Thursday, January 15, 2015


The Obama proposal to expand community college eduction - America's College Promise - is based on one existing program in Tennessee - Tennessee Promise - and another that is to begin in the fall of 2015 in Chicago - Chicago Star Scholarship.  A summary and cross reference of each program has been assembled by the Massachusetts Community College Executive Office and is reprinted below:

Tennessee Promise
Chicago Star Scholarship
America’s College Promise
·   Tuition as last-dollar scholarship, after all federal grants and aid (not including loans or work study)
·   Tennessee law, first cohort of students now enrolled
·   Students apply through community organizations
·     Last-dollar scholarship, after all federal and state aid applied
·     Starting Fall 2015
·     eligible students can pursue associate degree at City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) at no cost - free tuition, fees, and books
·  Tuition for all costs up front
·  President will file legislation, discuss plan during 2015 State of the Union

Students Eligible
·   Only Entering HS Students w/ 2.0 GPA
·   Only US citizens
·     Current and future Chicago Public Schools graduates (undocumented students eligible)
·  All Students
Required by Student
·   Maintain 2.0 GPA while in college
·   Full-time enrollment (12-credit minimum/semester)
·   Community service – 8 hours per term, work with volunteer mentors from community organizations
·   Ongoing program meetings, advising
·   Apply for FAFSA first
·   Maintain Progress to completing program (same eligibility as federal aid)
·     Students must graduate from CPS in Spring 2015 or after with a 3.0 GPA
·     must show that they test college-ready in math and English via ACT COMPASS
·     Apply for FAFSA first
·     Must enroll in CCC Career Pathway
·  Maintain 2.5 GPA
·  Enrolled at least ½ time (6-credit minimum/semester)
·  Maintain Progress to completing program (same eligibility as federal aid)
Institutional Eligibility
·   All institutions that offer 2-year associate degree programs (public and private, and 4-years)
·     Only City Colleges of Chicago
·     Also encourage free dual enrollment opportunities to students as a “head start” for program
·  Only two-year community colleges
·  Eligible academic programs need to be fully transferable to public 4-years or in-demand training programs w/ high graduation rates
·  Need to commit to some type of performance-based reforms
·   Dedicated revenue source (lottery endowment)
·     CCC covers it through efficiencies and consolidation (specifically with a nursing program)
·  Federal Gov’t pays 75% of costs through federal budget, while participating states need to cover remaining 25% (as federal matching grant)
·   Estimated cost of $34M per year
·   Provides five consecutive semesters (fifth designed to make up for any dev. education courses)
·   Expects 25,000 students to apply each year
·     Estimated cost of $2 million in the first year
·     Provides up to three years of benefit (after federal & state aid), or until completion of associate degree
·     Expects 1000 students to enroll
·  Estimated cost of $60 billion over 10 years
·  Estimated $8 billion to CC’s nationally per year ($6B from feds, $2B from states)
·  Saves a community college student an average of $3,800 in tuition per year (national average)
·  Could benefit roughly 9 million students

Monday, January 12, 2015


Richard Reeves in a January 9, 2015 Wall Street Journal opinion piece What We Can Gain From Obama’s Push of Community Colleges (reprinted in his blog) argues that Obama's attention to community colleges is well founded.  According to Obama, free college or at least the first two years of college will enable the United States to catch up and pass other industrial economies. According to the President free community college is "something we can accomplish and it’s something that will train our workforce so that we can compete with anybody in the world.”

Why focus on community colleges?  First, because by any standards they are cost-effective open enrollment institutions whose goal is teaching, not research.  Second, because they have such broad reach 8 million students. 

Community colleges are the point of entry for the majority of first time college students.  As seen from the chart below, poor students and those whose parents did not finish high school overwhelmingly begin at community colleges. 

Source: Richard Reeves in the Wall Street Journal, January 9, 23015
Obama's proposal draws inspiration from Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam's Promise program. That initiative provides for last dollar support - funding to augment financial aid - so that every Tennessee community college student pays no tuition at the state's community colleges.

The United States once was a leader in education for the common citizen when 100 years ago free high school became the norm in our country.  Now for most, college is the passport to economic viability.  However, our education policy and practices have not caught up with this new reality.  The Tennessee promise program and the Obama proposal are a recognition of this fact.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Kerri Kane, Director of Great Ideas @ STCC
Kerri Kane recently joined STCC as Director of Great Ideas, STCC’s idea system.  Formerly Ms. Kane worked at Health New England (HNE), a Massachusetts health insurance company owned by Baystate Health System.  HNE is headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts and has just over 300 employees.  At HNE Ms. Kane was responsible for leading their idea system called Opportunity for Improvement (OFI).  
Below is an interview with Ms. Kane with questions in bold and her answers that follow:
Q: What similarities and differences do you observe in the idea systems in HNE and STCC?
A: The program structure and functionality is very similar between HNE and STCC because they are both built from the same model developed by Dr. Alan Robinson co-author of Ideas are Free and Idea-Driven Organization. All of the idea boards look very much alike and the meetings are run in a similar fashion. Both idea programs are very focused on ensuring a positive customer experience as well as increasing operational effectiveness.
Rapid changes in the healthcare industry like the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and HNE’s entrance into the Medicare and Medicaid lines of business brought great pressure to adapt.  Often times, the organization grew without adding staff so we had the same number of people trying to accomplish a larger amount of work.  The idea system at HNE gave associates the vehicle to bring forth ideas to increase their own efficiency and drive the changes needed in order to achieve the goals of the organization.
Although the external forces of change may not appear to be as significant in higher education, I would argue that the highly competitive market in which it exists (particularly in Massachusetts) is an even greater source of pressure to change and ‘keep up.’ At STCC, the primary focus of their Great Idea system is the success of the student. STCC realizes that bringing value to the student is one of the keys to long-term success. I believe that is a tremendous differentiator for STCC.
Q: What were some of the initial goals of the idea system at HNE?
A: HNE was very focused on using the OFI system to engage employees through problem identification and solving. The yearly engagement survey has a question ‘My opinion matters at work.’ The OFI program gave everyone a place to voice their opinion, so year after year HNE achieves very high scores in this survey.  Over time HNE began to shift focus from employee engagement to more sophisticated process improvement efforts that focused on transforming company operations, market penetration and healthcare delivery.
Q: What is your impression of the goals of Great Ideas at STCC?
A: My impression is that the college has three main goals: 1) improve services to students and the public; 2) increase employee engagement and team work;  3) make it easier for employees and the institution to embrace change. These goals are tightly linked and aligned with the overall goal  of student success.

Q: Can you talk about how an idea system breaks down barriers between departments in an organization.
Sometimes people don’t understand how their work and/or role fits within the greater workflow (or process). When teams come together to solve an issue, it helps break down the siloed thinking that can happen when you simply ‘do your work.’ Working with a cross-functional team provides a greater understanding of the larger workflow and in turn supplies  better solutions.
Q: What kind of push back did you experience and how was it dealt with?
A: Continuous improvement is not ‘another thing’ to do, but rather the way things should always be done. It is a struggle to build this into the organization and it is important that executive leaders take the lead to gain buy-in from all employees or this can be hard to overcome. However, I believe it has great benefits, long term benefits for any organization that can stay the course.
Q: What helps promote the OFI system?
A: Leadership engagement and ongoing commitment is the number one factor in the system’s success. Without diligent support  and promotion from the leaders within the organization, the system will break down. For some leaders an idea system such as OFI or Great Ideas at STCC is difficult because it requires that they relinquish the problem solving control to the people doing the work.  It can be hard to admit as a leader that you don’t know everything and to trust your front line employees.  This change in behavior requires humbleness and for some a complete change in leadership style.  HNE is now piloting a leadership development program that helps build the skills needed to be successful in ‘coaching to solve.’ Leaders will be trained in small group facilitation, coaching, and learning to develop their own (and their team’s) problem solving capabilities. I am aware that STCC has set up similar training for leaders and team facilitators.