EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, September 8, 2006

    Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • The Pennsylvania State Board of Education's Committee on Early Childhood on Friday approved final form regulations governing prekindergarten programs. The proposed regulations were revised based on public comments collected over the past few months and now will be considered by the full Board on September 20. Only an earlier (April 25) and now outdated version of the proposed regulations is on the State Board's web site as of this writing. For information about the revised proposal, call the State Board at 717-787-3787.

  • This week, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) convened the Transfer and Articulation Oversight Committee created by Act 114 of 2006 to identify foundation courses that can be universally transferred between public institutions of higher education when students move from one college to another. At the meeting, Deputy Secretary for Postsecondary Education James Gearity reviewed the Committee's assignment as laid out in Act 114 and proposed an agenda for completing work that needs to be finished by the end of 2006.

    By the end of the year, the Committee must develop equivalency standards for foundation courses. All sectors of higher education will have the opportunity to provide input into the standards' development, however, only the two sectors legally required to participate in the articulation system have the power to vote on the final standards. Act 114 requires the Commonwealth's 14 community colleges and 14 State System of Higher Education universities to participate in the transfer system once it is established. State-related universities (like Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh) and private not-for profit colleges and universities may choose to participate by adopting the course equivalency standards after they are developed. Once the standards are developed, the Committee has until July 8, 2007 to identify at least 30 hours of foundation courses that can be transferred between participating institutions without loss of credit.

    PDE suggested beginning the standards development process by forming subcommittees to discuss standards related to categories such as math and natural sciences, social and behavioral sciences, humanities and Fine Arts, and English/Composition. The Department wants to establish an additional subcommittee involving campus IT professionals to develop electronic templates to fulfill the new higher education reporting requirements included in Act 114. The Transfer and Articulation Oversight Committee will reconvene on September 27 to discuss the initial implementation plan suggested by PDE at this week's meeting.

  • Research and Reports

    School Readiness

  • Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children recently released its second annual school readiness report, which measures 14 readiness indicators related to communities and families, health, early care and education, and schools. The report shows noteworthy improvements in early education indicators including increases in the number of children enrolled in pre-kindergarten, full-day kindergarten, and Head Start. Other gains were found in the number of children enrolled in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the state's early intervention program, as well as the number of child care providers enrolled in the state's child care quality improvement system - Keystone STARS. Between 2005 and 2006, PPC notes improvement in 8 of the 14 indicators measured, while three stayed the same and three lost ground. For more information, including county and school district level school readiness data, see www.papartnerships.org/sr/.

  • Higher Education

  • Though Pennsylvania performs solidly in preparing students for and enrolling them in college, gaps in participation based on income and ethnicity have grown since the early 1990s, while, at the same time, a college education has become less affordable, according to the updated report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, "Measuring Up 2006: The National Report Card on Higher Education". The Center found that as a nation we are moving backwards in expanding college access, with 43 states receiving failing grades for affordability. The proportion of a family's income required to pay for a year of college has grown for all but the wealthiest families and financial aid has not kept pace with tuition increases. The share of average family income needed to cover the cost of attending a public four-year institution, after financial aid, has grown from 30% to 39% in Pennsylvania, with the most pressure on students from the lowest income families. According to the report, the 40% of the population with the lowest incomes (who earn on average $21,595 each year) would need 40% of their annual income to cover the net cost of attending a community college in Pennsylvania, while it would take 59% of their annual income to cover the net cost of a public four-year college in the Commonwealth. The report also looks at states' performance in terms of student preparation, participation in college, completion rates, benefits received by the state, and student learning results. Pennsylvania performed well on each of these indicators (except student learning for which the Center said there was not enough information to evaluate).

    Additionally, for the first time, the 2006 edition of Measuring Up includes international comparisons of higher education performance for all 50 states and the U.S. as a whole. The report found that "younger Americans are falling behind young people of other nations in college enrollment and completion rates". While the U.S. is a leader in the proportion of Americans age 35-64 with a college degree, it has dropped to seventh in the proportion of Americans age 25-34 with a college degree. Access the full report at http://measuringup.highereducation.org/. Read the Pennsylvania State Report at http://measuringup.highereducation.org/reports/stateprofilenet.cfm?myyear=2006&stateName=Pennsylvania.

  • A recent project funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Lumina Foundation for Education and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation studied the economic, informational and cultural barriers community college students face in transferring to selective institutions. Trends show that despite growth in full-time community college enrollment, the opportunity to transfer to an elite four-year college or university is diminishing. The study shows that the lowest-income community college students that transfer to selective four-year institutions graduate at higher rates than students in similar economic positions who started at four-year schools. Experts believe that selective institutions and community colleges can increase the number of low-income transfers through encouraging successful community college students to apply, increasing awareness of financial aid opportunities, and working to ease cultural barriers. Recommendations for community colleges and highly selective institutions, along with the executive summary, are available at www.jackkentcookefoundation.org/jkcf_web/Documents/Exe%20Summ%20Final.pdf.

  • The National Center for Education Statistics recently released a report that looks at "Student Financing of Undergraduate Education: 2003-04, With a Special Analysis of the Net Price of Attendance and Federal Education Tax Benefits", available at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006186.

  • Datebook

  • Next Week...The House Local Government Subcommittee on Boroughs holds a public hearing Tuesday on House Bill 1677, which would require college dormitories to be equipped with carbon monoxide alarms. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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