Annette Hacker, director,
Office: (515) 294-4777
Frankie Santos Laanan, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, (515) 294-7292, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elaine Watkins-Miller, Iowa Department of Education, (515) 281-5651, email@example.com
Mike Ferlazzo, News Service, (515) 294-8986, firstname.lastname@example.org
Education leadership and policy studies prof researches community college landscape
AMES, Iowa -- As a student who attended three different community colleges before earning his undergraduate degree from UCLA, Frankie Santos Laanan learned the value of community college education. He also knows the obstacles community college students face when they transfer to four-year institutions to complete their bachelor's degrees.
That's why Laanan -- an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) at Iowa State University -- has made community college students the focus of his research. He will share results of two of his most recent studies with the State Board of Education during its meeting this Thursday, July 26, in Des Moines.
One study of approximately 100,000 Iowa community college students found that those who received a degree, certificate or diploma experienced positive gains in median annual earnings --nearly $3,000 more than those who didn't. The results of that study -- which has received national research awards -- are being announced today by the Iowa Department of Education and available on its Web site at this link. The research will assist the Iowa Department of Education in its federal reporting requirements and inform the public about the benefits of a community college education.
The second study used data from the Iowa Department of Education management information system and the National Student Clearinghouse to determine transfer behavior among Iowa community college students. It found that between 2003 and 2005, Iowa Regent universities enrolled more than half of the students who earned an Associate in Arts degrees from Iowa community colleges, and less than half of those without degrees who transfer from those schools. Iowa private institutions enrolled slightly less than a third of Iowa community college transfer students during that time period, with the rest being lost to institutions in neighboring states.
Addressing critical community college issues
Laanan has also been invited to be a presenter at the First Symposium on Higher Education, sponsored by Keeling and Associates, Thursday and Friday, August 9-10, at the Yale Club in New York City. At that event, participants from across the country will discuss some of the most pressing issues facing higher education today. Laanan's talk will address the alignment of community colleges with K-12 and four-year institutions, as well as the role of community colleges in preparing future scientists. He sees these as being critical community college issues.
"I think we (nationally) have very good transfer and articulation policies. Those serve really as the conduits of a seamless transition," he said. "Iowa has good policies and transfer plans, but it's very different from other states where it's very formalized and inter-institutional. If you look at the state of California, which is a lot larger in terms of the number of institutions and people, it was legislative mandate that drove public higher education to have to work together. But in Iowa, we have yet to have that kind of directive. I think we have very good examples from states that have a very clear master plan for public higher education that help to bring the sectors together.
"My experience is that there's still this resistance or perception among faculty in Iowa that the quality of a community college education is not up to par," he continued. "And that's very problematic because I don't think we have any good hard quantitative evidence to support that argument. So it's very deeply held perception that has perpetuated for decades."
He reports that the National Science Foundation has publicly acknowledged the role of America's community colleges in the education and training of advanced technicians and future scientists. "Also, because community colleges enroll an overrepresentation of women, first-generation and ethnic minorities, NSF views community colleges as a viable option to pursue the first two years of a college education to a science, technology, engineering or math major at the four-year institution.," he said.
Iowa's improving, but can do better
Yet Iowa community college students still don't always receive full academic credit during transfer to Iowa's four-year schools, according to Laanan. While that condition is improving, he said that more can be done.
"As a former transfer student myself in terms of how California is structured, I had to be certified to demonstrate that I had met a general core curriculum, which is the first two years of the general core," said Laanan. "What's important about what's in California is that because I was certified for the general core curriculum, I entered at junior level and I had met the general coreSo it was seamless; and there was no loss of time.
"That's a very different picture than many Iowa community college students when they transfer -- even with an associate's degree -- where their graduation timeline can be extended way beyond two years, depending on their major, " he continued. "In higher education, we talk about productivity and efficiency, so are we really efficient in terms of the movement of students? We don't want to just quantify everything in terms of these metrics, but that's one way to examine whether or not we are efficient in terms of access and the movement and production of graduates."
Laanan cites ISU's Admissions Partnership Program as one way that the university has committed to helping Iowa community college students make a more seamless transition to Iowa State. Through the program, students from Des Moines Area Community College and Iowa Valley Community College District who plan to pursue a bachelor's degree at Iowa State receive special benefits to help pave the way for academic success at both schools. More community colleges will have the opportunity to participate in the Admissions Partnership Program in coming months.
"Iowa is a state that has a declining population, especially among high school graduates. And so even among the Regents (institutions), we are competing for students -- and now, community college transfer students," said Laanan. "And the argument we're now making at Iowa State is that we want ISU to be the transfer university and destination."
Frankie Santos Laanan
Laanan discusses another important issue for Iowa community college students -- remediation. (46 sec.)
Frankie Santos Laanan -- an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) at Iowa State -- will share results of two of his most recent studies on Iowa community college students with the State Board of Education during its meeting on Thursday, July 26, in Des Moines. Laanan is on the faculty of ISU's Community College Leadership Program (more info.).
"My experience is that there's still this resistance or perception among faculty in Iowa that the quality of a community college education is not up to par. And that's very problematic because I don't think we have any good hard quantitative evidence to support that argument. So it's very deeply held perception that has perpetuated for decades."
Frankie Santos Laanan