repeating courses and most simply leave college without a credential. As a consequence, millions of people each year are not able to progress toward their career and life goals. Equally important, these students lack command of the mathematics that matters for living in an increasingly quantitative age and to be critically engaged citizens. The Carnegie Foundation formed a network of community colleges, professional associations, and educational researchers to develop and implement the Community College Pathways Program. The program is organized around two structured pathways, known as Statway™ and Quantway™. Both aim to simplify students’ path through their development mathematics sequence. Rather than a seeming random walk through a maze of possible course options, these pathways reduce the number of courses required while improving the content and pedagogy for developmental mathematics. 
  • Reassessing the Costs and Benefits of Developmental Education. Half of all undergraduates take at least one remedial course, but less than half complete the remedial course sequence, let alone go on to complete a degree. This article from our recent monthly edition offers an opportunity to examine—and rethink—the costs of developmental education. 
  • Bigfoot, Goldilocks, and Moonshots: A Report from the Frontiers of Personalized Learning. More than four years ago, a report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and Public Agenda noted: ‘In the view of many college and university presidents, the three main factors in higher education -- cost, quality, and access -- exist in what we call an iron triangle. These factors are linked in an unbreakable reciprocal relationship, such that any change in one will inevitably impact the others. Unfortunately, that ‘iron triangle’ remains strong, encapsulating a challenge that continues to face higher education today. Fortunately, the resolve and creativity of higher education innovators are producing a set of solutions that have the potential to break the ‘iron triangle.’ These solutions are not theoretical; they are reaching hundreds of thousands of students today. The detailed results are still emerging, but the initial results suggest we may be able to deliver high-quality education at an affordable price without sacrificing access.
  • Assessing Student Learning Outcomes: Surveys Aren’t Enough. 89% of student affairs professionals rely on surveys as their primary means of collecting data to assess student learning – but there are more direct ways to collect the data needed. John Hoffman explains. 
  • College Readiness in the United States. Pearson recently released a series of infographics that explore pre-college, entry/assessment/placement, and developmental education. Pearson found that 75 percent of students are college commuters, often juggling families, jobs and school, 50 percent of students seeking an associate degree require remediation, and 20.7 percent of students seeking a bachelor degree require remediation.
  • The Value of an Online College Education. A 2013 survey of past, present and future online college students reveals the high value of an online college education. By offering degrees online, college open their doors to a whole new student population.
  • OECD Review of Vocational Education and Training. This OECD report (“A Skills Beyond School Review of the United States”) recommends ways for career and technical education to have better and more predictable outcomes. Its recommendations include: substantially strengthening quality assurance in postsecondary education and its links to title IV student aid; establishing a quality standard for certifications; and obtaining better data on both certifications and certificates. 
  • Recurring Transfer Trends. This CollegeBoard report (“Recurring Trends and Persistent Themes: A Brief History of Transfer”) describes the transfer pathway as an outgrowth of the community college movement, but also links its origin and subsequent development with that of four-year colleges and universities, as well as powerful cultural and economic trends in American higher education at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. The report goes on to describe the creation and expansion of the transfer pathway from its initial incarnation in the mid-1800s to its current function as a major avenue of access to a baccalaureate degree for thousands of students, especially those from underserved groups. This historical analysis reveals three long-term trends that continue to influence the effectiveness of the transfer pathway as it is conceptualized and practiced today:
    1. Transfer has been and continues to be the central and preeminent mission of the community college, although the expanding mission of these two-year institutions placed transfer in greater competition for attention and resources.
    2. Transfer has been and continues to be a shared responsibility of two- and four-year institutions, although the wide-ranging indifference of four-year colleges and universities toward the students that travel this pathway undermines its effectiveness.
    3. Transfer has been and continues to be the most popular educational goal of new, first-time community college students, despite sustained effort on the part of two- and four-year leaders to divert students toward sub-baccalaureate goals.
  • The Return on Investment of a College Education. Based on information from five states, this American Institute for Research report finds that some two-year degrees and certificates are worth as much as four-year degrees. Also, employers are offering higher wages to employees with degrees in technology, engineering, and mathematics than to holders of science degrees. Included in this report:
    - Some Short-Term, Higher Education Credentials Are Worth as Much as Long-Term Ones
    - First-Year Earnings of Completers of Certificates and Associate’s Degrees
    - First-Year Earnings of Graduates With Bachelor’s Degrees and Master’s Degrees
    - How Well Are STEM Graduates From Texas Faring in the Labor Market? 
  • 2013 Community College Rankings. Based on CCSSE results, Persistence, 3-Year Graduation/Transfer Rates, and Number of Credentials Awarded per 100 FTE Students, Washington Monthly Magazine has produced the 2013 Community College Rankings. Only one college from Texas (Texas State Technical College, Marshall) appears in the list of top 50 community colleges. 
  • Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education. Prison inmates who receive general education and vocational training are significantly less likely to return to prison after release and are more likely to find employment than peers who do not receive such opportunities, according to this new report.
  • Texas Institutions Announce Competency-Based Program. Texas A&M University-Commerce and South Texas College will next spring launch a competency-based degree program in organization leadership. The programs will be created in cooperation with Pearson, which will create online courses totaling 90 credit hours. Pearson estimates the program will enroll 250 students in its inaugural semester -- a number that will grow to more than 6,000 students by 2019.
  • New High School to Offer Associate’s Degrees. As early as fall 2014, parents in the Arlington school district will send their high school freshman to a Tarrant County College campus. Geared toward first-generation college students, an Early College High School is expected to open at TCC’s Southeast campus where students will receive instruction and textbooks for free.
  •  GAO Looks at Remedial Education Ideas. This Government Accountability Office report takes a look at several states and community colleges' efforts to improve developmental education, including: helping students prepare for placement tests and working with local high schools to align curricula. However, it’s not clear whether remedial education reforms are boosting student success rates, the report concluded. 
  • Colleges Gear Up for New GED Test. With the GED test changes taking effect in January, many community colleges are urging adult basic education students to take the test as soon as possible. Meanwhile, colleges such as Lewis and Clark Community College (IL) are training students to use computers so they are prepared for the new computer-based test. 
  • DIY College Rankings. A new Web site allows users to create their own rankings of college, based on the weights they assign to various criteria.
  • Higher Education in 2020. What will higher education look like in 2020? A new report from the Britain-based Observatory on Borderless Higher Education draws on interviews with 21 international education professionals in an attempt to answer just that. Here are a few of its main findings. 
  • Who's Going to (and Graduating) from College. These 7 charts on enrollment and completion rates by race, gender, and household income depict several datasets that suggest a higher education landscape that is struggling to respond to demographic changes in the broader U.S. populace.
  • Assessing Underserved Students’ Engagement in High-Impact Practices. While educators are scrambling to increase retention and graduation rates to meet the goals of the completion agenda, there is increasing evidence about what works to improve students’
    learning and success. Much is known about the advantages of providing engaged learning experiences (often referred to as “high-impact practices”) for students. A cursory scan of campus
    websites will provide at least one, if not multiple, highlights of these practices: students giving back to the community, students engaging with faculty, students working collaboratively,
    students engaging in field research, students studying abroad. But when it comes to student success and learning, what exactly is the payoff for this engagement? And for whom? This publication investigates the impact of engagement in high-impact practices on first-generation, minority, transfer, and low-income students. It points toward the need to make high-impact practices pervasive on campus. It also includes a toolkit on assessing equity in high-impact practices.
  • GAO Finds Gaps in Job Training. Local work force development organizations face numerous challenges as they seek to help employers fill some jobs that require skilled labor, according to this new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Job seekers often do not have the money, transportation or child care options to be able to pursue suggested training, the report found. And many lack the basic skills needed to participate in training programs. The report found that in 80 percent of local areas, employers had difficulty filling "middle skilled" jobs (such as welders, truck drivers or machinists) because the positions require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. Workers often lack the support to get that training, according to the GAO. To help deal with this problem the U.S. Department of Labor recommends the use of a "career pathways" approach, which combines job training with basic skills education and support services. But little is known about how broadly that approach is being used.
  • College Students’ Paths into and out of STEM Fields. According to this NCES study's findings, a total of 48% of bachelor’s degree students and 69% of associate’s degree students who entered STEM fields between 2003 and 2009 had left these fields by spring 2009. Taking lighter credit loads in STEM courses in the first year, taking less challenging math courses in the first year, and performing poorly in STEM classes relative to non-STEM classes were associated with an increased probability of switching majors.