NCC at a Crossroads

 

If we consult a symbolism dictionary, the entry for “crossroads” tells us it’s a meeting place of two realms. It’s a place between. In academic parlance, it’s a liminal spot. It connotes—depending on your reading of the stars—either an unsettling or exhilarating state of indeterminacy.  The crossroads suggests, then, a crisis of definition and direction: Who are we? Where are we going? (One longs at moments like this for an existential GPS).  One response to questions likes these is written into the lore of the crossroads: you eliminate the pain of indecision and secure the glitter of short-term victory by making a bargain with the devil. In 2016, Nassau Community College, finds itself wounded and limping to a crossroads. And we ask: Who are we? And where are we going?

Now, an obvious objection to this argument, that NCC is at a crossroads, is that we were already there, and that a previous Faustian bargain has doomed us.  There is evidence to support this reasoning. With the departure of Dr. Sean Fanelli in January of 2010, NCC lost a president whose respect for faculty, respect for the college’s renowned system of shared governance, and widely recognized competence secured for NCC a national reputation for academic excellence and institutional governance. But with Dr. Fanelli’s exit, NCC began a perilous decline, and it’s fair to assert that January 2010 was indeed the date we reached a crossroads in our institutional history. Let’s look back. Dr. Fanelli’s replacement was Donald Astrab. His tenure, marked by mass firings and attacks on faculty governance, ended with overwhelming votes of no confidence and a lucrative separation agreement. (Lesson: don’t a hire a leader from a “right-to-work” state). Life after Astrab: a bungling Board of Trustees conducted three national searches for a permanent president. All three failed. The third and final attempt, notorious for the Board’s secret submission of the winning candidate’s name to SUNY, ended when the Board’s choice recused himself from consideration for the post. Meanwhile the College has lost about 25% of its full-time faculty since 2010, a devastating loss of talent and experience. During the same period enrollment has collapsed by about 17%. Administrative incompetence has surged. NCC’s Performance Improvement Plan (mandated for all colleges by SUNY as part of its neoliberal “SUNY Excels” program) was pulled from the SUNY website after glaring problems were discovered by faculty. And perhaps the strongest measure of administrative failure was found in the exit report filed by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) after its site visit in February: NCC was not compliant with seven of fourteen Standards of accreditation (Standards 2,3,4,5,6,7, and 14), including leadership and governance, administration, and integrity. On June 23, 2016 MSCHE placed NCC on probation “due to insufficient evidence that the institution is currently in compliance” with any of the aforementioned failed Standards. So in six short years NCC our once storied College has been led by a bungling Board and an even more blundering administration down a road to near ruin. It is quite a stunning accomplishment.

The road to near ruin has brought NCC to a crossroads. One promising signpost, indicating the College’s future might be brighter, was the appointment Dr. W. Hubert Keen as College president. Dr. Keen, a scientist, academic and mostly recently, president of SUNY Farmingdale, brings to NCC a wealth of experience as a researcher, professor, SUNY administrator, and of course true governing expertise. We look forward to productive collaboration with our new president as we work together at this critical crossroads. Already, with just seven weeks of President Keen’s leadership, life on campus seems calmer, and the dread of early summer seems to be lifting. A steady, competent hand to guide us out of the perils of probation is precisely what NCC needed. We have that hand, and we should be immensely grateful for President Keen’s leadership.

It’s early days, yes, and we have accreditation yet to be fully and finally re-secured. That will happen. NCC is simply too important to the citizens of Nassau County and New York for it not to, and we have the will and, finally, the leadership to make it happen. But Middle States is only one of our battles. The other battle has to do with our mission and how that mission is funded. When Governor Cuomo re-defined the mission of community colleges as “training schools” in his 2015 State of the State address, he was foolishly repudiating more than a half-century-old liberal arts tradition, he was putting the needs of businesses before the dreams of students, he was furthering the evolution of a two-tiered class system in higher education (one for the rich, one for the rest of us), and he was ignoring a fact clear to anyone who cares about the creation of a critical-minded, dynamic citizenry working in a complex modern economy: that a liberal arts education is the best kind of workforce education there is. Funding that mission—the liberal arts mission we as yet retain, though it’s at risk—is a continuing battle and a public shame. Faced with frozen funding, we’ve turned to students to cover budget gaps. The extra burden of funding is placed on those who can least afford it: our students, whose future earning are “taxed” (they are the public, too), while income continues to stream unabated and in increasingly large percentages to the top income brackets. Educational inequality and the broader social inequalities increase every year. Our legislators and the public they represent need to wake up to the dream-killing crisis of public education funding.

As part of its Let Us Learn/Let Them Learn campaign, the NCC/AAUP is hosting a college-wide symposium on October 20 that will bring together students, staff, faculty, and public officials, including recently elected 4th district Congresswoman Kathleen Rice to address precisely the issues just raised: making a first-class liberal arts education affordable at NCC and other public colleges. At the symposium we will ask: Who are we and Where are we going? Perhaps this forum will answer some of these questions.

Tim Strode, PhD, NCC/AAUP Executive Committee

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conning Students and Busting Unions at LIU

On the Saturday before Labor Day, the 400 members of Long Island University Brooklyn’s faculty union (LIUFF) received word from the administration that their salaries, health insurance, campus email accounts, and jobs were being discontinued. Replacement “professors” (scabs recruited as early as July on monster.com) and administrators stepped up to the lecterns to face confused and angry students on the first day of classes as professors filled out unemployment forms at the nearby Brooklyn Commons cafe. The lockout ended last Wednesday with a faculty contract extension until next May. The LIUFF declared victory. And qualified professors returned to classrooms.

LIU’s lockout was unprecedented in higher education. Lockouts normally occur in the industrial sector, not in the service economy where customer satisfaction trumps business disruptions. And lockouts rarely work because the media and the public side with workers who are available to work but are blocked from doing so by management. Lockouts are bad PR. LIU’s administration–led by its president/CEO/union breaker Kimberly Cline—hoped to preempt a faculty strike, but their ploy failed miserably. Perhaps Cline should have consulted labor history. Perhaps she assumed students wouldn’t raise a ruckus. Perhaps she assumed, as is typical of a corporate mindset, that LIU’s students were passive consumers, indifferent to who stood in front of them, as long as they got a grade for the money they paid. Perhaps Cline bet on the fact that this majority minority student population, poor and heavily indebted, couldn’t afford to walk out of classes. But, man, these students were pissed. Hundreds walked out of classes at noon Thursday, the second day of school. The students joined protesting faculty, chanting, “Let us learn!” and faculty chanted in return, “Let us teach!” And, meanwhile, in the midst of the chaos unleashed by a reckless administration, some students had tough choices to make.

The Guardian ran a profile of one such student in a recent piece, “LIU Lockout: US Professors and Students Seen as Disposable Commodities.” The article’s author, Rose Hackman, writes, “The lockout—thought to be the first of its kind in the US—not only signals a worrying turn for the value placed on professors as disposable commodities, but highlights the extra hurdles faced by working class students of color as they seek to fight their way to the American dream.” Hackman highlights the case of Nichia McFarlane, a 24 year-old Brooklyn native, who after running away from a difficult home, worked two full-time jobs and enrolled full-time at LIU. After a difficult time early in her studies, Nichia’s life was changed by an English professor. She won essay awards in the English department, and became an academic star. Her most recent essay reflected on the importance of higher education to the empowerment of women of color. LIU’s faculty empowered Nichia. But then the lockout was announced. Looking forward to courses taught by faculty she knew and esteemed, Nichia realized that might be not be possible. She also received an email from the administration saying the date to withdraw without penalty had been shortened. Feeling coerced and conned, she withdrew from LIU: “As they were locking out faculty, they were trying to lock students in. It felt like a con or a scam. I don’t want to think that about the university I am going to.” Nichia doesn’t know what her next move will be.

Nichia’s story has many lessons for us. One lesson has to do with faculty. Her professors changed her life. In her English classes, Nichia, a poor but brilliantly talented woman of color, found a voice and found hope. Kimberly Cline’s lockout has stifled that voice and dimmed that hope. A second lesson has to do with racism. The contract standoff at LIU involves pay parity: faculty at LIU Brooklyn, an urban majority minority campus, make significantly less money than faculty at the main LIU Post campus, a majority white institution located “on the plush 300-acre estate of a cereal magnate, along an area of Long Island known for its opulence, sometimes named the Gold Coast.” Paraphrasing the view of Ben Saunders, an LIU Brooklyn psychology professor, Rose Hackman writes, “[The] campus in Brooklyn is effectively funding the Post campus, echoing critiques long made over the centuries by black public intellectuals: that communities of color are systematically plundered to support unrealistic standards of living for whiter communities.” A third lesson has to do with administrative bloat and exploding administrative salaries. Hired to cut costs, Kimberly Cline went after faculty and unions, while earning about $475,000 a year, about $75,000 more than President Obama. The final and most important lesson from Nichia’s story has to do with the students. The message sent to students at LIU is: The quality of your education doesn’t matter to us. You don’t really matter to us. But your dollars do. And the students, sensing a grand betrayal, cry, “Let us learn!”

-Professor Timothy Strode, NCC AAUP, Executive Committee

VOTING: A LESSON WELL WORTH TEACHING

On June 24, Britain and the world woke up to the news that the Leave side had won the vote to keep or sever Britain’s membership in the European Union. Millennials—the generation aged roughly 18-35–were especially enraged by Britain’s vote to leave. They took to social media to tweet their discontent at Baby Boomers whom they felt had betrayed them. “So all the old people gave us a future we didn’t want. You’ve all had your careers, why screw it up for us” tweeted one disgruntled young Briton. Another chagrined millennial writes, “We’ve grown up believing in a future that transcends national borders because we experience that world in our work, interests and social lives online. Today, the future we imagined was stolen from us.” The rage of British millennials is easy to understand. Nurtured in the globalized, post-national world of the Internet, their identities transgress political boundaries. The open border employment policies of the European Union allowed them jobs in dozens of member nations. The EU gave them both real and symbolic affiliation with peers sharing cultural and political passions. And the millennials, not the Boomers, will have many more decades to suffer whatever the consequences of Brexit will be.

Millennials framed their rage as generational betrayal. Old folks protecting their pensions, their white identities, and their nostalgic hankering for a Britain that could be “great again” vetoed the dreams of the younger generation. Baby Boomers, feeling the stresses of globalization—refugee crises, fierce competition for jobs, rapidly changing racial demographics—and swayed by Fox News style propaganda voted out of fear. But voting patterns suggest that millennials also betrayed themselves. Even though roughly 75% of young people supported Remain, only 36% of eligible millennials voted in the referendum (a rough percentage based on polls taken in millennial-rich municipalities). This compares to an 80% voting rate for people over 45. So their rage, however earnest, rings hollow. Millennial disaffection with democratic institutions—this group did suffer enormously as did our own from the Great Recession of 2008—was expressed in their failure to show up to vote. And this is what should worry us in the U.S. Will our millennials show up to vote?

Britain’s problem is ours. American millennials stay home, too. Some numbers: in the 2014 midterm elections turnout for those 18-29 years old was 19.9%, the lowest percentage on record. Derek Thompson writes, “Young people just don’t vote. Between 1964 and 2012 youth voter turnout has fallen below 50 percent, and Baby Boomers now outvote their children’s generation by a stunning 30 percentage points. Millennials might make a lot of noise between presidential elections, but in November, politicians remember what young people are: All throat and no vote.” It’s easy to say the low political participation by today’s young people is simply a matter of apathy, a kind of generational laziness endemic in a group that thinks a tweet counts the same as a vote. But the social media explanation neglects a crucial demographic reality: young people suffered more than any other group from a Great Recession. Here is Thompson again: “Young people were uniquely punished by the recession and are rightfully angry. They suffered higher unemployment than any other group during the downturn, and their wages fell more than any other group after it concluded.” Our generation of young people has faced a perfect storm of economic oppression: low wages and record high student debt have made it extraordinarily difficult for today’s young people to achieve anything close to the American Dream enjoyed by their parents. Is it any wonder millennials have lost faith in government and have sought non-governmental forms of expression to voice their rage for change?: hence the Occupy Movement, social media, and Black Lives Matter, other outlets for political protest are embraced.

If participation in national elections by millennials is depressing, it is even worse in local elections. Here are more numbers: “The odds of a voter aged 65 or older casting a ballot in a mayoral election compared to a voter aged 18-34 were as high as 19 to 1 in the primary and 13.8 to 1 in the general election.” A study by the Knight Foundation found that “Sixty percent of people say they trust local government a good deal or a fair amount compared with only 33 percent of millennial voters.” The study also found “that only 29 percent of millennials believe that political involvement of any kind rarely has any tangible results.” The Knight study found several inhibitors to millennial political participation, including less local media coverage (due partly to cutbacks in local and state journalism), high mobility among millennials, and low rates of home ownership by millennials. More focused analysis by the Knight study of millennial attitudes toward local elections revealed: 1. This group had very little information about issues and candidates in local elections. 2. They do not seek out the information that is available. 3. They do not trust media sources: there is to them a complete absence of unfiltered, real information. 4. Local government is viewed by millennials as distant, anonymous, and not relevant to issues they care about. 5. Dwelling in social media bubbles populated by their peers, the millennials lack a connection to communities of interest that might generate political participation. Finally, this same study examined what does motivate millennials to vote: 1. Millennials are most motivated by “messages that were positive, elicited pride in their city and framed how voting could tangibly impact issues they find important.” 2. In contrast, millennials were “less motivated by messages that were negative and cynical, and are especially tired of hearing that that the system is ‘broken.’”

The Knight study offers a few suggestions for activating youth political turnout: make information available to young people where they hang out; give new residents welcome packets about who the local politicians are and where to vote; create a voting app to supply information on candidates and issues; recruit celebrities to engage them. These recommendations seem sensible. Outreach is indeed necessary. But just as crucial is the responsibility of us dwelling in the more senior demographics of this divided nation to persuade our peers—family and friends, colleagues and neighbors—that the generation we parent, the generation we teach, the generation that feels betrayed and lost, needs our help and hope. Vote for them.

Please note: On September 14th, Constitution Day, NYPIRG will be outside CCB 252/253 registering students to vote from at 9: 00- 10:30 am. Please encourage your students who are not registered to take a few minutes to stop by to register to vote in order. It is an important civic obligation.

-Timothy Strode, NCC AAUP Executive Committee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Tough Mandate

In an even-handed recent article, Newsday’s Candice Ferrette documents the challenges Nassau Community College and Suffolk County Community College face to raise graduation rates and enrollment while struggling to meet the needs of a racially diverse, socially complex, and often economically distressed student population—all this at a time when funding long ago plateaued. Ferrette divides her survey of our dilemma into four parts: our lagging graduation rates; our primary mission (workforce education or the liberal arts); who the successful students are; and efforts being made to stimulate enrollment and increase retention.

She points out that graduation rates at both NCC and SCCC, 22% and 21%, are below the national average of 25%. Left out of these tallies, Ferrette notes, are part-timers, transfers, remedial students, and those who come up through programs such as LINCC. She cites the example of Ariful Arif, an SCCC student from Bangladesh, who knew no English when he started high school, took ESL classes at SCCC (while working 60-80 hours per week), and plans to graduate this December with a 4.0. His story is amazing, but his success isn’t figured into graduation stats. In other words, the statistics mask the dizzying complexity of our populations. Ferrette quotes NCC Academic Senate chair, Dr. Evelyn Deuluty: “These students don’t fit the mold of the average middle-class student. First of all, their parents are not giving them a single cent. These students are not falling asleep in class because they were out partying—it’s because they were up working the graveyard shift. We need to readjust the paradigm, because you can’t use the typical benchmarks to judge these students.”

We can make a couple of points here. First, an archaic, poorly conceived metric is used to judge our performance: it is based on full-time, first-time enrolled students (should we call this utopian demography?). Second, it’s terribly ironic that community college “reformers” are urging workforce priorities when lots of our students (like Mr. Arif), out of economic necessity, are already in the workforce, and they are going to college because they cling to the idea of re-imagining themselves and their futures—via what we (now quaintly) call a liberal arts education. And they don’t want dead end jobs like the kinds they already have. What reformers—like SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher—won’t own up to is that regional businesses desperately want to outsource the training they used to do in-house to community colleges. Tax payers pick up the tab of corporate training, while dwelling under the illusion that “workforce education” is just what their children need. This is the genius of the neoliberal higher education con game. Workforce education is just another kind of planned obsolescence—except it’s humans, not machines, who become obsolete.

Ferrette addresses the workforce issue in her article. She cites statistics that point out that 45% of undergraduates in the U.S. attend community colleges; 36% of those are the first in their families to go to college; 17 percent of the students are single parents; 12% have disabilities; 7% are not citizens; and 4% are veterans. Moreover, 66% of the 7.3 million community college students attend part time. Ferrette profiles another student, Jessica Abrams, who after attending NCC right out of high school, dropped out because of substance abuse issues, but returned eight years later as a mature, single parent with a dream of becoming an occupational therapist. With students like Ms. Abrams in mind, Ferrette once again quotes Dr. Deluty, who asks: “[Are] we the ones to decide which students will be channeled into workforce education and which will be inspired to go on for more education?”

Dr. Deluty’s excellent question points precisely at the dubious ethics, the class and racial biases, and the anti-democratic tendencies—of workforce proponents. The real crime here is that the neoliberal imagination (which is the workforce imagination, which is the corporate imagination, and hence the legislative, policy-making imagination) effaces the humanity of the wonderfully interesting students we meet daily in our classrooms. This imagination stifles and silences our students. Our students’ stories, the stories of their struggles and the stories of their dreams, matter less and less to a reformist class that insists their stories aren’t relevant. “We know what’s best for you,” the reformer intones, “and we will write your stories for you.”

As we at NCC work together to recover our reputation and our accreditation, as we join with our wonderful new president Dr. Keen to right this foundering ship, our college, we should also be asking, Why are we here? What kind of democracy are we helping to shape? Are we helping to shape minds that will not only help lead this country creatively but will also question this country’s priorities? Or, are we simply acting out the small and stifling role of training students for bit parts in a national drama where the starring roles go only to the privileged? This is our tough mandate: making sure community colleges—and our community college–return to being bastions of equal opportunity, not engines of economic inequality.

-Dr. Timothy Strode, NCC AAUP Executive Committee

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newsday’s “LI’s High -Volume Community Colleges Face Tough Mandate” by Candice Ferrete

Education Long Island

LI’s high-volume community colleges face tough mandate

http://www.newsday.com/long-island/education/li-s-high-volume-community-colleges-face-tough-mandate-1.12205214

Updated August 21, 2016 6:32 AM
By Candice Ferrette candice.ferrette@newsday.com
Nassau Community College student Jessica Abrams, 27, prepares
Nassau Community College student Jessica Abrams, 27, prepares for classes after dropping her son, Max, off at the Children’s Greenhouse childcare center at Nassau Community College in Garden City on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

SCCC, NCC struggle with low graduation rates, poor enrollment
Under pressure to meet social, economic needs of diverse population

Too many students in remedial classes, chronically low graduation rates, stagnant enrollment, fewer public dollars, rising tuition.

All these issues face Long Island’s community colleges, which together serve more than 40,000 students and are widely regarded as an essential gateway to higher education for nontraditional and first-generation college students.
Most Popular

Report: 21 LI high schools among nation’s top 500
Dowling College officially files for closure
Dowling transitioning students impacted by closure
LI teen accepted to all 8 Ivies picks Harvard
Report: USMMA students claim harassment

Suffolk County Community College and Nassau Community College — like other such institutions across the state and the nation — are under increased pressure from local, state and national government to monitor student achievement more closely to meet individual graduation and performance goals.

The schools are challenged by the complex economic and social needs of their changing population — whether that is a 20-year-old immigrant from Bangladesh who has been speaking English for a year, a single parent with a toddler and a part-time job, or a dedicated student who wants to stay home to help her parents.

“This is not the 13th grade — our students are transferring to colleges all over Long Island and the state. There is an expectation set forth by the institution that students leave here with the ability to think critically and are well-prepared for careers,” said SCCC president Shaun McKay, who has lobbied the state and county governments to increase financial support of the schools.

“The one thing we must do more of is talk about the strength of the community colleges and their importance to the region, the state and the transformation that occurs when students enroll here,” he said.

Long Island’s community colleges are among 30 in the State University of New York system, and they bear the distinction of volume: SCCC, with three campuses, is the state’s largest by student population, and NCC is the largest single-campus community college. Both are major feeders to public and private colleges and universities, regionally and nationally.

Over the past decade, enrollment at both schools has stayed relatively flat other than the two years following the 2008 recession. In the 2015 fall semester, the most recent data available, SCCC had 15,558 full-time students and 6,435 part-time students, while NCC had 12,693 full-time and 8,763 part-time. For this academic year, college officials project a decline in enrollment of 5 percent at NCC and 1 percent at SCCC.

“I think the whole country now recognizes that the community colleges are more nimble than the rest of us,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher, who plans to step down at the end of the 2016-17 academic year. “There are big pathways and huge industries that set Long Island apart from the rest of the state. The community colleges have to play the labor market and be very agile — and move the way the market moves.”

At the same time, Zimpher said, New York has gone to extra lengths to pave the way for “seamless transfers” for these students — offering opportunities to move more easily from SCCC or NCC to four-year colleges or universities in the public system. New York is leading the nation in that effort, she said.

The colleges’ low graduation rates reflect the difficulty implicit in their broad mission, said officials and experts, who agree that more must be done to make sure students are on a path either to a four-year school or to an associate degree that provides a job tied to the current needs of the local economy.

Graduation rates lag

Both of the Island’s community colleges have graduation rates below the national average of 25 percent, according to U.S. Education Department data, which measures students that graduate or transfer out of a two-year school in three years.

Twenty-one percent of SCCC students graduated with an associate degree and 15 percent transferred out to continue their education after the three years that began in 2012. At NCC, for that same time period, the graduation rate was 22 percent and the transfer-out rate was 20 percent.

The rates, available through the National Center for Education Statistics, are based on tracking only full-time students enrolled in college for the first time. Not included in the count are part-time students or those who transfer in from other colleges, return to college after a hiatus or enter community colleges through noncredit courses such as language or remedial classes.

For instance, Ariful Arif and others like him are among the 18 percent of SCCC’s matriculated population who entered the college through noncredit language classes and who do not factor into the graduation numbers.

Arif, 20, an immigrant from Sirajganj, Bangladesh, had never spoken English before coming to the school in January 2014. After one semester, he scored high enough on the language proficiency exam to start taking credit-bearing courses.

Arif, of Ronkonkoma, has worked 60 to 80 hours each week at a Hauppauge pharmaceutical manufacturer while taking a full course load. He studies from the books in the library because he doesn’t have the money to buy them.

He has a 4.0 grade-point average and is on track to get an associate degree in December. He plans to go on for a bachelor’s degree in accounting at one of Long Island’s private colleges.

“To be honest, I had never seen anything like a college campus before,” Arif said. “For me, it’s not just about getting a degree or teaching me out of a book. I relied on college for everything. Now I know who I am and what I want to be. My purpose is to just do really, really well.”

Community college administrators and professors said that while improvement in the graduation rate is needed, the measurement is an unfair illustration of achievement at their schools. There are all kinds of reasons students start and stop, they said.

“These students don’t fit the mold of the average, middle-class student,” said Evelyn Deluty, a philosophy professor at NCC and chairwoman of the Academic Senate, an influential decision-making group at the school that is largely composed of faculty. “First of all, their parents are not giving them a single cent. These students are not falling asleep in class because they were out partying — it’s because they were up working the graveyard shift. We need to readjust the paradigm, because you can’t use the typical benchmarks to judge these students.”
Focus on jobs criticized

Deluty, who assigns readings from Aristotle, Plato and Kant, said she fears the national debate on the future of community colleges and funding them focuses too much on workforce development. Students aren’t given enough time and financial aid to take core liberal arts courses that will benefit them in life and in their careers, she said.

“I’m not minimizing economic necessity for our students, but are we the ones to decide which students should be channeled into workforce education and which students will be inspired to go on for more education? No one has the right to make that decision for anyone else,” she said. “To assume that because of students’ economic level or challenges in life that they should not be allowed to engage in these texts to inform their own opinions — to skip that goes against everything democracy is about.”

Nationally, 45 percent of all undergraduates attend community colleges, according to fall 2014 statistics. Thirty-six percent are the first in their families to attend college; 17 percent are single parents; 12 percent are students with disabilities; 7 percent are non-U.S. citizens; and 4 percent are military veterans.

About two-thirds of the 7.3 million community college students in the country attend part time, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

Jessica Abrams is among the many students who do not have a linear academic trajectory.

The 27-year-old student started NCC after graduating from Massapequa High School in 2007, but was struggling with a substance abuse problem and dropped out the following year.

Eight years later, she is sober and a single mother to Max, 4, who attends the campus child-care center. In her first semester back last year, she started with one class and gradually increased her course load.

“I was scared to go back to school, because every attempt I had made was unsuccessful,” said Abrams, who works part time at a dermatologist’s office. “But I know now it was just because I wasn’t emotionally there yet. Once I had proven to myself that I can do it, I added two more classes and it turned out to be the best semester ever.”

Abrams intends to get an associate degree in liberal arts in 2018, with plans to continue her education at a local university to become an occupational therapist.
Full-timers tend to stay

Students who attend full time are more likely to return, federal data show. Seventy-two percent of full-timers who started in the fall 2014 semester returned for fall 2015, as opposed to part-timers, who returned at a rate of 58 percent. That measurement, called the retention rate, was similar for full-timers at SCCC (69 percent) and part-timers (46 percent).

SCCC and NCC are supposed to be funded in thirds by their respective county governments, the state and student tuition.

Funding from state and county budgets has remained flat in recent years and students are picking up more of the costs. Tuition for the 2016-17 year was increased at both schools: Full-time tuition at NCC now is $2,434 per semester, and at SCCC it is $2,385 per semester.

By comparison, commuter students who are in-state residents could pay up to $2,000 more annually at the Island’s four-year public colleges. The posted or “sticker” price of tuition at private four-year schools is about $20,000 to $30,000 more, although students can receive grants and scholarships to offset some of the cost.

Forty-eight percent of the students at each community college receive some form of federal financial aid. A majority receive the federal, income-based Pell Grant. The maximum federal Pell Grant for 2016-17 will be $5,815.

NCC faces another challenge: It was placed on probation by its accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The independent, nongovernmental agency, based in Philadelphia, found several deficiencies in planning, leadership, resources and integrity at the school. With a new president in place, the college must show improvement in those areas by Nov. 1. Losing accreditation would mean students would be ineligible for federal financial aid.

National experts said community colleges are ripe for reform and need to make sure students enter prepared, stay in school, and earn degrees leading to better-paying jobs.

Davis Jenkins, senior research associate at Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College, believes the schools must reform the broad-based “cafeteria-style” approach of course offerings in favor of one that provides students with more structure.

For students, that includes taking credit-bearing courses from the start; for the schools, it means reviewing every program to be sure there’s a path to a specific degree. The model “guided pathways” is detailed in a 2015 book he co-authored called “Redesigning America’s Community Colleges.”
Outreach, transfer agreements

Nearly 390 institutions nationally have signed on to implement some of the changes, including those in the City University of New York system. Large systems, like those in Tennessee and Chicago, already have seen positive results, Jenkins said.

Community college students often are the ones most in need of structure and advising, he said, “because they are least likely to have gotten it before.” Without that structure, the schools are “wasting human potential, letting them meander when they are most ready to go to college and when the financial aid is most available.”

To keep the academic momentum, both SCCC and NCC officials are doing more outreach and assessments in local public high schools, as well as sealing transfer agreements with private universities including Adelphi University in Garden City, Hofstra University in Hempstead, LIU Post in Brookville, Molloy College in Rockville Centre and St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.

Connecting with students as early as 11th grade allows community college and high school educators to address their preparedness earlier.

It also gets the community colleges’ admissions officials into schools to attract students like 18-year-old Gladys Eze.

If all goes as planned, the North Babylon High School graduate will have an advanced nursing degree and be ready for a well-paying career by the time she’s 25, with relatively little debt.

She was accepted to several public and private four-year colleges but decided to enter SCCC’s nursing program this month.

Among her top reasons: saving money by commuting from her parents’ house and helping out with her siblings, a 5-year-old brother and 8-year-old sister, while her parents work.

“I plan to finish the two-year program and then go to Stony Brook’s accelerated nursing degree,” said Eze, who was granted a full academic scholarship to attend SCCC. “I want to attend a college that reflects the community we live in. It was my top choice and it’s a dream come true.”

LI’s community colleges, by the numbers

Graduation rates: full-time, first-time students who completed in three years

NCC: 22%

SCCC: 21%

Transfer-out rates: full-time, first-time students who transferred to another college within three years

NCC: 20%

SCCC: 15%

Retention rates: students who started in fall 2014 and returned in fall 2015

NCC: 72% for full-time students; 58% for part-time students

SCCC: 69% for full-time students; 46% for part-time students

Students taking at least one remedial/development course

NCC: 48%

SCCC: 58.5%

Transferring to a 4-year college

NCC: 23%

SCCC: 25%

Receiving financial aid

NCC: 69%

SCCC: 48%

Sources: Nassau Community College, Suffolk County Community College, U.S. Department of Education

 

 

Collegiality and NCC’s Accreditation Crisis

Collegiality and NCC’s Accreditation Crisis

About a month following the closing of NCC’s 2016 Commencement Ceremonies, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education issued a “Public Disclosure Statement” regarding Nassau Community College’s accreditation: On June 23, 2016, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education acted to place the institution on probation due to a lack of evidence that the institution is in compliance with Standard 2 (Planning, Resources, and Institutional Renewal), Standard 3 (Institutional Resources), Standard 4 (Leadership and Governance), Standard 5 (Administration), Standard 6 (Integrity), Standard 7 (Institutional Assessment), and Standard 14 (Assessment of Student Learning).” Because the Disclosure Statement arrived in late June, a full month into the season when many professors have, for a spell, put thoughts of their beloved institution aside for a while, the full measure of its devastating meaning has probably not yet sunk in.

Take a Look at Dowling College

We are in trouble. In fact, we should consider ourselves lucky that MSCHE, looking perhaps back to our storied past and feeling merciful, didn’t immediately issue a “Show Cause” statement. Show Cause is that final period of grace before accreditation is fully revoked (or to put it bluntly, it’s the next to last nail in the coffin). If we need a reminder of the dire nature of Show Cause, look at our neighbor, Dowling College. Dowling was required by MSCHE to Show Cause for continued accreditation by March 1, 2016. On June 23, 1016, Dowling lost its accreditation, despite being out of compliance with only three Standards: 3, 7, and 14. NCC failed three of the very same Standards, with the addition of four more.

Where We Failed

Our accreditations’ failures were mainly administrative. MSCHE allots its fourteen accreditation standards evenly into two categories corresponding to institutional responsibilities and capabilities: administrative (under the heading “Institutional Context”) and academic (under the heading “Educational Effectiveness.”) The vast majority of NCC’s accreditation failures, six of seven, were administrative. And they are comprehensive and damning, cutting deep into all layers of administrative responsibility: strategic planning, resource allocation, leadership and governance, institutional assessment, and most egregious of all, institutional integrity. The single, but by no means insignificant failure on the academic side was for Standard 14, assessment of student learning. This is a story of administrative failure, and as we shall see next, academic success.

Where We Succeeded

MSCHE found NCC to be compliant with the vast majority of Educational Effectiveness standards. These standards address matters related to the college curriculum and student support services, areas that fall largely within the purview and expertise of teaching faculty, student support faculty, and affiliated staff. The language of MSCHE’S Educational Effectiveness standards stresses the need for “qualified professionals” (read “faculty”) to develop, devise, monitor, and support the institution’s “instructional, research, and service programs.” Those programs, moreover, should demonstrate a “content, rigor, and coherence” consistent with the higher education mission of the college. And the programs that support that mission must also provide “college-level proficiency in general education and essential skills, including at least oral and written communication, scientific and quantitative reasoning, critical analysis and reading, and technological competency.” Having complied largely with the Educational Effectiveness standards, NCC can tell a story of academic success.

Collegiality as Shared Governance

In its Public Disclosure Statement of June 23, 2016 regarding NCC’s accreditation, MSCHE indicates that NCC must file a monitoring report by November 1, 2016, following which MSCHE will conduct a small team visit to the college to assess our compliance with standards. That team prepares a report which is taken up by a Committee on Follow-Up Activities and then by the actual Commission. Needless to say we have our work cut out for us.

There is no question that we, the various constituencies that make up the community called Nassau Community College, must join together with our new college president and colleague Dr. W. Hubert Keen to bring this accreditation crisis to an end. And as we come together, we must do so in a spirit of collegiality. But let’s pause, first, to ask what a “collegial” spirit means. To be collegial means respecting the abilities of different members of a community to work together toward a common purpose. Collegiality in a college like ours has a framework for making collegiality work: it is called shared governance. Shared governance is the democratic principle that structures the roles and responsibilities of this institution—of administration and faculty—and it is this principle that made Nassau Community College a beacon of success in two-year higher education in the United States. And we would contend, it has been a progressive falling away from this principle that has brought us to our current crisis. Being collegial at this critical time isn’t about being nice; it’s about having respect for the principles of shared governance that once made us a great institution of higher education.

So, let’s join with Dr. Keen and, in a spirit of respect for the democratic principles that have always guided this college, resurrect the genius of the liberal arts at Nassau Community College.

By Dr. Timothy Strode for the NCC AAUP Executive Committee

Newsday’s Ill-Founded View of NCC Faculty

Newsday’s editorial board has once again revealed its prejudice against NCC’s highly regarded faculty by cherry picking and distorting facts to suit its own agenda.  Newsday would like to lay much of the blame for NCC’s problems at the feet of its unionized faculty and shared governance system. Yet, the Middle States Report, which extolled NCC’s full-time faculty and cited its “top” administration as failing, contradicts the premise of Newsday’s condemnation of NCC’s faculty and system of shared governance.  A quick review of our history and the facts, dispel Newsday’s assertion that NCC’s  “imperious faculty” has usurped the powers of the president and “top administrators” thus running the college into the ground:

  • This “imperious” faculty has lost close to 230 full-time faculty lines since President Fanelli left at the end of 2009.
  • This “imperious” faculty has seen its working conditions deteriorate and workload increase without corresponding increases in salary since 2010.
  • The sacrifices made in the current NCCFT contract: lag pay, retirement incentives, and paltry raises, were all agreed to in order to assist the college overcome its financial problems. Our “top” administrators and Newsday have conveniently forgotten this.
  • A system of shared governance is mandated by state law, SUNY, and accepted higher education practices. Newsday appears to be under the impression that faculty unilaterally control the Academic Senate and ignores the fact that the Senate is comprised of faculty, students, and administrators.
  • The administration, over strenuous objection from faculty, have steadily increased class size, despite the fact that small class sizes are universally recognized as key to student retention.
  • The administration has ignored the need for more full-time faculty (counselors, academic advisors, librarians, teaching and others) despite the fact that full-time faculty are key to student retention.
  • Money has been expended to hire new six-figure salaried administrators without Affirmative Action searches. (cited in the Middle States report)
  • The NCC Foundation remains unaccountable to the college community. Since 2012 its staff has ballooned to approximately eight employees who are paid over $500,000 in salaries and benefits even while raising less money to support the college than in the past. Upon information and belief the Foundation actually owes the college money.
  • The presidential search debacle was, in large measure, due to SUNY’s initial interference in the process and violation of their own guidelines. SUNY was instrumental in plunging NCC into this three- year ordeal. While Newsday lauds SUNY’s “brilliantly executed move” to provide us with a new president, let’s not forget the active role SUNY played in creating this mess.
  • Last, but not widely known, Newsday was aware that racism played no role in the first presidential search committee’s derailment. A Newsday email to a “top” NCC administrator demonstrates that the driving force behind the efforts to disrupt the search, after Ken Saunders was rejected, was “favoritism”and not racism. And, in case we have all forgotten, the faculty favored the African American female candidate from Chicago.

Here’s where we do agree with Newsday. The NCC faculty is rooting for President Keen to succeed. However, he can only do so by being fully apprised of NCC’s recent history and collaborating with all college constituents in order to determine what steps need to be taken to steady NCC’s course. No doubt, Dr. Keen has a tough job ahead of him, but we are certain that he will be greeted by an outstanding faculty ready to work with him to restore NCC’s reputation for excellence and propel us into a bright future.

Petition to Save Nassau Community College’s New Full-Time Faculty

Support our new full-time faculty and sign the petition by following this link to: tinyurl.com/savethenewfaculty

Weekly Read March 20, 2016

No Confidence in Kenneth Saunders, Let Us Count the Ways

By the NCC AAUP Executive Committee

News Coverage on NCC

Please watch the CBS video and read the cover story in Newsday reporting on the disastrous Middle States review and the possible ramifications. Frank Frisenda, NCCFT President and Kimberley Reiser, NCC AAUP President were interviewed. Their message: NCC has a wonderful faculty and staff that serve a deserving student population. The faculty will continue to provide a high quality, robust education. Our need: an open, transparent and competent administration to lead NCC into the future.

Video: CBS News March 18, 2016

Cover Story: Newsday March 19, 2016

A subscription may be required to view the Newsday link.