Thursday, October 30, 2014

Gainful Employment Rules for Education Programs

Federal education officials issued final rules this week to ensure vocational programs lead to jobs. The effort caps four years of debate and legal challenges and was initially spurred by reports of high student loan default rates and poor job outcomes among students attending some for-profit postsecondary institutions. An estimated 1,400 programs--nearly all for-profits--are expected to fail to meet these standards, which puts them at risk of losing access to federal student loan funds, according to Arne Duncan, education secretary. The federal government provides $16 billion in loans and $6 billion in Pell Grants each year toward employment programs, according to a report in Inside Higher Ed. Students attending for-profit and community college workforce programs use these forms of funding. The for-profit industry is expected to challenge these rules too. According to a fact sheet, programs must certify that their vocational programs' graduates are paying below a certain threshold of their post-graduation/credentialing annual earnings toward loans. They have up to 3-4 years to improve the outcomes to avoid ineligibility. The new rules are scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2015.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Unconstructive vs. Constructive Viewpoints on Education Innovation

Veteran New York Times op ed writer Bob Herbert has a new book out about "America" -- by which he means the United States, as opposed to South America, Central America, or North America -- and how it is losing its way. Among other things, Herbert takes a contrary position toward charter school experimentation and technology engineering in education. His basic point is that "the rich" are damaging U.S. public education by getting educators to try experiments with alternative delivery models in education because these experiments often fail to show better results than business-as-usual. His alma mater, Empire State College (NY) is, interestingly enough, in the vanguard of such experimentation. Perhaps that is what irks him. Not sure. The problems with his argument are, first, he fails to acknowledge the positive findings of the successful experiments, second, he fails to acknowledge the very real constraints of mass education business-as-usual, such as the limitations of time and attention that any single teacher can have for any single learner, and third, he does not provide any insight to advance understanding of how to address these real problems.  He appears to be well-meaning in a fiery sort of way, but has applied the us-them, rich-vs.-poor schema in a way that is about as helpful to those working in the trenches as wringing one's hands might be to a scientist trying to find the cure to cancer.

More helpful is the perspective of those actually engaged in these experiments. Here is the view of Terry Norris from the College of Southern Nevada, a college technology administrator who notes that online technology can work but that it needs systems to enhance personal connections between learners and teachers and ways to flag when students are falling behind. I also highly recommend the book by education reporter Amanda Ripley, The Smartest Kids in the World, a very thoughtfully constructed exploration of the education systems of a few of the countries that outscore the U.S. on the PISA critical thinking test. Refreshingly, it is told from the perspective of everyday American exchange students studying in three of these other countries--Finland, South Korea, and Poland. These are fresh voices precisely because instead of framing every critique of education as part of tiresome culture wars narrative, they recognize that the U.S. has real problems with its educational system that need to be solved.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A new idea: Centralized workforce credentials?

Seeking to expand the options for documenting workforce-relevant expertise, a group of foundation and advocacy group leaders convened this week in Washington to explore the idea of developing guidelines for national workforce credentialing standards. The group seeks to implement a national credentialing program, as noted within a larger policy document released earlier this year. They seek to set guidelines for new "micro-credentialing tools," such as digital badges and e-portfolios. The effort is being led by the Lumina Foundation and the American Association of Community Colleges.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Calculating the value of college

President Obama has proposed rating colleges as a way to channel more students to colleges that are worthwhile, but the idea has yet to gel and already is facing criticism by academia. Academics dismissed the presidents' proposal overwhelmingly in comments to an article in Inside Higher Education covering an interview by Tumblr with the president about high student debt. The president's broad goal is to permit consumers to determine the cost-benefits of higher education expenses. The actual Tumblr interview was much more wide-ranging--addressing government efforts to attract more students to STEM fields and to help those going into low-paying, public service fields. Currently, the most popularly-known college ranking system is conducted by the U.S. News and World Report, which is informed by factors other than student outcomes, such as how much research funding a university amasses. There have been efforts by a group using regional employment data and other research organizations using college loan data to provide such data to students and their families too.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Facing changes in funding game, CCs define new rules

Community college systems, which have increasingly seen their state funding shift away from the number of students they enroll to how many they graduate, seek to influence the way their performance is gauged by redefining the rules of accountability. Two states have adopted the Voluntary Accountability Framework, an initiative of the American Association of Community Colleges, as a system to report how how their colleges are performing, and several other states are considering adoption. The framework seeks to broaden accountability metrics beyond a narrow focus on degree completion and to consider the performance of part-time, not just full-time, students. Community colleges have long argued that federal accountability systems place too much emphasis on the types of degree completion metrics that favor the 4-year university model. By contrast, they argue they serve a more diverse set of students who have a more complex set of goals and educational pathways.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

CCs and Udacity focus on Corporate Training

The vast Maricopa Community College system in Arizona has responded to reduced state support by expanding its contract training business with local industry. This article mentions Global Corporate College (GCC), a small Ohio woman-owned startup to help colleges capture this business. I met with GCC founder, Denise Reading, and her team, last year as part of some exploratory technology work with my employer. Additionally, this article refers to Udacity founder, Sebastian Thrun's, announcement some months back about his interest in seeing MOOCs support corporate training. There are some technological hurdles to clear to design and develop the content for online learning materials, particularly to ensure the quality of the learning experience.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Few CC Students Prep for Math Placement Exam

According to data from the American Association of Community Colleges, only a third of entering students study for the mathematics placement exam. In most colleges, a poor score on this test channels students into remedial math classes that cost them and taxpayers money without earning college credit. Research indicates as many as 40% of these students never complete college as they fail to pass these classes. These classes cover high school algebra, a form of mathematics required in only 5% of jobs that require "some college."