Sunday, January 4, 2009

Catching Up with the New Year

The beginning of the year is a time for renewed resolve, and in this spirit, I'm passing along some fundamental background reading on community colleges from the National Center for Education Statistics. This federal agency gathers data from most post-secondary institutions that participate in financial aid programs. Below are some reports based on these data, and all reminded me of my experiences as a young woman who took a non-traditional path through higher education, dipping in and out of the workplace with little financial support from my family.

Community Colleges: Special Supplement to The Condition of Education, issued by the U.S. Department of Education in August 2008, reports that 45 percent of community college freshmen drop out after two years of school, which is much higher than the 16 to 17 percent of 4-year college freshmen who drop out. About 39% of the community college dropouts originally intended to transfer to a 4-year college. Some research has noted that the federal data collection system needs to keep better track of how many of these "drop outs" in fact transfer to other higher education institutions (Cabrera, Burkum, & La Nasa, 2003). There is, it seems, a lot of shopping around and moving around among adults seeking to improve their skills.

Career and Technical Education in the United States: 1990 to 2005, another report from the Department of Education, reported that, in high school, more boys than girls focus on work-related courses, but in post-secondary schools, more women than men take the credential or work-related courses. Most women focus on careers in health fields, business, and computers. In addition, from 1990 to 2004, there were big increases--ranging from 35 percent to 66 percent--in the number of career education students who worked full-time while they studied. Part-timers have a higher chance of dropping out than full-timers.

National Assessment of Vocational Education reported the good news that U.S. colleges and universities are open to a more diverse group of students than ever, but also reported the bad news that these diverse students are not always completing their degrees.

Profile of Undergraduates in U.S. Postsecondary Institutions: 1999-2000 reported that while men can secure higher incomes with a minimum of post-secondary coursework, women do not experience the same income increases until they complete a certificate or degree.