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Of course algebra is important. It’s also a huge problem.

The Washington Post – Valerie Strauss

“This was the headline this week of a story in the Deseret News in Utah about Brigham Young University President Kevin Worthen and his wife, Peggy: “Don’t quit because of fear or algebra, Worthens tell BYU students.” The algebra part wasn’t a joke: Peggy Worthen earned a bachelor’s degree at the school when she was in her 40s and nearly didn’t get it because she initially flunked her algebra final. She eventually passed, but the subject has been a dream-killer for a lot of people who have sought two- and four-year degrees but haven’t been able to get through the required algebra class.”(more)

College reality

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

In a few weeks tens of thousands of young Americans will leave home and begin the “college experience”. As they descend on campuses across the country, they will be greeted by impressive buildings, acclaimed alumni, elaborate social functions, and luxury hotel-like accommodations. In addition to getting used to their new “homes”, these newly minted adults will be asked to select majors that prepare them for post college employment.

Interestingly, the university structure and incentives may not always be aligned with what is best for students.

Universities are broken into departments. Each department is responsible for running a profitable business or demonstrating that there is enough demand for its offerings that it would be foolish for the university to close the department. Departments like engineering generally have large research budgets, so they are less concerned about student enrollment than departments like the humanities and social sciences that have fewer research dollars.

As might be expected, the departments with fewest research dollars generally work hardest to convince students to select majors within their purview. Until 15-20 years ago, this model worked well, because it was possible to obtain high quality employment with a wide variety of university degrees.

Technology has improved access to information so much that many jobs related to compiling, organizing, and disseminating information have already been or are being eliminated. Careers that have been hardest hit are law, social sciences, and the humanities.

Since there are fewer job opportunities for people with these degrees, many college graduates find it difficult to procure jobs that pay a premium over what was available to them before they attended college.

This shift creates a dilemma for the parents of a child who did not develop a proclivity for math in high school. Does the parent have the resources to send the child to college so he/she can graduate without debt and go on to a job that he/she most likely could have obtained without attending college? Is it better to consider a high paying trade like plumbing or electricity, rather than expending money on college? Or is it wiser to encourage the child to go to a community college and learn math, so he/she has the skills to obtain a college degree with higher earning potential?

It is a tough decision, but is something that should be discussed before a family blindly spends large sums of money on a college education that does little to improve a child’s long term earning potential.

The First State To Offer Free Community College To Nearly Every Adult

NPR – Emily Siner

“The opportunity to go to college for free is more available than ever before. States and cities, in the last year especially, have funded programs for students to go to two-year, and in some cases, four-year, schools. Tennessee has taken the idea one step further. Community college is already free for graduating high school students. Now Tennessee is first state in the country to offer community college — free of charge — to almost any adult. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has long preached the importance of getting adults back to school. He says it’s the only way that more than half of Tennesseans will get a college degree or certificate.”(more)

Belonging and Believing: Transforming Remedial Math at Community Colleges

KQED News Mind/Shift – Holly Korbey

“Developmental or remedial education forms a core service of community colleges, with a staggering 68% of all community college students taking at least one remedial course, most commonly English or math. The stark number of students not prepared for college work presents a two-fold dilemma for community colleges, one that is both financial and self-defeating, eating at the very purpose of community colleges’ existence. First, students who are enrolled in even one remedial course have a high chance of dropping out. According to a 2006 National Education Longitudinal study, the dropout rate in remedial courses is more than 70%, with only 28% of remedial students completing a degree after 8.5 years. Second, the extra money to pay for remediation is costing states billions: the Community College Research Center (CCRC) estimates that the national cost of providing these courses to all students is approximately $7 billion.”(more)

Dual enrollment programs attracting more students in California high schools

Ed Source – Fermin Leal

“Emma Centeno stood on the stage last month during her Santa Ana College graduation, proudly holding up her associate of arts degree to cheering friends and family. Two weeks later, she stood on another graduation stage, this time to receive her high school diploma. “I was able to knock out two years of college before I even graduated high school,” said Centeno, 18, who will enroll this fall at UC Davis as a junior to study food science. Centeno is a glowing example of a rising number of California high school students in dual enrollment programs, which allow students to take community college courses while still enrolled in high school. Over the last few years, California has been actively encouraging more high school students to enroll in college programs because of research that shows these students are more likely to earn both a high school diploma and a college degree.”(more)

New Study Abroad Population

Inside Higher Ed – Ashley A. Smith

“There’s pressure among community colleges to maintain their enrollments as well as retain students and find unique ways to get them to completion. A few two-year institutions have been promoting study abroad for years, but others are now considering these types of programs as a way to help boost their students’ experiences…“The business world today is a global market. It looks great for [students] to have a global experience. It helps them stand out and makes them more well-rounded,” said Emily Arbut, senior campus relations representative for College Year in Athens.”(more)