Jacksonville Business Journal: High demand for ‘middle-skilled’ jobsdriving education

Jacksonville Business Journal

by Amy Wimmer Schwarb

When Marisol Agloro lost her job as the office manager at a real estate company in 2008 — just as it was becoming clear that the housing market’s burst bubble was taking the rest of the economy down with it — she wasn’t too worried at first.

The real estate job had been a departure for her anyway, and she figured she could return to working on the business side of a hospital. After all, she had a four-year degree in health services administration from the University of Central Florida and had worked in the field for six years before taking the real estate job.
Agloro looked for months for a position that used her degree and experience. And as her confidence waned, she began rethinking her options.

“It was taking me forever to find anything, so that’s when I decided to go back to school for nursing,” Agloro says. “That was what I had wanted to do a long, long time ago, and I thought that would be a
better career for me.”

Eighteen months after starting training at Florida State College of Jacksonville, Agloro was a registered nurse with a job. She now works the night shift at St. Vincent’s Hospital, and with her career path laid out before her, she has already established her next goal: moving to the day shift.

Across the United States, the loss of manufacturing jobs has led some observers of the economy to opine that the American middle class is shrinking, with manufacturing jobs replaced by growth in
industries that require extensive higher education. At the other end of the spectrum are service-oriented positions that require nothing more than a high school diploma.

“There is a perception that going to college is the highest expression of success,” said Candace Moody, vice president of communications at WorkSource, a federally funded program that connects Northeast Florida workers with training and jobs. “But actually, the demand for four-year and beyond degrees is shrinking. The growing swath of jobs is in those ‘middle jobs.’ ”

The difference, of course, is that the type of jobs available for those who have an associate degree, a training certification or some college — but not a bachelor’s degree — are different than they were 20 years ago. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the manufacturing sector has been on the decline since hitting its peak in 1979, but the health care and computer fields continue to grow.

In other words, the middle class isn’t shrinking; it’s just changing. “There’s been a lot of emphasis on bachelor’s degrees because if Florida wants to remake its economy, if it wants to be less dependent
on housing and tourism, you have to look for industries that are clean and offer high-skilled types of jobs,” said Kathy Mizereck, executive director of the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools
and Colleges, which represents Florida’s 900 private higher education institutions. “Many of those are in science, energy, mathematics. But even in those environments, you also have to have a host of
technicians available to make any of those industries come to Florida.”

A study done in 2007 by The Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., noted that while the need for these “middle-skills” employees has decreased over the past two decades, they still comprise about half
of all American jobs. Additionally, some job opportunities in this sector increased dramatically. Health technician jobs numbered 400,000 in 1986 and 1 million in 2006.

One of the study’s authors, Harry J. Holzer of Georgetown University, appeared before the Senate Joint Economic Committee this summer. Holzer explained that too often, the skills Americans have do not match the needs of employers, partly because of a lack of communication between the education and business sectors. As an example, Holzer points to the manufacturing industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, even this struggling sector had a high ratio of vacancies to new hires, indicating that employers are having difficulty finding people qualified for the jobs. “Too many students obtain credentials that are not highly rewarded in the labor market,” Holzer told the panel. “At least partly, this is because our education and workforce systems largely operate in isolation from one another, with too few students gaining access to
career counseling and other employment services. Not all workers can attend or succeed in college, and many need other forms of job training that prepare them for good-paying occupations and sectors.”
WorkSource tries to bridge the gap between education and business, helping fill employers’ needs. Beyond investing in qualified students such as Agloro, WorkSource partners with local businesses to retrain
workers — helping to keep those businesses in Northeast Florida rather than risk them relocating to areas with more skilled workers. “Our job is to help people understand that education can be a series
of training steps,” Moody said. “Graduating from high school is a moral imperative for our children. Beyond that, you can get some post-secondary education in an area that provides opportunities.
“One of the reasons health care is such a priority for us is because it does offer those opportunities,” Moody said, explaining that about 70 percent of the students WorkSource helps right now are planning
careers in the health field. “You can work in the field for a while, and once you’ve decided which direction you are interested in going, you can seek more training.”

When Florida State College studied which of its graduates were earning the most money, Moody said, it discovered that those who earned an insurance certificate — a training that takes just a few months — had the highest income potential. And Mizereck noted that even jobs that might be considered oldschool
can be needed and vital in a particular economy. The 62-yearold Tulsa Welding School in Jacksonville, for instance, fills an important need.“Welding sounds like something that’s old and no one’s doing
anymore,” Mizereck said. But actually, in a port city, it’s very important.”

Agloro worked through WorkSource to get funding for school at Florida State College. And the program came with something else, too: some personal guidance that helped her with interview skills.
She found a nursing job fairly quickly and easily, earning $22 an hour and fulfilling a childhood dream that she had abandoned in college. “At UCF, I had a little bit of doubt about myself that I could do it, so I
kind of backed off it,” Agloro said. “But now I’m doing it — and I was really, really prepared for this job.”
And Agloro’s experience isn’t unusual, Mizereck said. Programs that tie the graduates they’re producing to the needs of the community successfully place students in jobs. “The proof’s in the pudding,” Mizereck said, “and these students are going to work.”

Career College Central Blog: 'For-Profit' Schools: The Untold Story

Career College Central Blog

By Kevin Kuzma, Online Editor

The story is a good one and, to this point, it's largely gone untold.

The main characters are buried by tremendous odds, caused either by circumstance, unfortunate decision making, or both. Wanting nothing more than to make decent lives for themselves, they decide to find a way out from waiting tables, tending bar, and sweeping up. But first they have to make their way through a dark tunnel of personal struggle and, sometimes, fear. At the risk of spoiling the ending, somehow, they find the strength to make something of a life that sometimes not even their families believe in.

This story line, of course, applies to most the students attending the programs at your schools. I know from having visited with a number of career college students. The majority have overcome enormous obstacles -- physical and verbal abuse, abandonment, substance issues, tragedy, single parenthood, dead-end careers, and more -- to become college graduates. And yet, most schools do not realize what a treasure trove their stories truly are.

Instead, it’s been the traditional media shaping the perception of career colleges over the years with little intervention on the sector’s part. Journalists use the term “for-profit” to label schools as sheer profit motivated, though educators throughout the sector would prefer different terminology and despite the fact that all institutions of higher learning must turn a profit or fold. The last 18 months, though, have been extraordinary for the level of vehemence and consistency. Hit after hit, the sector has taken it on the chin.

The media has taken its cues from politicians who are admittedly unknowledgeable about the mission of career colleges, how they operate or their impact on the American labor force. For the longest time, it seemed the overly negative coverage was making little impact on current and potential students, but we saw this week that the impact has been substantial.

Harris Interactive published the results of its poll of 2,183 adults surveyed online between July 11 and 18, 2011.  According to The Harris Poll, more than half of Americans (57%) agree that for-profit colleges/universities do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition. But, at the same time, a similar number (55%) agree that for-profit colleges/universities serve an important need.

A press release posted by the organization on PR Newswire noted that there are a “large number of U.S. adults who say they are not sure about (career) schools which means there is still a learning curve these colleges and universities have to climb. And, because of this sense of the unknown, what Americans may learn about the schools is what they see in the media regarding the federal government's scrutiny of them. The schools need to be proactive in pushing the message of the important need they fulfill to help counter this.”

While it’s been talked about and considered many times over the years, to my knowledge, there has never been an organized movement among the career college sector to end the negative publicity that takes a toll on these institutions or an attempt to educate the sources behind it. Instead, career colleges have kept low profiles, quietly refuting the charges against them or writing futile letters to the editor after devastating remarks have already appeared in prominent news publications.

With the onslaught of negative news involving the “gainful employment” rule, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) has put up a tremendous lobbying effort, organized student rallies, and filed lawsuits that have attracted headlines. But an overarching strategy has not materialized.

As a result of the current administration’s push together with the Department of Education, almost all news about career colleges today is negative. Given such a pervasively toxic environment nationally and in several states throughout the country, it seems that only a strategic public relations campaign can shed a different light on career-training providers.

Students are a commodity that can tell firsthand about the experience inside a career college classroom and, perhaps more importantly, afterward, as a sustainably employed career person in their respective field. Their stories alone could the centerpiece to a straightforward PR campaign that explains what role career colleges play in changing lives and shaping America.

But is it too late for a PR effort to do any good? I posted a discussion item on the Career College Central LinkedIn page asking whether or not the sector should launch a national PR campaign, and there is a sentiment that a sector-wide PR strategy should have been in motion long before the current rash of negative publicity.

Was there a better time to start the PR push, say, five years ago when career colleges and online schools were at the pinnacle of success? Then, it might have seemed unnecessary to some and a waste of resources. In launching a concerted PR campaign now, would the effort seem reactionary and insincere in its actions?

Probably. But the sector is losing ground everyday as it is. If not now, then when? The key involves the messaging. There is still a genuine story to be told – and it shouldn’t come from executives or even educators. Successful students have to line up and shout the story as loud as they can. Until then, it’s the Obamas, Harkins, Duncans who will tell the story directly in the ear of reporters who’ve never stepped inside your schools. Some believe the message needs to be orchestrated by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. Others will tell you it’s the schools themselves that should be helping students tell these stories and that APSCU should represent the sector on Capitol Hill.

I see it this way: There’s a storybook sitting on a table and inside it is a tale that’s stunning for its sheer capability to change perspectives.  Someone needs to pick it up and hand it to the unlikeliest of readers.

Kevin Kuzma

PR Web: Anthem College Instructor Receives Top Award


Anthem's Jeff Walters Named FAPSC Faculty Member of the Year

Jeff Walters, an instructor for Anthem College-Orlando, received top honors from the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC), which named him Faculty Member of the Year.

Walters teaches in Anthem College’s Basic X-ray Machine Operator and X-Ray Technician programs.

“Jeff Walter’s day doesn’t begin and end with his classes,” says Kathy Mizereck, executive director of FAPSC. “This man cares and it shows. He goes the extra mile.”

“He has assisted a student with funeral arrangements for his mother. He identified vision impairment in a student and helped obtain funds to pay for glasses. He works late to tutor. He has a consistent retention record of more than ninety percent of his students.”

Anthem College-Orlando offers hands-on training in several healthcare fields and in Computer Networking & Security. In addition to the Basic X-ray Machine Operator and X-Ray Technician program, it also offers education and training in Dental Assistant, Medical Assistant, Medical Billing & Coding, Pharmacy Technician, and Surgical Technologist. Programs prepare students to compete for entry-level positions in their chosen fields.

FAPSC is a statewide organization that represents more than 200 career-oriented schools. It works on behalf of all of Florida’s degree-granting and non-granting career schools and colleges. FAPSC members are licensed by the state and educate and prepare more than 379,000 students each year for employment in more than 200 occupational fields.

About Anthem College-Orlando
Originally established in 1998, Anthem College-Orlando is part of Anthem Education Group (AEG), a Phoenix, Arizona-based family of schools and colleges that provides career-focused training and education programs at 23 accredited institutions in 15 states as well as online. The AEG family of schools includes Anthem College, Anthem College Online, Anthem Career College, Anthem Institute, Morrison University, and The Bryman School of Arizona. For more information, visit http://anthem.edu.

For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program, and other important information, please visit our website at http://www.anthem.edu/disclosures.

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OrlandoSentinel.com: Scott explores changes in higher education

By Denise-Marie Balona, Orlando Sentinel

Gov. Rick Scott is exploring dramatic higher-education reforms that are similar to those already under way in Florida's public school districts.

Patterned after reforms being championed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who recently announced he's running for president, Scott is looking at changing the way professors are paid and moving toward a merit-pay system with limits on tenure.

Texas has been debating such changes to save money and bolster professor productivity — going so far as to consider tying professor pay to how many students they teach and how much research money they bring in.

Instructors would get annual bonuses as high as $10,000 a class if they rated highly on student satisfaction surveys. Even the assignment of faculty offices and parking spaces would be based on their performance.

Such reforms were designed to move Texas colleges toward more of a business model in which students are viewed as consumers purchasing a product — a college degree.

While the proposals have made the Lone Star State a lightening rod in higher-education circles nationwide, Scott said at least some of the ideas might be a good fit for Florida too.

Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers decided to abolish tenure for new grade-school teachers and start paying them based mostly on children's academic performance. College faculty in Florida have warned that those changes would pave the way for similar changes in higher education.

As students and staff returned to classes Monday for the start of the fall semester at most state universities, several lawmakers and college officials said they were open to at least discussing the controversial ideas, which would also impact how college are funded and accredited.

Scott has been quietly promoting the ideas among candidates he's considering appointing to college boards of trustees. He said he has been sharing copies of a report on which the Texas proposals are based — the "Seven Breakthrough Solutions" written by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank.

"It does get the conversation going," Scott told the Orlando Sentinel recently, although he wouldn't discuss a timetable.

Tom Auxter, president of United Faculty of Florida, the state's faculty union, said the plan is alarming. Florida public universities would become diploma mills with professors taking in as many students as they could, he said.

He worries that some of the state's most talented and prestigious faculty, who sometimes have small classes that work on specialized projects, would leave.

"People are just mortified by it," Auxter said. "The devil is alive and well in those details."

The Texas report also recommends that colleges provide students with "learning contracts" that specifically disclose information about their degree programs, including graduation rates, class sizes and expected starting salaries for their majors.

State Rep. Marlene O'Toole, who's in charge of the House's higher education budget committee, said she expects to learn more about the plan in the coming weeks. Legislative committees will begin meeting next month in preparation for the new legislative session, which begins Jan. 10.

"I'm open for all ideas," said O'Toole, R-Lady Lake. "I think we need to be."

State Sen. Thad Altman, a Brevard County Republican and member of the Senate's higher-education budget committee, is also eager to learn more. He's concerned, though, about any plan to pay professors based on class sizes.

It's tough, he said, to quantify the value of small group instruction.

"We're not manufacturing widgets here — we're trying to give our students a world-class education," he said.

It remains to be seen whether such proposals would catch on in Florida. Just months ago, the state Legislature dropped a plan to ban tenure in state colleges and community colleges after a public outcry from the colleges' presidents.

Scott said he's not sure all the proposals being weighed in Texas would work here. He also couldn't say which, if any, of them he'll push the Florida Legislature to adopt.

He said he's still seeking feedback.

Meanwhile, college leaders elsewhere will be watching to see if Florida follows Texas' lead. Joni Finney, director of the Institute for Research in Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania, said all states are struggling with the twin challenges of rising enrollment and budget cuts while also working to bolster professor productivity.

Finney said Texas has raised ideas worth discussing. But the governor, she said, shouldn't be butting into college management.

"That's the problem with what Perry is doing — rather than provide the incentives for colleges and universities to reform on their own … his strategy is, 'Here's how we're going to do it,' " she said.

Texas A&M, where Perry graduated, was the first university to road-test one of the Texas proposals. The university came under fire after it posted a spreadsheet online comparing faculty pay against the income they generated either through tuition or research funding.

The move prompted a letter late last year from the Association of American Universities, urging Texas A&M officials to resist "these ill-conceived calls for 'reform.'"

Staff writer Leslie Postal contributed to this report. dbalona@tribune.com or 407-420-5470.

Copyright © 2011, Orlando Sentinel

South Florida Business Journal: Florida college dropout rate causes $151M loss

South Florida Business Journal

August 22, 2011

Florida's college dropout rate resulted in a state loss of $132 million in earnings income and $19 million in federal taxes in 2010, according to a new analysis by the American Institutes for Research .

Florida's total revenue loss ranked seventh nationally. California lost the most revenue ($464 million), followed by New York ($436 million), Texas ($392 million), Pennsylvania ($217 million) and Illinois ($203 million).

The AIR study examined the more than 1.1 million full-time students who entered college in 2002 seeking bachelor's degrees. Of that total, almost 500,000 did not graduate within six years, costing a combined $4.5 billion in lost income and federal and state income taxes nationwide.

“These findings represent just one year and one graduating class. Therefore, the overall costs of low graduation rates are much higher since these losses accumulate year after year,” American Institutes for Research VP and co-author of the study Mark Schneider said in a release.

To generate these estimates, AIR researchers used data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, Census reports of income levels, the 2010 federal tax rate schedule, and information from The Tax Foundation. 

American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research: Obama's College Confusion President attacks schools that can fulfill his higher-ed goals

By Frederick M. Hess  |  The Daily

President Obama is passionately committed to improving higher education, but seems mightily confused about how he plans to do so.

Putting a fine point on his dilemma, just last week Obama's Justice Department filed a multibillion-dollar fraud suit against the Education Management Corp., the nation's second-largest for-profit college company, charging that it was not eligible for the $11 billion in state and federal aid. For the first time ever, the federal government sued a company based on claims that it violated federal law by paying recruiters based on students enrolled.

On one hand, the president has told Congress, "Every American will need to get more than a high school diploma." This calls for getting more students into post-secondary education.

On the other hand, there's the EMC lawsuit, the Department of Education's push for "gainful employment" regulation that threatens to stifle for-profit institutions whose graduates don't earn enough, and the administration's public relations offensive against for-profit providers. All of these moves seemingly have targeted those colleges and programs that have fueled the growth in undergraduate enrollment during the past decade.

Between 2000 and 2009, for-profit institutions increased enrollment by 300 percent, while public colleges and universities grew by 27 percent. For-profits have rapidly grown capacity and customized services for nontraditional students, even as public colleges and universities have shown little appetite for revamping established routines.

Reflecting the president's confused stance, Obama ally and Senate education committee chairman Tom Harkin has blasted for-profit growth, charging, "The vast majority of for-profit schools have prioritized growth over education … So it should not surprise us that educating students is taking a backseat to just getting more bodies in the door."

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has voiced concerns that too many students are enrolling in for-profit colleges or taking loans to pursue degrees they won't finish.

Duncan's stance gives these colleges good reason to start getting much pickier about whom they serve. This is why some operators are starting to express more interest in turning away students who look like bad risks--you know, like applicants with spotty work histories, or those from communities with lousy labor markets.

One reason the for-profits don't post great statistics is that they serve a nontraditional population, made up disproportionately of students lacking the academic credentials sought by four-year institutions. For instance, black and Hispanic students make up 28 percent of undergraduates nationally, but represent nearly half of students in the for-profit sector. Fifty-four percent of students in for-profit two-year colleges are classified as "high-risk," compared to 36 percent in traditional community colleges.

Nonetheless, despite Harkin's claims, for-profits on the whole appear to be serving needy students relatively well. U.S. Department of Education data show that graduates of private-sector college programs that last two years or less report a 50 percent increase in annual incomes, from about $14,700 before enrollment to $22,500 after graduation.

Perhaps students should just go to public community college instead, avoiding the need for for-profits. Unfortunately, where for-profits are growing like kudzu, community colleges are turning away students. In California, for instance, the community college system turned away 140,000 potential students this year.

Why would financially pressed community colleges turn away students, given that more students bring more dollars? After all, the Department of Justice fears that for-profits are pursuing students too aggressively. However, while community colleges are often thought to be cheap, they're only cheap for the students--not taxpayers. California's community colleges cost students $1,080 per year, but they also cost the state another $5,000 in subsidies. When those state subsidies aren't forthcoming, community colleges slam the doors on would-be students.

It's the for-profits that have a selfish, practical incentive to find ways to add students, even those with families, obligations and unpredictable schedules. Of course, this aggressive competition can result in unseemly, unsavory or outright fraudulent behavior--but you'd think a president championing post-secondary access would be a lot less willing to toss out the baby along with the bathwater.

Obama's current stance amounts to an unfortunate assault on the only institutions eager to help fulfill his grand ambitions. If you've ever tried to drive a car with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake, you have an idea of the problem with the president's higher education agenda.

Frederick M. Hess is a resident scholar and director of Education Policy Studies at AEI.

South Florida Business Journal: Critical Conversations: Education

South Florida Business Journal

Budget cuts drive schools’ need for entrepreneurial approach

Kevin Gale, Editor In Chief

Tight budgets are prompting public schools to get more creative, providing business opportunities for private schools, our Critical Conversation panelists say.
Tests scores in public schools are showing progress, but they explained how many students are still falling short of being prepared for college or to make a career choice.
The discussion is part of the Business Journal’s ongoing Critical Conversations series, which has covered topics including health care, banking, manufacturing and the economy.

What follows is an edited transcript of the discussion, which was moderated by senior reporter Brian Bandell.

Q: What is the biggest issue and challenges for your institution?

A: Cecil Kidd, Pembroke Pines campus president, Keiser University: The biggest challenge for all of us is funding issues – finding resources for students to attend. That’s not only their tuition, but working adults are trying to maintain their job and take care of their families.

D. Michael Fields, dean and professor of marketing, Nova Southeastern University ’s H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship: Responding to a changing corporate marketplace – the fact that industry is more demanding in the skill sets they want students to have and making sure we better meet those expectations.

J. David Armstrong, president, Broward College : Having enough facilities to accommodate all the students who want to go to Broward College. I’ve been here four years and enrollment is up 30 percent. Our penetration is much less than Miami-Dade and the state average, but we have the highest utilization rate of any of our state institutions. In our downtown Fort Lauderdale center, we have classes that start at 6:30 a.m. [Days after the panel discussion, BC said it might need to tear down the center to build a more modern facility.]

Kathy Mizereck, executive director, Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges: Making the most efficient and effective use of the resources out there – state, federal, local, whatever – to make sure students have access to higher education.

Roberto C. Blanch, chairman, Mater Academy, and attorney, Siegfried Rivera Lenrer De La Torre & Sobel, P.A.: Funding is No. 1. In addition, we have the means and ability to locate some facilities, but we run into roadblocks – be it neighbors that don’t want schools in their backyard or some political or government resistance.

Jeffrey J. Hernandez, CEO, National Academic Educational Partners: Developing the leadership and the instructional staff that is going to be preparing students for postsecondary education. The way we were taught is not the way students need to be prepared and taught these days.

Amy Padolf, director of education, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden: Funding challenges and space challenges. We sit on 83 acres, but most of that is a botanic garden. We are building a science village. [A news release says Fairchild’s five-year vision is to support the Science Village with 10 Ph.D. scientists, 20 Ph.D. students and 40 undergraduate research students.

Q: The Legislature has been cutting funding for education. Has the quality of schools suffered as a result?

A: Fields: I think the running joke is state institutions are going from being state supported to state assisted to state located. It is forcing state institutions to act more like private institutions. They have to be more concerned about endowments and making sure there is a reason to drive a certain program.

Armstrong: I think our quality continues to rise. Our state universities and colleges, like Broward College, are measured in so many different ways, such as SAT scores of freshmen, number of books in the library and endowment. Harvard and the usual ones tend to pop up high on the quality list. We measure by how well we are able to prepare students to assume a career.
We have had to become more entrepreneurial to backfill some of the cuts. So you see UF coming into the community with an executive MBA program. As state funding is cut, it limits the opportunities for STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] programs at universities or other opportunities. We have a list of programs that we’d like to start to help our local businesses.

Kidd: Private-sector schools can fill those voids. We just built a 78,000-square-foot campus off I-75 in Pembroke Pines, and opened a newly relocated facility in Miami. We have the ability to raise private funds, now that we are a not-for-profit.

Mizereck: Our members use private capital to build, lease or buy space and staff, equip it and open programs. Because they are not state supported, they are not as affected by cuts. Our students get financial aid, so we try to stay vigilant.
The universities are beginning to be entrepreneurial and creative. One of the things the University of Florida has done is create a new spring-summer academic year. Students enroll and go in spring and summer, but they won’t be there in the fall. It’s a way to stretch resources better.

Blanch: As far as our schools go, I don’t think there has been a negative impact on quality of education measured by test stores, graduation rates and getting into colleges. But I am worried about how many more cuts you can take and run a good program that assists the kids.

Hernandez: I think, by nature, educators always do more with less. Our tests scores across Florida continue to increase, but the funding has been reduced in all districts. I think we are reaching the point where we have gone as far as we can to streamline things for students. It could cut into opportunities to enrich their academic programs.
More students have to take remediation when they reach college. Closing the achievement gap in high schools is expensive.

Padolf: We have the opportunity to act and help in these situations. At the undergraduate and graduate levels, we offer opportunities such as interacting with our scientists or doing postsecondary education work with scientists in our garden.
We created the Fairchild Challenge for environmental education based on STEM learning [a concept championed by President Barack Obama]. It allows schools to add to what they are doing. We had students create concepts for LEED-certified classrooms – they did drawings and specifications. There are performing arts, debate and culinary experiences.
We are working with universities to offer internship and resident assistantships. This year, we have one of our partnerships with the FDA and FIU. Students work with scientists and botanists to learn more about these subjects so they are more focused when they go off to college.

Hernandez: This education funding [situation] has asked educators to think outside of the box. I work with Mater and they have started a virtual school. They can’t provide the level of instruction they used to provide in the classroom, with the same teacher/student ratio. In the past, you could have five students taking Advanced Placement physics. You can’t maintain that.

Q: Does the funding situation sometimes penalize these high-achieving students?
Blanch: You are right, and I think the legislators are the ones who have to answer that. They are the ones who have to find a way to not undercut education funding – and I am calling them out.

Kidd: We need to be creative as educators, and not be stuck in the previous century. Think about airplanes and engineering. In World War II, they had to build the airplane and fly it to see if it would fly. Today, it’s all designed by computer. When it hits the runway, it can fly.
Can you teach students to do the engineering virtually? Absolutely. There are some who believe 20 years from now we will see very little brick-and-mortar education. We can’t even build enough buildings fast enough to accommodate demand. Our online program is growing rapidly, and it’s about access.
Hernandez: I’m optimistic about online, and we are proponents of that. My message is that the innovative thinking you are alluding to should not come as a response to the undercutting. We, as educators, have that obligation, irrespective of budget cuts.

Kidd: It takes money to roll out online.

Mizereck: I think the lack of resources have forced people to accelerate some programs. Advanced Placement has been a long-time problem. A small school may have only one AP student in chemistry. You try to provide differentiated curriculum. More of us are seeing those situations.
Hernandez: Educators will always do more with less because it’s about the kids. Despite the beatings we take every year, as educators, we continue to do our jobs. Scores are up amid one of the worst years in budgetary history.

Padolf: There needs to be a happy balance between online and the experience. There is an important piece that is missing: problem solving and critical thinking.

Q: Is there a disconnect in South Florida between the skills employers are looking for and skill sets universities are able to teach?

Kidd: At our university, there is not. We employ advisory committees in each of our disciplines. We work closely with the business community. We call ourselves Florida’s statewide career institution for a reason.
Thirty years ago, if you came out with a degree, you had many mid-management opportunities. Today, employers need to get people up and running quickly, and they need them with specific skills sets.

Fields: I think we have to respond more quickly to marketplace needs and employment needs. We did research and asked the major employers, ‘If there was one new skill set, what would it be?’ These companies filled in the blanks, and that has driven our response. We are very involved with marketplace-based education and driving value more quickly.
Fifty to 70 percent of CEOs are saying in surveys that they are doing no or limited hiring next year. Not only are the typical outlets not hiring, but there is this tremendous backlog of displaced professionals who are willing to take entry-level wages to get a job and get benefits. The last thing we all want, as educators, is to have our graduates come out and not be able to find jobs.

Armstrong: [At] the Fort Lauderdale Alliance, we do hear there are gaps. There are potentially lost opportunities if our universities and colleges don’t have the funding to start up or enhance programs, such as in technology, biotechnology or science. What happens then is Research in Motion, or one of the networking or IT companies, has to reach out to the Northeast or the West Coast to attract Ph.D. software engineers to fill the gaps they have.
We are hosting roundtables with businesses to ask: What are those emerging trends? What are the gaps? Where can we, as colleges, work to create a track and support you?

Mizereck: I don’t think programs and institutions focused on careers have a skill gap because they are constantly checking. It’s their mission.
More generally, there are some programs that don’t prepare students for jobs. Some may choose a program that they are passionate about.

Armstrong: A lot of students have bachelor’s degrees in psychology, and they make very good waiters. Then we get yelled at in Tallahassee. Some do go on to get advanced degrees and become clinical psychologists.
You see things like ‘time to degree’ legislation. The state will only pay for a certain number of hours, and then they are going to start charging more.
Students are becoming smarter consumers: What is this going to do to me? What is this going to do to me if I rack up a lot of debt?
We try to discourage them from using debt at all. We try to encourage them to get merit aid. We try to give them Personal Finance 101 and tell them the government will track you down to your grave to get repayment.
Hernandez: Students are growing up a lot faster, and they are making those decisions at a much younger age. I remember a lot of contemporaries when I was in school, and they didn’t have a clue what they wanted to do. And that persisted through college, and then it was ‘Sorry buddy, it’s too late.’

Mizereck: A second question that needs to be asked: To what degree should the taxpayer subsidize that choice? One of the discussions in the Legislature in the past is, if David wants to offer psychology on his campus, the student is going to have to pay full fare. That’s a legitimate policy discussion. That’s when people get very upset.
I used to work with K-12, and you don’t want to fight with the arts teachers. They believe there is a legitimate public interest served by the arts programs.

Padolf: The issue is we want students to find their interests before they get to the university – before they start spending their money and get into debt. We want to expose them to a lot off different things. We want to know what their interest is, but find opportunities within that interest. If they spend eight-plus hours a day at a job, they have to love it.
You want them not doing what I did – I was a psych major for a minute and a half, and a sociology major for a minute and a half, and I ended up with an undergraduate degree in rhetoric – so I have a B.S. in B.S.

Fields: NSU’s Fischler School has a National Institute for Educational Options. It’s designed to drive referendums that give students more choice and to know better what their options are and where they can go and what they can study.

Armstrong: There is a relatively new Junior Achievement facility on our north campus. For every fifth- and eighth-grader, we are trying to expose them to career opportunities – getting them to think about entrepreneurship and what it’s like to take out a bank account and pay for things. More could be done, but they are becoming more career savvy.

Q: Is the average Florida high school graduate prepared for college coursework?
Hernandez: A large majority of students graduating from all districts across the nation are taking remediation in reading and mathematics when they get to college.
Our work is changing because of the student population we are serving. We are getting students in 10th grade who speak no English, and when they graduate from the 12th grade, they are expected to be a proficient learner.

Blanch: Empirically, there is data that they are not ready. As educators, we need to answer that. As do parents. We have had a hard time at Mater with some parents who look at the rigorous demands placed on students, which we feel are needed to place them in college. Some parents say, ‘Don’t do that, not to my little baby.’

Mizereck: I don’t think there is such a thing as an average Florida high school graduate. Some take advantage of dual enrollment and AP. They are amazing and well prepared. Then, there are kids who are barely making it out of high school. Then, there is the big group in the middle. I don’t want to throw K-12 under the bus.
There are a lot of high school graduates who don’t know what they want to do. They try college a little and they don’t like. They go to work for a while and realize they don’t want to work at a minimum-wage job.
When that attitude or maturation occurs, they approach learning and studying differently.

Hernandez: Teaching in the absence of learning is just talking.

Mizereck: In kindergarten, 99 percent of the responsibility of learning is on the teacher. In high school, it’s 80 percent student and 20 percent teacher. A lot of teachers work their butts off, and there are kids who don’t pay attention.

Padolf: It’s important for us to be able to assess if students are getting it or not to make sure the way we are teaching is not just a memorization for an exam. So, they get it in multiple ways – not just through the textbook, but through experiential learning and technical learning. So students who may not be getting it one way can get it another way.

Armstrong: Here’s the good news: A lot of progress is being made; 25 to 30 percent of student in public and private high schools are getting a fabulous education and can succeed.
We know what is needed and we have teachers who know how to do it. Unfortunately, the majority of students beyond the 25 to 30 percent don’t get the access, don’t get the support. It’s a family issue or a lot of social issues in their community.
Policies implemented by the Legislature and government are starting to show progress. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAPE) scores are trending in the right direction. Policy change, such as increasing math and science curriculum requirements as core requirements, is a challenge because we don’t have adequately prepared math and science teachers.

Fields: The more you are an open-access institution, the greater the need for remediation. You need to get those students up to speed and emotionally ready to be in college. If not, you need to help them exit the process – sometimes voluntarily and sometimes involuntarily.
You put an instructor in an impossible situation when there is such a wide variation. If you have great students, you are doing to do a disservice to them because the class has been dumbed down.

Kidd: About 60 percent of Keiser’s population is over 25. We are seeing a lot of students who weren’t ready to go into college in the first round. We are seeing more and more adult workers ready to take on a collegiate workload.

Fields: We have working professionals who made some poor choices in undergraduate degrees and come out with poor GPAs. That doesn’t prohibit them from pursuing a graduate program if they demonstrate that they are ready to step up.

Hernandez: I’m a very proud Floridian because our education program is very, very rigorous and robust in providing the students the preparation they need to move forward. Educators are held to a very high standard.
A prepared high school graduate four years ago might not be one now. We have to be very sensitive to that. I might need an intervention. Maybe the skills I acquired are not preparing me for the new expectation of the workforce. Our Florida Department of Education has created a venue of being aware of where public education is now.

Armstrong: Policies have been put in place. If funding is put in place and we can get trained teachers and implement these policies, I think five years from now the answer would be yes. The foundation is there. The framework is there.

Direct link to article: http://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/print-edition/2011/08/12/critical-conversations-education.html?page=all

FAPSC Conference Recap

Driving Student Success in Sunny Florida
Posted by John Gilani

Last week, the OrgSync team travelled to sunny Florida to exhibit at the Florida Association of Post-Secondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC) annual conference, a couple of months after our visit to the annual APSCU conference in Grapevine.

FAPSC was the second career college conference OrgSync has ever attended and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to meet with both administrators and faculty to share how our 200+ campus partners are benefitting from using OrgSync. We demoed OrgSync (using our cool new iPad 2’s I might add) to show career colleges how we can help their campuses build an online community for their students and faculty. The feedback was absolutely tremendous as attendees viewed our community management solutions as a key component to their retention, communication and alumni initiatives moving forward.

With a theme of “Driving Student Success” we visited with these passionate administrators and witnessed the high level of commitment the Florida colleges make to their students on a daily basis. I was able to attend the breakout sessions during breaks in our exhibit times and learn more about some of the amazing things the campuses in attendance are doing. For example, Dade Medical College has committed to providing more than 50 scholarships throughout the community. Also, Ashley McMillion from Daymar Colleges Group shared a number of creative ways she is improving engagement with her students and faculty. The keynote speakers offered perspectives on the state of career colleges and a bright outlook and challenges facing everyone in the industry today.

All in all, FAPSC was a great conference, and I look forward to reconnecting with our new friends in Florida to learn how OrgSync can make an impact on their career college moving forward.