Roanoke’s WSLS ran a story last night looking at the impact of the recession on colleges and the students who attend them. The mission of Virginia’s Community Colleges – to address the commonwealth’s unmet needs in higher education – is proving to be critical for more and more people:
The recession is also forcing students already enrolled in four year universities to drop out, move home, and sign up at their local community college. And—those already in the work force—who’ve been layed off—are enrolling in community colleges. Virginia Western says they could be reasons behind the about 6-percent jump in its spring enrollment.
As the VCCS reported last month, Virginia Western Community College’s growing enrollment is being seen at community colleges across the commonwealth.
A recent editorial from USA TODAY explained, once again, how vital community colleges are to America’s efforts to shake-off this bad economy. Further, it said that investments in community colleges need to be a central piece of the next federal economic stimulus package:
Consider these facts:
• Community colleges educate roughly half of all students but receive only a fourth of what’s handed out in local and state funds to four-year public and private colleges.
• Over the next decade, at least 57% of all job openings will require post secondary education but not necessarily a four-year degree. Some of the highest-demand workers get their job training at community colleges, including half of new nurses. As many as 40% of teachers get their academic start at community colleges.
• Community colleges reach many students four-year colleges miss, including 35% of undergraduate minority students and 39% of undergrads who are the first generation in their family to attend college.
• While many private, four-year colleges are seeing dips in applications, community college enrollments this fall rose by 8-10%. And yet in most states, the per-student aid is shrinking.
We can only hope this message is being heard by those who are deciding on the details of that economic stimulus plan.
The following excerpts come from the Governor’s prepared remarks, which you can see by clicking here:
In higher education, our October actions reduced schools’ 2009 base budgets by 5 to 7%. For 2010, I have increased the reductions to 15% for all schools, except the community colleges and Richard Bland, which will have the reduction level increased to 10%.
My introduced budget includes nearly $26 million in additional money for need-based financial aid. This money will bring every institution up to at least 65 percent of the target financial aid level that has been recommended by SCHEV. My introduced budget also includes increases in the Community College Transfer Grant program, helping more students begin their higher educations at a two-year college and then transfer to a four-year institution to get their degree at a lower cost to their families…
While there are many challenges ahead of us, we can look forward with hope. Even in this atmosphere, our excellent schools, colleges and universities produce the ideas and graduates that will keep driving our economy. The advances we have made in career and technical education and our restructuring of workforce efforts under the community college system enable us to better prepare our dedicated workforce. Our international connections through the Port of Virginia and Dulles Airport give us a unique ability to be a leader in global commerce. These strengths and many others of our beloved Commonwealth continue to be our ticket to a prosperous future.
The Lynchburg News & Advance printed an editorial today that looks at the needs of Virginia’s workforce through the current recession and beyond.
Despite the sour national and global economies, things will turn around, hopefully sooner rather than later. When the economic clouds part, the American worker had better be ready for an even more competitive world.
The editorial explains how Virginia’s Community Colleges, while working through the recession and the government budget challenges that spin-off from it, are focused on the global competitiveness that Virginia communities and employers will need to succeed in the long run.
The commonwealth, in the short run, is facing a budget shortfall of enormous proportions; long term, though, the shortfall in education and competitiveness are of mammoth proportions. Working with private industry, the community college system, in the last decade, has implemented a number of programs and partnerships designed to address the educational challenges the state faces.
The start of the 2009 session of the General Assembly is only weeks away, and the specter of a $3.2 billion shortfall looms over the state Capitol. Now is not the time, though, for Virginia’s leaders to short shrift the future.
Bad economies are ugly and painful, but the only way to minimize their impact is to ensure that individuals and companinies in Virginia are creating and attracting job opportunities and that requires the cutting edge skills and knowledge that more than half a million people are getting through academic and workforce training programs every year at Virginia’s Community Colleges.
News about Virginia’s Community Colleges is spreading.
This week, we were mentioned in the Wall Street Journal online — as well as several business wire services — for our emphasis on transfers as a way to mitigate against higher education cost increases:
Like many states, Virginia saw the financial wisdom of channeling more in-state students to community colleges for their first two years of higher education – rather than building or vastly expanding costlier four-year schools – by promising automatic transfers into its state universities with a minimum grade-point average.
The result: Community-college graduates can even gain automatic entry into the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, one of the top public universities in the country. The program has proven especially valuable for underachieving high-school students who upon proving themselves capable in community college can complete their bachelor’s degree at state universities for which their high-school transcripts would have denied them access.
“Word of the guaranteed-transfer agreements we have with 30 public and private four-year schools is only now beginning to penetrate into the marketplace,” Kraus says. “We think it’s going to become incredibly popular even after the economy recovers.”
And Mountain Empire Community College and Patrick Henry Community College were both mentioned in recent news stories about the Gates Foundation and their grants to help students complete college, due to their successes in the Lumina Foundation’s Achieving the Dream project.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy commends MECC for “a strategy that works,” with a fast-paced remedial mathematics program resulting in a 60 percent pass rate, compared to 27 percent in standards classes.
The Raleigh News & Observer noted that Achieving the Dream helps reduce dropout rates in remedial classes in PHCC as well. Gates Foundation funds will help the Achieving the Dream project continue.
Meanwhile back in Virginia, the city of Roanoke’s guarantee of a free tuition at VWCC for city students with a grade point average of 2.0 is designed to boost high school graduation rates and give students an opportunity to begin a college career. Here’s VWCC President Bobby Sandel’s editorial blog on the topic published in the Roanoke Times. And other colleges are being noted for record enrollments this fall, including J. Sargeant Reynolds (Fox NEWS) and Wytheville Community College (Bland County Messenger) .
— posted by Susan Hayden
Americans spend November in a spirit of Thanksgiving. So it’s fitting that Virginia’s Community Colleges spent November in a spirit of thanks, too.
Earlier this month, the foundation on behalf of Virginia’s Community Colleges made a special, surprise announcement and gift — the Eva T. Hardy Endowed Commonwealth Legacy Scholarship.
Spearheaded by friends and colleagues who wanted to thank her for her years of service to the Commonwealth, the gift represents a lasting legacy that will provide higher education opportunity to future Virginians.
As Governor Baliles said in a video tribute to Mrs. Hardy – “an engraved paperweight or plaque just didn’t seem enough.”
Here’s Governor Baliles:
And here’s the honor roll of Virginians who supported the scholarship effort:
As just one of her many civic, philanthropic and corporate activities, Mrs. Hardy has served as a member of the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education, helping steer a group dedicated to increasing the availability of higher education opportunity for all Virginians.
She spoke at the recent Annual Meeting of Virginia’s Community Colleges, reflecting on the beginnings of the Virginia Community College System and the “remarkable political achievement” it represented. In today’s climate — just like in the 1960s when the system was created — she said:
we must act upon the conditions and make the case for what community colleges do for Virginia. These schools are the portal through which Virginia reaches the world…and through which the world reaches Virginia.
The scholarship in Eva T. Hardy’s name will continue to open the door of opportunity, and be a living legacy for a model of public service to Virginia.
In a new article from the Associated Press, the connection between a bad economy and community college enrollment increases is explored:
For students, that’s because of the economy, which is boosting interest in two-year schools as a cheaper starting point for a bachelor’s degree. They’re also the place for job retraining, with unemployment at a 14-year high of 6.5 percent. A community colleges group estimates enrollment is up about 8 percent this fall.
However, the writer takes it one step further to explore the growing interest private partners have in working with community colleges, which educate more than half of the nation’s college students, to see that more students graduate.
The new philanthropic attention was underscored last week when the giant Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced it would spend up to half a billion dollars over the next four years on a college completion initiative.
The goal is doubling the current proportion of about 25 percent of low-income people who earn a postsecondary credential. And it was notable that officials said the initial focus would be on two-year schools.
“More young people are enrolled in college this year than ever before,” Melinda Gates said at the Seattle conference where the initiative was announced. “But the payoff doesn’t come with enrolling in college; the payoff comes when a student gets a postsecondary degree that helps them get a job with a family wage.”
The involvement of the Gates Foundation is significant, not just because of their deep pockets, but also because of the influence they have in this arena.
The Gates announcement follows several other prominent foundations, including Lumina, Kellogg and Ford, that have recently begun focusing on community colleges, said Carol Lincoln, the national director of Achieving the Dream, an initiative working with 84 institutions on localized, bottom-up programs to improve student success rates.
But the Gates initiative sends a big signal, not only because of the foundation’s size — it had assets of $35.1 billion as of Oct. 1 — but also because Gates is known for rigorously researching its funding choices to determine where it can make the most difference.
“When people hear the Gates Foundation is considering investing in something it attracts attention,” Lincoln said. “I think it’s going to be a tremendous impact.”
Considering the budgetary stress that Virginia and so many other states are facing, the timing of these types of partnerships and investments could not be better.
Posted by Jeff Kraus