How Our Governments are Preparing for the Human Capital to Handle Mining on a Moon of Saturn


The New York Times (24/06) clues us in on the diligence with which our governments are preparing the challenge of mining non-polluting coal on a very special moon of the distant planet Saturn. In an article entitled "Community Colleges Cutting Back on Open Access" by Tamar Lewin, we read: "Walnut, Calif. – When Giovanny Villalta tried to register for winter-term classes at Mount San Antonio here, he hit the wall.

"'I was assigned a late registration slot, and by the time I was allowed to register, everything was full,' Mr. Villalta said. 'Biology, full. Anatomy, full. Physics, full. Psychology, full. History of Asia, full. Any history class that would count toward transferring to four-year UC campus, full.'

"'It was pretty frustrating,' he said. 'You feel like you're wasting time, and your life's just going by.'

"In this economy, community colleges are widely seen as the solution to many problems. Displaced workers are registered in droves to earn credentials that might get them back in the game. Strapped parents, daunted by the cost of four-year universities, are encouraging their children to spend two years in the local community college.

"President Obama has announced an American Graduation Initiative to produce five million more community college graduates by 2020. There is even a popular television comedy, Community, set at two-year college.

"We're more visible now than we ever have been, said George R. Bogges, president of the American Association of Community Colleges.

"But for students and professors at overstretched colleges, these are hardly the best of times. With state financing slashed almost everywhere, many institutions have cut so deeply into their course offerings and their faculty rosters that they cannot begin to handle the influx of students.

"In some parts of the country, the budget stresses are so serious that the whole concept of community colleges – where anyone, with any educational background, can enroll at any point in life – is becoming more an aspiration than a reality.
"'We have a commitment to educate the top 100% of Americans, but this is a tough time,' said Martha J. Kanter, under secretary of a former community college president. 'Students aren't getting as many classes as they want, so it's going to take them longer to get through.'

"On the sunny, hilly campus of Mount SAC (as everyone calls it) east of Los Angeles, Ashley Diaz is one of many dispirited students. In each of her three terms at the college, she has been able to get into one academic class and one dance class, which she has taken three times.

"'I came in with some advanced placement credits, so I don't need that many courses before I can transfer to a four-year university,' Ms. Diaz said. 'I thought I'd be in and out in a year and a half, maybe two. But it's like working my way through quicksand.'

"Many students feel stalled, whether they plan to continue at a four-year university or become a fire-fighter, a nurse, or a welder….

"The college has cut 800 course sections – more than 10% of its classes – over the last year, even as the number of people attending pre-registration orientation sessions has grown about 10 percent.

"'We want to create the illusion that we're still open access,' said Silver Calzada, chairman of counseling at the college. 'But the truth is that with all the classes that have been cut, unless you get a registration slot on the first or second day, you're not going to get into the classes you need. Students see our banner saying "Dream It. Be It." and they feel like they've been duped.'

"Open access has passed its limits elsewhere, too. For the first time, the City University of New York and its six community colleges, whose enrollment grew by 43% over the last decade, started waiting lists for admission this fall.

"'We capped our enrollment for the fall at 10,804, the same level as last year,' said Eduardo J. Marti, president of Queensborough Community College. 'That means that there will be about 200 to 500 students we might not be able to bring in.'

"Even in flush times, completion rates at community colleges are shockingly low, in part because so many students hold jobs and attend classes only part time. Over all, only about a quarter of community college students complete their degrees in six years, said Ms. Kanter, the education undersecretary. Then, too, most need some remedial courses before they can begin college-level work.

"Recently, foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations and Lumina have been pouring money into community colleges to increase completion rates, in part by improving remedial education.

"Almost everywhere, anatomy and physiology classes, and others required for students of health professions, fill up almost instantly, and admission to health-related programs can take years."

However, the sad tale does not end on that sad note. It gets still worse.

Immediately below the report of the faltering access to community colleges the Times carries another entitled "For-Profit Colleges Find New Market Opportunities" by Tamar Lewin. We quote: "Kaplan University has an offer for California community college students who cannot get a seat in a class they need: under a memorandum of understanding with the chancellor of the community college system, they can take the online version at Kaplan, with a 42% tuition discount.

"The opportunity would not come cheap. Kaplan charges $216 a credit with the discount, compared with $26 a credit at California's community colleges.

"Supporters of for-profit education say the offer underscores how Kaplan and other profit-making colleges can help accommodate the mushrooming demand for higher education.

"The number of California students choosing for-profit schools has been increasing rapidly, state officials say.

"At the same time, government officials have become increasingly concerned that students at for-profit colleges are far more likely than those at public institutions to take out large loans – and default on them.

"For better or worse, the tough times for public colleges nation-wide have presented for-profit colleges with a promising marketing opportunity. 'We thought, in light of the budget crisis and the number of community college classes being canceled, if we had the same class here, we would give students the opportunity to take it at Kaplan,' said Greg. F. Marino, president of Kaplan University Group, a profit-making business owned by the Washington Post Company.

"Kaplan signed the memorandum of understanding seven months ago.

"In Massachusetts, Bristol Community College, which has to turn away many qualified applicants for its nursing and other courses in the health professions, has entered into a partnership with Princeton Review.

"The Review, a private company, will expand the programs – and then charge $8,000 tuition, about double the regular Bristol rate.

"'It will be our students, our courses, our curriculum, taught by our faculty, but Princeton Review's going to pay some of the startup costs,' Sally Chapman Cameron, a Bristol spokeswoman said of the two-tiered pricing plan. 'Some private colleges nearby charge a lot more than Princeton Review will. Our region needs more health care workers, and without this partnership, we don't have the resources to expand our nursing program.'

"In California, the memorandum of understanding also requires each community college taking part to sign a credit-transfer agreement with Kaplan – and most of the state's 112 colleges are not eager to do so. Thus far, Kaplan has no takers for its courses.

"'Faculty from across the state were uniformly irate and disappointed about the memorandum of understanding,' said Jane Patton, president of the Academic Senate for California Community colleges, partly because faculty members were not consulted.

"At the academy senate's spring meeting, faculty members voted to urge the chancellor to withdraw from the memorandum of understanding, which they said 'signaled the chancellor's willingness to out-source the California community colleges' mission to private for-profit universities."


– from COMER, July 2010