Thursday, September 29, 2011

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas two-year colleges have received a federal grant of $14.7 million to help students complete degree programs in fields in which they are more likely to find good jobs.

The grant will help pay for several changes at Arkansas colleges. The change that is most noticeable to students is that colleges will realign class schedules so students with jobs have more opportunities to attend classes at night and on weekends.

Another change that will help students is a re-working of requirements to complete remedial courses. This will particularly help older students whose education stopped after getting a high school diploma or a GED.

When they sign up for college, they must score a 19 or better on standardized tests in reading, math and English and if they don't, they must take remedial classes to get up to the college level. The majority of first-time students who enroll in a two-year college must take at least one remedial class.

The federal grant will pay for a redesign of course work in remedial classes to better fit the needs of students. If tests show that a student needs help in a specific area, that student will be tutored in the particular area and not have to take an entire remedial course. The student will be able to fulfill their remedial requirements in a couple of days rather than in an entire semester.

The grant will help colleges make changes in curriculum and degree programs so that course work more closely fits the needs of nearby industries.

With input from local businesses, colleges will create career pathways. Students who take courses in career pathways are more likely to be qualified for jobs in local industries.

Nationwide, college attendance is tending to increase because of the poor economy. People who are laid off go back to college to learn new job skills. More and more high school graduates realize the benefits of a college degree in getting a good job.

The increase in attendance has meant an increase in the number of students who are not prepared for college course work. Their lack of academic preparation hinders them from getting into growth areas like health care and information technology.

The federal grant, from the U.S. Department of Labor, is one of a series of national grants to help colleges meet the needs of students. In all, the department awarded $500 million in career training grants to colleges across the country.

There are 22 two-year colleges in Arkansas with 60 locations. More than 61,000 students are enrolled in classes for credit and another 50,000 people are taking classes through a local business in order to upgrade their job skills.

Almost half of the college students in Arkansas are the first person in their family to attend college. Almost half are 25 or older and 43 percent attend college on a part time basis.

Students earn associate degrees and technical certificates. The most popular degrees are in nursing and health professions, but colleges offer hundreds of degree options in computer science, manufacturing , aerospace and energy technology, mechanics, law enforcement, education and electronics.

On average, the cost to attend a two-year college in Arkansas is $2,654 a year, or $1,327 per semester. That amount represents tuition and mandatory fees.

Certain core courses earned at two-year colleges can be transferred for credit at four-year universities.

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