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Q: community colleges that offer baccalaureate degrees

  1. Mar 10, 2016 #1

    Andy Resnick

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    Ohio's state government is contemplating allowing community colleges (CC) to offer baccalaureate degree programs:

    https://www.insidehighered.com/news...-offer-bachelors-degrees-and-access-state-aid

    Crucially, CC may not increase credit hour tuition for a 4-year degree. Clearly, this could result in dramatic enrollment decreases at 4-year institutions (such as mine) especially in liberal arts programs but also for nursing, psychology, and business/accounting programs. I know there's some folks here who teach at CC, I'm interested to hear any first-person accounts about how this actually works.

    For example, are CC held to the same accreditation standards as 4-year institutions? How this arrangement has impacted the usual pipeline relationship between CC and 4-year universities? How do Universities differentiate themselves from CC?
     
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  3. Mar 15, 2016 #2
    When I taught at a CC in Ohio, the academic standards were abysmal. Profs were routinely pressured with professional consequences if the number of students earning A, B, or C in their courses fell below target values. The result is a lot of students earn course credit with nothing approaching competence in the subject material.

    In cases like this, it would be very foolish to assume course credit actually means anything. It's a shame 4 year institutions accept transfer credit from these schools, it would be even worse if these schools start granting 4 year degrees.

    The accreditation issues are all a big shell game: looking good for the accrediting agencies while cranking out the course credit and keeping enrollment numbers high.
     
  4. Mar 19, 2016 #3

    Andy Resnick

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    Well, I mean we can't be arbitrary about whom is able to transfer credit or not, so my institution has a formal policy. If someone attends an excluded institution or takes an unrecognized exam, we are under no obligation to award transfer credit. After that, individual Colleges are also allowed to have an additional transfer policy covering college-specific programs, and at the department level we can decide what physics classes transfer into degree-specific programs, based on the content overlap.


    But I'm more curious about the CC-awarded 4-year degrees themselves. Is this a real attempt to make education more accessible? Is this simply further commodification of higher education? I don't live in a state where this happens, so I don't know.
     
  5. Mar 19, 2016 #4
    I looked into the Ohio situation a bit, having taught there.

    My take is that it is a further commodification of education under the guise of making education more accessible.

    The CC I taught at talked a big game about academic rigor when negotiating things like which credits would transfer to 4 year schools in the so-called partnership programs (2-3 years at CC, transfer to finish off with 1-2 years at Uni). But then they worked pretty hard to undermine academic rigor by forcing profs to pass students who were nowhere near competent in the course learning objectives.

    But it's been clear for a long time that the end game of many CCs has been getting to award 4 year degrees. But as a whole the CC system in Ohio is abysmal. Credit in things like 1st year Chemistry, Calculus, and Physics is almost meaningless. The other CCs in the area were worse than the one I taught at. In the four years I was there, not a single student who transferred from a nearby CC ever passed Physics 2 (E&M) after passing Physics 1 (Mechanics) at a nearby CC, because not a single one could add vectors. Students regularly arrived with transfer credit in Calculus who didn't even possess Algebra 1 skills. These institutions should not even be accredited to award 2 year degrees, much less 4 year degrees.
     
  6. Mar 21, 2016 #5

    Maylis

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    Dr. Courtney, I was a CC graduate who transferred to a university (and successfully finished an engineering degree by the way), although in California. I totally agree with you that CC courses are significantly easier than university courses in general. I'm just curious to hear from the other side of the table why the professors at the CC are pressured by administration to pass students who are not competent? I know that definitely happened in my courses. Why can't they repeat a course like would happen in a university. The cost to retake in CC is very insignificant compared to university. It almost seems like universities would be the ones with big pressure to pass students because the expense to retake the course.

    Regarding your anecdote, I just wanted to say that I HIGHLY doubt you actually followed up with every one of your physics 1 students to see who passed or didn't pass physics 2!
     
  7. Mar 21, 2016 #6

    vela

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    You're ignoring who pays the cost. Sticking around another semester at a university can cost the student a lot a money, so students (or their parents) have a motivation to not waste time signing up for a course, putting in minimal effort, and dropping it to take it again later. At a community college, the cost to repeat a course is much lower for the student.
     
  8. Mar 21, 2016 #7
    Sure, they can repeat the course. But the state gives the school lots of money for each student enrolled, and students tended to transfer to the CC down the road if they thought they could get into a physics course that was easier to pass. The best way for a CC to ensure a steady stream of students (high enrollments -> high state funding) is to ensure high passing rates on the first try of challenging courses.

    With only 2 sections of Physics 2 (Spring only) and less than 20 students enrolled in Physics 2 each year, it wasn't hard to keep track of them all.
    A few years later at the Air Force Academy, we developed more automated techniques and could tell you the downstream success rates of our students in a variety of courses.
     
  9. Mar 23, 2016 #8

    Fervent Freyja

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    To begin with, this article is terrible. Absolutely terrible. There aren't any source citations to verify any of the claims. If you look closely, there are four or so authorities that the author vaguely states that is involved, but that information cannot be confirmed with any of the press/news releases on those government websites. It isn't replicated anywhere else, so I wouldn't give the article any weight. The author was also towing the line and knew it. In my area it is unethical and against the law to even imply future accreditation for any institution on the grounds that it is a conflict of interest. Attempting to rally up a whole state to replace a peer-reviewed process... Was this even in the local paper? That article should really be removed, it is nothing but a cut-and-paste that was purposely taken out of context probably based upon gossip or a single circumstance involving certain institutions and not the whole state college system.

    A CC offering a 4-year degree in just one or two majors is probably more a marketing strategy than an attempt to help students. How many students would actually enroll it in versus total enrollment? Come on now! You don't need an accounting degree to become a controller for a large corporation... It could be the result or part of the process where many degrees and certifications end up phasing out over time or the CC already had the courses in place to award the degree.
     
  10. Mar 23, 2016 #9

    Andy Resnick

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    I'm not entirely sure what you mean. The state government has the right to dictate policy to state institutions, for example in this bill from Michigan:

    http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2011-2012/publicact/pdf/2012-PA-0495.pdf
    (see section 121, item d)

    In addition, the Ohio Board of Regents can set policy, and is in fact advocating for allowing CCs to award baccalaureates:

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...TFViSUwex9AoxWc5n1YH5A&bvm=bv.117218890,d.dmo
    (bottom of page 4)
     
  11. Mar 23, 2016 #10
    Not completely. The state government can only say they'll pay for it.

    The granting of degrees is also dependent on the approval of a regional accreditation authority.

    See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regional_accreditation
     
  12. Mar 23, 2016 #11

    vela

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    Two of the schools I teach at in CA were the ones selected to offer baccalaureate degrees. I haven't really heard much other than the degrees are supposed to be ones that students can't get at a UC or CSU institution.

    Here's a press release from one of the schools: http://www.miracosta.edu/officeofthepresident/pio/news.aspx?id=539
     
  13. Mar 24, 2016 #12

    Student100

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    The CCC I went to offered, or were preparing to offer, a few four year degrees just different enough to not be considered "competing" with the CSU system.

    I think they were mostly technical degrees, such as lab technology, health technology, and the like. I don't remember what they were actually called.

    California community colleges are generally pretty good, I didn't hear too many complaints about them, or myself feel under-served in my education there.

    So, I feel a decent system like that offering technical four year degrees isn't a bad idea and should help limit the reasons for people trying to get technical degrees through private diploma mills at extortionate prices.

    Somewhat unrelated on the topic of rigor at community colleges, I did hear other students complain about the Miracosta physics pipeline at UC, although it's hard to know if the complaints were legitimate. On the other end of spectrum, the few students I met that transferred from Palomar seemed to have a better foundation than students who attended the UC system to begin with! It's a very small sample, but I think community colleges can certainly prepare students for rigorous schools, or offer competitive bachelors given proper administration.
     
  14. Mar 24, 2016 #13

    vela

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    I have to admit I'm curious what their complaints were. If they feel they weren't adequately prepared, it would be good for the department to know that. If you or these students are willing to PM me here, I'd be willing to relay the feedback to the full-time faculty.

    I think this is a selection effect. From what I've heard, there's a physics instructor at Palomar who's pretty hard core, and a lot of students who go through that experience end up failing and go elsewhere to take physics. Those students who stick it out are probably the one who would have done well anywhere.
     
  15. Mar 24, 2016 #14

    Andy Resnick

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    That's the same claim here in Ohio- that CCs won't offer 'competing' degrees. But again, it's not clear if the process for CCs is the same for Uni- if we want to create a new degree, say a PhD in Physics or a BS in Applied Physics, we must first get approval from a long list of organizations- not just administrative/governmental, but other universities in the region must also review our proposed program and expressly consent. I experienced this whole messy, political, process when we created our Medical Physics program. Mostly it's good practice. But plenty of petty nonsense happens as well.

    So I'm wondering if a CC wants to offer a particular degree, any degree, do they also have the same approval process? Or is the CC held to a different standard- for example, the state government bypasses it's own policy and directs the creation of certain programs?

    It's already unfair that CCs can directly raise funds through local ballot initiatives (tax levies) while we cannot.
     
  16. Mar 26, 2016 #15

    Student100

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    I looked to see if I still had their contact information, I don't. If I remember correctly it was about lab work (I met them in a lab class). Basically they mostly complained they just followed cookbook types labs there (are they online? I vaguely remember something about that), and didn't learn many of the useful tools from statistics (standard errors, standard deviations, Chauvenet's criterion, etc.) or learn how to properly analyze and explain results (accounting for systematic errors/personal errors, etc) or how to draft a proper lab report.

    They even talked about fabricating data when results were off in my lab course, as to avoid a penalty for "high errors(???)", which should be something everyone in science quickly learns is probably the worst thing you can do.

    This was a few years ago, so I may not be remembering everything correctly, and to be fair, my labs at City probably weren't much better. We did cover a lot of the above though. I also feel like some of the techniques used to analyze data aren't that hard to learn in fifteen minutes (at least I think so). The fabrication thing was drilled in, but I'm sure it still happened with some groups there.

    I feel as though they may not been the brightest students to ever grace the halls of MiraCoasta as well, I don't think either actually graduated with a physics degree.


    I've heard rumors about that professor as well, I would say you're probably right.
     
  17. Mar 27, 2016 #16
    I have to disagree with this. I took summer courses at two community colleges, Waubonsee CC and College of Dupage, and both of them were just amazing schools that in some ways I felt were actually better than my "main" 4-year school. The instruction was great, the campuses were amazingly well-maintained, and I thought that the grading was entirely fair.

    Maybe it varies from state to state?
     
  18. Mar 28, 2016 #17
    Yes, I am fairly certain that in states where the Universities hold CC's feet to the fire by not accepting transfer credit from mediocre schools, the CC's are able to better resist temptations to give away course credit if it is likely to result in changes in transfer credit policies when their students move downstream to 4 year programs.
     
  19. Apr 25, 2016 #18
    We weren't 'allowed' to drop anyone until after the Full-Time Student Equivalent (FTES) report period...so, the college got "credit" for everyone before the numbers "dropped" due to combined student disinterest and failing academic grade attritions happened.

    However, for baccalaureate degrees, our CC "partnered" with a state college so that "academic respectability" was present -- a sort of 'shared' responsibility -- with the CC doing the teaching and the SC doing the "blessing."
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2016
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