March 20, 2014
Community College Section
“President Obama’s budget request reflects his strong belief that education is a vital investment in the nation’s economic competitiveness, in its people, and in its communities,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Despite the encouraging progress we’ve seen, wide opportunity and achievement gaps continue to hurt many families, which puts our nation’s economy and future at risk.”
In a speech to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), OCTAE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges Mark Mitsui argued that improving college access and completion is an economic necessity and a moral imperative, where the right thing to do is also the smart thing to do. Mitsui pointed out that few good career options exist for those whose education ends with high school, since most jobs that pay a middle-class salary require a college degree. That’s why reclaiming the top spot in college completion is essential for maximizing both individual opportunity and our economic prosperity. And, Mitsui said, this is why President Obama has made increasing college affordability and improving college completion a major focus of his 2015 budget.
Key higher education elements in the president's FY 2015 budget request are the following:
College Opportunity and Graduation Bonus (10-year budget, $7 billion): This is a new competitive program designed to encourage innovative interventions and reforms at colleges that would result in increased enrollments and graduation by low- and moderate-income students. Grants would be based on the number of on-time graduates who had received Pell Grants.
State Higher Education Performance Fund ($4 billion): These competitive, four-year grants would be made to states undertaking systemic reforms that make public higher education affordable and available to, and increase success for, low-income students. State systems would adopt policies to align their higher education and K–12 systems, enable easy transitions from K–12 to higher education and from there to the workforce, and provide students and their families with clear and useful information about the Return on Investment data for various colleges and universities in the state. States would receive up to four years of funding, and would match their federal grants, dollar-for-dollar, for a total of $8 billion in four years.
College Success Grants ($75 million): This new, competitive program is designed for Historically Black Colleges or Universities and other Minority-Serving Institutions. Awardees would adopt strategies and accompanying processes and tools to improve outcomes while reducing costs for students. College recruitment, student awareness and preparation, as well as dual-enrollment programs would be the focus of the funding so that developmental education could be minimized.
First in the World Fund ($100 million): This program would build upon fiscal year 2014 appropriations of $75 million to invest further in innovative practices that improve both college affordability and outcomes.
Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Expansion: This would extend the PAYE program to all student borrowers, especially targeting the neediest borrowers. It would provide a comprehensible insurance policy against unmanageable debt no matter when the student incurred the debt. . And it would promote education quality and outcomes as well as the continuous development of the new college ratings system.
Pell Grants: The proposed budget would fully fund the maximum award of $5,830 in 2015.
The number of U.S. public high school students taking Advanced Placement (AP) examinations and scoring well on them has grown significantly over the last 10 years, according to the College Board’s 10th Annual AP Report to the Nation. At the same time, the report shows that nearly 300,000 qualified students have never participated in these exams, with participants ranging from only 0.2 percent in Montana to 67 percent in Washington, D.C.
For the class of 2013, slightly over 1 million public high school graduates, or approximately one-third of them, took at least one AP Exam. This is nearly double the number who took at least one AP Exam in 2003 (514,163). The total number of AP exams taken by these 1 million plus students was 3,153,014 in 2013, as compared with 1,328,511 for the 2003 examinees. Not only, then, are more students taking AP exams, but they are also, on average, taking more exams each.
Perhaps of greater significance, the number of examinees who scored 3 or more on at least one exam rose from 331,734 in the class of 2003 to 607,505 in the class of 2013. A score of at least 3 out of a possible 5, which is considered “passing,” is often the lowest score that colleges will accept for determining course placement for students or for awarding college credit.
While progress has been made over the past 10 years, an equity gap remains, with black students being the most underrepresented group in AP classrooms and among successful AP Exam takers. In the graduating class of 2013, whites were 58.3 percent of the overall graduating class, 55.9. In the graduating class of 2013, whites were 58.3 percent of the overall graduating class, 55.9 percent of the exam-taking population, and 61.3 percent of those scoring 3 or higher on an AP Exam. Blacks/African Americans were 14.5 percent of the graduating class, 9.2 percent of the exam-taking population, and 4.6 percent of those scoring 3 or above on an AP Exam. Hispanics/Latinos were 18.8 percent of the graduating class, 18.8 percent of the exam-taking population, and 16.9 percent of those scoring 3 or above on an AP Exam. American Indians and Alaska Natives were 1.0 percent of the graduating class, 0.6 percent of the exam-taking population, and 0.5 percent of the population scoring 3 or above on an AP Exam. The Asian/Asian American/Pacific Islander population was the most successful, making up 5.9 percent of the graduating class, 10.7 percent of the exam-takers, and 12.7 percent of those scoring 3 or above on the exams.
The College Board is more cautious about predicting the participation and performance of low-income students because there is no national data source of the low-income status of high school graduates. The figures provided tell that, in 2013, 275,864 low-income public school graduates took at least one AP Exam and that 131,911 of these graduates scored 3 or above on an AP Exam.
Of particular concern to the College Board is the fact that “hundreds of thousands” of students—the College Board sets the number at 286,403 students—who have demonstrated the potential for taking AP courses are not enrolled in those courses.
In short, while progress has been made, improvement is needed. With that in mind, the report features District of the Year award winners as national models of increasing access to AP courses for more students who are academically prepared to benefit from the more rigorous classes.
In addition to the data noted in this article, the report contains a wealth of state-specific and demographic information.
Due April 21
Applications for New Alaska Native Education Program Awards
On Feb. 18, the Department published a notice in the Federal Register inviting applications for new awards for Fiscal Year 2014 under the Alaska Native Education Program. The purpose of this competitive grant program is to support innovative projects that enhance the educational services provided to Alaska Native children and adults. The Department estimates that it will grant 22 awards averaging $500,000 each. The application due date is April 21.
On Feb. 18, the Department published a notice in the Federal Register inviting applications for new awards for FY 2014 under the Native Hawaiian Education Program. The purpose of this competitive grant program is to support innovative projects that enhance the educational services provided to Native Hawaiian children and adults. Of particular note is that “Congress expressly authorized that FY 2014 program funds may be used to support the construction, renovation, or modernization of any elementary school, secondary school, or structure related to an elementary school or secondary school, that is run by the Department of Education of the State of Hawaii that serves a predominately Native Hawaiian student body.”
The Department estimates that it will grant 22 awards averaging $425,000 each. The application due date is April 21.
The U.S. Department of Education recently posted a blog that provides information on a new demonstration authority included in the Consolidation Appropriations Act of 2014. This new authority allows for the establishment of up to 10 Performance Partnership Pilots intended to eliminate some of the current barriers to serving disconnected youths, particularly in the areas of education, employment, health and well-being. OCTAE encourages adult education stakeholders and providers serving disconnected populations to learn about the new pilots and to continue to visit ED’s Homeroom and OCTAE Connection for updates on the solicitation process for them.
OCTAE’s Division of Adult Education and Literacy recently awarded a new contract to support states in advancing career pathways systems that will provide transitions for low-skilled adults to employment in the 21st-century workforce. The three-year initiative, Moving Pathways Forward: Supporting Career Pathways Integration, will soon be recruiting states to participate in customized technical assistance for developing and advancing their career pathways systems. The initiative seeks to align previous federal and state investments with current state career pathways efforts. Each state will receive access to resources, tools, and guidance to support it in identifying and addressing its specific career pathways need areas. In addition, up to 15 states will receive customized, intensive technical assistance through direct coaching. In the upcoming weeks, states will receive an introduction email from the Moving Pathways Forward team, including an informational brochure on the project’s benefits, activities, and application requirements. The project is managed by Kratos Learning and its partners, Abt Associates and Center for Occupational Research and Development Communications, Inc. Inquiries about this work should be addressed to Joseph.Perez@ed.gov.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards recently announced a public comment period for its revised Career and Technical Education (CTE) Standards, 2nd edition. They were drafted by a committee of CTE educators and other experts as the foundation for National Board Certification in CTE, and are available for review through a public comment survey until April 13.