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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: Community colleges

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August 18, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Local college-completion effort draws White House’s attention

What does Washington state have to teach White House policy leaders about higher education?

Quite a bit, it turns out.

Three Washington community college presidents — Amy Morrison Goings of Lake Washington Institute of Technology in Kirkland, Jean Hernandez of Edmonds Community College and Chris Bailey of Lower Columbia College in Longview — went to Washington, D.C., last week to be part of a White House summit on community colleges.

Here is what Morrison Goings had to say about what happened at the meeting (some comments have been edited for space and clarity):

Q: This was your second visit to the White House this year. What were the meetings about?

A: The first meeting, in January, was the College Opportunity Summit, and at that meeting the president and first lady — as well as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan — spoke about how to increase the numbers of low-income students moving into higher education. The focus was best practices and ideas about how to move more low-income students into private, selective institutions. We were one of a few community colleges represented out of about 100 institutions.

The White House staff heard loud and clear the we are not going to solve this nation’s challenges of moving more low-income youth into higher education without the community colleges being front and center. We educate 40 percent of our nation’s low-income youth at 1,200 two-year colleges, so we’ve got to be part of the solution.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Community colleges, remediation

May 17, 2014 at 8:15 PM

Tell us: How did you figure out which career was right for you?

Many students begin college not knowing what sort of career they’d like to pursue after graduation. Many schools, meanwhile, lack the resources to help them figure it out or direct them to the appropriate coursework.

To combat low degree completion rates, Walla Walla Community college, the focus of our front-page Sunday story, has implemented a system that helps students zero in on their interests and stick to a strict academic schedule so they can quickly earn the credentials they need.

Our question this week: How did you figure out which career you wanted to pursue, and how to get the necessary training? Was college a pivotal point for this decision making, or did the process continue after you graduated? If you did not attend college, how did you end up with the job that you have?

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Comments | More in Question of the Week, Your voices | Topics: Community colleges, higher ed, Walla Walla

May 12, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Seattle-area community colleges expand bachelor degree offerings

Washington’s community colleges have been adding bachelor degrees to their program lineups for several years now, and the list keeps growing.

These degrees often cost about half the price, or less, of a traditional bachelor’s degree gained at a conventional college or university, and lead to specific job tracks that usually pay well and are in high demand.

Here are the new offerings in the Seattle area:

- Seattle Central College is adding a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The program will be run out of the new Allied Health satellite campus,  in Pacific Tower on Beacon Hill, and will open in fall of 2015 — the same time the new satellite campus opens. These days, students who study nursing are encouraged to get a bachelor’s degree in the field because many hospitals and healthcare providers now set that as the minimum level of education. Yet only about 43 percent of registered nurses in Washington have a BSN.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Community colleges, higher education

April 18, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Washington’s two-tiered system of higher education

Last Sunday’s story, “From Slipping Through the Cracks to the College Track,” noted that despite our brainy national image, Washington state has shockingly low college-going rates compared to the rest of the country. Only 60 percent of high school graduates here enroll in any four-year institution.

But for low-income kids, the rates are truly troubling.

Among the Class of 2012, only 18 percent enrolled in four-year colleges. Instead, many chose to attend no-barrier community colleges — even those who do well in school and score highly on standardized tests. Number-crunchers at the State of Washington Education Research & Data Center ran figures for The Times, and found that only 21 percent of low-income students who’d tested well in math went to four-year schools. But about one-third enrolled at community colleges (see graph below).

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Community colleges, counselors, graduation rates

March 11, 2014 at 2:45 PM

Guest: Applied bachelor’s degrees help local employers fill skills gap

Marty Brown

Marty Brown

Consider this scenario: A radiology technician with an associate degree does top-notch work, but can’t get promoted without a bachelor’s degree. Starting over at a four-year institution doesn’t make sense. She’s working at a hospital, has practical experience, and can’t start over as a traditional four-year college student. The hospital, meanwhile, is eager to hire a manager with a bachelor’s degree. The employee faces a glass ceiling; the employer faces a void.

This scenario plays out across Washington in high-demand fields with a shortage of bachelor’s degree graduates. And it is the very reason community and technical colleges offer bachelor of applied science degrees.

Applied bachelor’s degrees are practical, career-oriented degrees that meet employers’ needs in high-demand fields. They add junior and senior levels to two-year professional-technical degrees that would otherwise not transfer and count toward bachelor’s degrees at universities. The degrees vary from a two-year management track on top of a two-year technical education, or a continuation of a technical degree.

These degrees offer the best of both worlds: hands-on training in a career embedded within a four-year degree. Employers seek graduates because they have technical expertise combined with communication, computation, critical thinking, and people-management skills. A report from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges found 82 percent of applied bachelor’s graduates in 2010 and 2011 were employed seven quarters after graduating. Students’ earnings increased by an average of 26 percent after graduation.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: applied bachelor's, Community colleges, guest opinion

December 20, 2013 at 5:00 AM

Ramping up the rigor at community colleges

Community colleges have long been a low-cost way for students to start work on a bachelor’s degree, but some students have found it hard to transfer to a prestigious four-year university once they’ve earned their associate degree.

Now, a new national program aims to pump up the rigor at certain community colleges, making them a more reliable on-ramp to a selective college.

The program is called American Honors, and so far it’s only being offered at one Washington community college system, Community Colleges of Spokane. The three-school district in Spokane was one of two colleges nationwide to pilot the program.

An integrated sequence of classes focusing on English, math, science and social studies, the program emphasizes critical thinking, problem-solving, effective oral and written communication, teamwork and leadership.

Soon it could be heading to the west side of the state.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: American Honors program, Community colleges, higher education

October 30, 2013 at 3:47 PM

Project Win-Win helps students gain college degrees retroactively

Marty Brown, executive director, State Board for Community and Technical Colleges

Marty Brown, executive director, State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (photo by Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

Using data-mining techniques and a close read of college transcripts, a national research organization has helped more than 4,500 students receive associate’s degrees retroactively — students who had enough credits to earn an associate’s degree, but never got one.

Washington did not participate in the project, which started in 2009. But state education leaders “are aware of the project and think it has some lessons for us,” said Marty Brown, the executive director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, by email.

The study highlights red tape and institutional policies that often stand in the way of a student earning a diploma, said Clifford Adelman, a senior researcher for the Institute for Higher Education Policy.

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Comments | Topics: Community colleges, higher ed, Institute for Higher Education Policy