Reporter’s notebook

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Participate in the U.S. Education Department’s Title IV Institutional Survey

The U.S. Education Department (ED) on Wednesday will start emailing to financial aid administrators a survey on federal student aid to help ED provide the resources colleges need to administer the programs on their campuses.

Keep an eye out for an email from ED’s vendor, CFI Group. The notification emails will come from: “Federal Student Aid, through CFI Group [noreply@invite.cfigroup.com]”

The survey will close July 2.

Racial inequities in college placement and assessment

A new report from stakeholders in Washington state is calling for K-12 and community and technical colleges to revamp placement practices in order to better serve students of color, who are overrepresented in pre-college courses.

The report is the culmination of a multi-year, three-study series that examined enrollment and placement policies of community and technical colleges (CTCs) in the Road Map Project region and the subsequent effects on high school graduates seeking to enter the colleges. Highline College was among the partners in the report.

Based on a longitudinal analysis of student transcripts, student surveys and focus groups, the report’s key findings show that:

  • Taking two or more pre-college math courses is detrimental to the success of students in completing college-level math.
  • Students of color are disproportionately placed into pre-college courses even when their high school transcripts make them eligible for college-level courses.
  • Racial disparities persist regardless of high school GPA or coursetaking.
  • Students report that the assessment and placement process is confusing and they want it changed.
  • Students who place by high school transcript are more likely to avoid pre-college courses and have a better placement experience overall when compared to students who place by standardized placement test.
  • Access to college courses is more dependent on which CTC a student attends rather than their previous coursetaking.
  • Inequity in the K–12 system contributes to inequity in college placement outcomes.
  • Incremental changes to transcript-based placement policies can improve access to college-level courses, but are unlikely to address large-scale racial inequities.

“To eradicate racist policies and other systemic barriers that disproportionately impact students of color, Road Map region CTC leaders — including presidents, faculty and staff at all levels — must view the multiple barriers that students face through an antiracist lens. Fixing assessment and placement problems will require an examination of why colleges were initially created and who they were created to serve,” the report says.

Michigan Reconnect revs up

Grand Rapids Community College reports that more than 1,100 people have so far been accepted to attend the college tuition-free through the Michigan Reconnect program, which aims to help residents 25 and older gain new skills as the state emerges from the pandemic.

More than 70,000 Michigan residents have been accepted into the program statewide, exceeding the government’s goal of 60,000 by Memorial Day, according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. Students can work toward an associate degree or a career skills certificate.

About a third of GRCC’s Reconnect students are already taking classes this summer, the college says in a release. Of these, about 40% have restarted their education after time away – and about 10% are picking up where they left off 10 or more years ago.

Backing short-term Pell, more earn-and-learn pathways

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation last week launched America Works, a nationwide initiative mobilizing industry and government to quickly address America’s deepening worker shortage crisis. Among the goals is to expand earn-and-learn pathways (such as apprenticeships) and extend Pell grants to short-term training programs.

Through the initiative, the U.S. Chamber is advocating for federal and state policy changes to help train more Americans for in-demand jobs, remove barriers to work and double the number of visas available for legal immigrants. The U.S. Chamber Foundation said it will expand its most effective employer-led workforce and job training programs and launch new ones to connect employers to skilled workers.

The agenda calls for more partnerships, better state and regional labor market information as well as outcome data, developing learning and employer records, and implementing portable skills savings accounts.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.