Thefifth meeting of the Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, November 9, 2009, at 10:00 AM, in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Alice Forgy Kerr, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Alice Forgy Kerr, Co-Chair; Senators R.J. Palmer II and Elizabeth Tori; Representatives Jim DeCesare, C. B. Embry Jr., Bill Farmer, Jim Glenn, Reginald Meeks, Jody Richards, Tom Riner, Carl Rollins II, and Addia Wuchner.
Guests: Robert King, Reecie Stagnolia, Melissa Bell, Council on Postsecondary Education; Dan Connell, Morehead State University.
LRC Staff: Ken Warlick, Audrey Carr, and Lisa Moore.
Senator Kerr introduced Mr. Robert King, President, Mr. Reecie Stagnolia, Vice President for Adult Education, Council on Postsecondary Education, to give the committee an update on the Kentucky Adult Education (KYAE) program. After introductory remarks by President King, Mr. Stagnolia explained the Power Point presentation to the members. Mr. Stagnolia said there are over $22 million in state funds and $8 million in federal funds, for a total of $31 million in adult education funding.
Mr. Stagnolia discussed the Adult Education Act of 2000 which stated that “adult illiteracy is a fundamental barrier to every major challenge facing Kentucky, including early childhood education, education reform, economic development, and improving the health and well-being of Kentucky’s families and communities”. He said adult education services in Kentucky include offering basic literacy skills, GED® preparation, English as a Second Language (ESL), family literacy, workforce education, transition to postsecondary education, and corrections education. There are currently adult education services offered in 13 state penitentiaries, more than 70 full-time jails, and a number of halfway houses. He said that high school dropouts are eight times more likely to become incarcerated and more likely to be unemployed.
Mr. Stagnolia said most Kentucky adult education students are individuals who live and work in Kentucky. The are not enrolled or required to be enrolled in secondary school; do not have a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent; have not achieved an equivalent level of education; have a lack of mastery of basic educational skills; and are unable to speak, read or write the English language. He noted the total population of 18 year old adults and older in Kentucky is 3,047,928 and the number of those people without a high school diploma or high school/GED credential is 785,641, or 25 percent of the working population. He said Kentucky ranks 12th in the nation in the percentage of adults earning a GED and producing 9,382 GED graduates in fiscal year 2009. He noted 1,919 of the fiscal year 2006 GED graduates had enrolled in a Kentucky college or university by academic year 2007-2008. Of those, 87 percent enrolled in a Kentucky Community and Technical College School (KCTCS), 10 percent in a public four-year institution, and 3 percent in an independent institution.
Mr. Stagnolia discussed the unemployment rate and education correlation. He said that 15.6 percent of the unemployed in Kentucky have no high school diploma or its equivalent, compared to 9.7 percent that only have a high school diploma. He also noted that 50 to 80 percent of adult learners have some type of learning disability. The KYAE is working with the Center for Mathematics and the Academy at Morehead on specific training programs. He also mentioned several workforce readiness initiatives including the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training program (I-BEST). He said KYAE’s core business is to raise the educational levels of eligible adults by providing academic instruction that leads to strong literacy skills and GED attainment, which are gateways to postsecondary education and highly skilled employment. Mr. Stagnolia told members that there was specific county data located in their meeting material handouts.
Representative Glenn stated that the high school diploma is still preferable to a student earning a GED. He asked if KYAE encourages students to stay in school. Mr. Stagnolia indicated that he firmly believes that all Kentucky students should stay in school. If they do drop out however, he wants to recruit them into an adult education program to help them overcome obstacles, so they can earn a high school diploma equivalency and move on with their life. Representative Glenn asked if Kentucky is increasing the number of GED’s awarded to adults 18 and older. Mr. Stagnolia said we were.
Representative Richards asked how many prisoners in Kentucky were enrolled in adult education courses. Mr. Stagnolia responded that there were about 5,200 prisoners enrolled in an adult education program. He said 40 percent of those students will leave prison without a GED. This can be attributed to the fact that many prisoners are transferred and their education can be disrupted numerous times throughout their incarceration. He said the Governor’s Re-entry Task Force will develop recommendations to help former inmates re-enter their communities and reduce the likelihood that they will reoffend.
Representative Richards discussed the importance of technology in the future of adult education. Mr. Stagnolia said technology is an important component, but most adult education students need high tech/high touch opportunities. He said on-line learning is fine for these students, but most need the support of working on computers within an adult learning center with support provided. He noted that KYAE is partnering with the Kentucky Virtual Campus on such initiatives.
Representative DeCesare asked how many ESL students are enrolled in adult education programs. Mr. Stagnolia said there are about 4,000 students in ESL across the state, which is about ten percent of the total enrollment. The biggest populations of ESL enrollments are in the metro areas of Louisville, Lexington, and Bowling Green. Representative DeCesare asked how many different languages are spoken by students in the program. Mr. Stagnolia said the students represent diverse countries. Representative DeCesare asked how Kentucky finds the teachers to teach the students in their diverse languages. Mr. Stagnolia said KYAE teaches students in English. KYAE provides professional development to adult education teachers across the state to help them with this issue.
Representative Rollins asked how KET’s GED on TV program works with the KYAE. Ms. Julie Schmidt, Director of Community Relations, KET, said the numbers of students getting GED’s through KET are reported through the adult education centers. She also noted that many of KET’s materials are located in adult education learning centers.
Representative Rollins asked Mr. Stagnolia if there is a concern that adult education programs have become too structured. Mr. Stagnolia said adult education programs are moving towards a managed program model. This model is in contrast to the perpetual study hall model where the doors are opened and it is hoped that people show up. He said the managed program model allows adult education programs to plan better for students and gets students on a schedule and provides expectations. He said some states even have student contracts in place. Representative Rollins asked if students are still allowed flexibility in scheduling time in the adult education learning centers. Mr. Stagnolia said there is still flexibility when the student can start the program, but specific times will be set for their instructional hours.
Representative Meeks asked how many ESL programs are projected to be needed in Jefferson County. Mr. Stagnolia said he would provide Representative Meeks with the information. Representative Meeks asked how many students are enrolled in I-BEST and what the capacity of the program is. Mr. Stagnolia said the I-BEST is being piloted in Jefferson County with Julie Scosky, Program Director, Jefferson County Schools, and Dr. Tony Newberry, President, Jefferson Community and Technical College. He said the program focuses on the coupling of basic academic skills with occupational skills. He will get more detailed information to Representative Meeks for the time duration and particular content and program areas specifically being worked on.
Senator Tori asked what efforts are being made in the poverty stricken areas to recruit students into KYAE. Mr. Stagnolia said that many people in these pockets of poverty are primarily unemployed, which means they have the time and are available to receive adult education services. Senator Tori asked how KYAE can get the people in the system. Mr. Stagnolia said adult education has always had the challenge in such communities to develop an understanding of the value and importance of adult education services. He said nationally, the GED testing service has used a campaign of “Do You Know Someone” referring to people recommending folks that could benefit from adult education services. He said jobs of the future are not going to be available to people who do not have some type of postsecondary education. Senator Tori asked why the number of GED graduates is so erratic from year to year. Mr. Stagnolia said the non-compulsory attendance rates can factor into the numbers as well as the skill levels of students who enter the program from year to year. He said 77 percent of adult education students are below the ninth grade level and 44 percent of the students are assessed below the sixth grade level. He also said age can make a difference in how fast students earn a GED.
Representative Wuchner said research shows that many students have three to five false starts and that it takes time for students to build confidence that they will be successful. She asked if the starting dates for students entering into adult education programs is consistent across the Commonwealth. She also asked how KYAE assists students with learning disabilities that enter into the program. Mr. Stagnolia said KYAE is in the first year of piloting the managed program model in 35 counties. He said KYAE will remain sensitive to the fact that adults face things in their life that cause them to stop out of the program for periods of time. He said he wants flexibility to remain in adult education programs that allows students to work on upgrading their skills at any time in a learning center. He also said KYAE needs to continue their work with KET and distance learning products to give students other options for receiving services. Mr. Stagnolia said many learning disabilities can be attributed to learning style differences in students. Some students are auditory learners and others are visual learners. He said KYAE needs to do a better job of finding out the way students learn best and teach that way. He said adult education teachers are not equipped to clinically diagnose learning disabilities, but they can give screenings to find learning differences. He said professional development for adult education teachers will be targeted to providing them with skills to help detect learning disabilities and finding strategies to teach to all learning differences.
Senator Kerr asked what learning disabilities are the most common in adult education students. Mr. Stagnolia said it has recently discovered that many students are sensitive to fluorescent lighting. He said wearing a visor and providing covered overlays over reading material can help with this issue. Senator Kerr asked if KYAE helps students with study skills. Mr. Stagnolia said study skills and employability skills are 21st century skill sets that adult education providers help students with. Senator Kerr mentioned Martha Wilkerson’s GED army and how successful the campaign was getting new enrollments in adult education programs. She wondered if it may be time for another high profile recruiting effort.
Senator Kerr asked for a motion to approve the minutes from October 12, 2009 meeting with a quorum being present. Representative Richards made the motion to approve the minutes, seconded by Representatives Meeks. The motion was approved by voice vote.
President King noted how important the adult education population is to creating a strong workforce for the future. He said preparing a highly skilled workforce is the single best economic development tool that Kentucky can create. He also said Kentucky is producing about 10,000 GED graduates per year and if there were no more dropouts, it would take 50 years to educate the population between 16 and 44 years old that currently do not have a high school diploma. He hopes the legislature can find more resources in the future to address this area of the population that is so crucial to Kentucky’s future success.
Senator Kerr introduced Dr. Melissa Bell, Senior Associate, Council on Postsecondary Education, and Dr. Dan Connell, Assistant Vice President, Adult Education and College Access, Morehead State University, to give an update on the Kentucky Adult Learner Initiative. Dr. Bell said CPE did a survey in 2007 of over 1,600 people who had attended college in Kentucky but had not graduated. Of those surveyed, she said about 800 people indicated they are very or somewhat likely to consider returning to college in the next three years. She said some of the biggest concerns for returning to college included: managing time between family and classes; managing time between work and classes; and financing college courses. She said some of biggest incentives to get people to return to college included: people receiving credit for prior learning; programs being offered on a faster than normal schedule, or accelerated learning programs; and financial aid being available.
Dr. Bell said nontraditional students who are 25 and older make up about 30 percent of total college enrollments, which is below the national average of 40 percent. The percentage of bachelor’s degrees earned by nontraditional students at Kentucky public universities has decreased slightly since 2001. Kentucky had about 32 percent of its nontraditional students graduate in 2008 compared to 34 percent in 2001.
Dr. Bell said the adult learner population is critical to the CPE meeting its educational goals. The CPE has three major efforts underway to focus on this target population. The first is KYAE, which includes academic skills instruction, GED preparation, and reading instruction. The second effort is called “Project Graduate” and will target 11,000 students who have 90 or more credit hours in a postsecondary institution. The CPE is coordinating direct mail efforts and media events to recruit these adult students. She said incentives, counseling, and marketing at campus levels is underway to recruit these students back into college to finish their degrees. The third effort is the Kentucky Adult Learner Initiative. She said the project is funded completely with funds from the Lumina Foundation for Education and has two major purposes. It focuses on the incentives for getting students back into postsecondary education such as giving them credit for prior learning. This project will help to support Kentucky public institutions as they become more adult learner friendly.
Dr. Bell said CPE created workgroups consisting of legislators, public institutions, private institutions, and the private sector. This group of interested stakeholders has developed 14 recommendations. She said three general recommendations included: developing a statewide college outreach strategy; developing a comprehensive, user-friendly college access Web site; and to fund at least one adult learner advocate at each public institution. The other recommendations are in the areas of granting credit for prior experiential learning, providing flexible academic programming, increasing financial aid, and creating institutional efforts to become adult learner friendly. A complete listing of each recommendation is located in the meeting folder in the Legislative Research Commission library.
Dr. Connell gave the committee an update on Morehead State University’s (MOSU) adult learner plan. He said MOSU is completing an organizational restructuring to make the institution more adult learner friendly. He said MOSU offered the first master’s degree in adult education in Kentucky. He also said Jill McBride, non-traditional and commuter student coordinator, has been hired on campus as the adult education advocate in the new department of the Center for Adult Education and College Access. He said the new center on campus works in conjunction with the other two adult learning centers in Rowan County to provide support to adults for their educational efforts from literacy to baccalaureate degrees and from GED’s and workplace transition to college.
Dr. Connell said MOSU is focusing on providing more financial aid for adults to attend school and has added $10,000 in new scholarships for 2009-2010. He said the increase in scholarships is for full and part-time adult learners. He also said MOSU offers one free college class to any student who obtains a GED through the two adult learning centers. MOSU is setting up a virtual site to allow students to learn about the resources that the university offers in terms of financial aid, and also the support services that the institution provides. He also said MOSU has a Financial Aid Office and Educational Opportunity Center to assist students with the completion of the Federal Application for Student Financial Aid (FASFA).
Dr. Connell said MOSU is expanding the number of evening, weekend, and accelerated classes and programs. He discussed redesigning the three-credit hour classes into one-credit hour modules. He mentioned one program where students can attend one full night per week and earn 12 credit hours in a semester. MOSU is also expanding the number of online classes and programs offered.
Dr. Connell said MOSU is developing a prior learning assessment system, which includes portfolios. He said adding portfolios will allow adults to receive college credit based on their prior learning experiences. A clearinghouse will be established to oversee the credits for prior learning.
Dr. Connell said MOSU wants to create a campus climate to increase staff and faculty understanding of adult learners through workshops. He said MOSU will increase the availability and awareness of adult student support services. The university staff is developing ways to make online and regional campus students more aware of services. He also said the Department of Career Services on campus is developing activities that will increase life and career planning activities.
Representative Wuchner asked how many college credit hours are given for prior life experience in the portfolio. She also asked if the college pays for credit hours awarded for the life credit experience, or do the students pay a reduced rate for that college credit. Dr. Connell said it varies by the institution on how much credit a student can earn. He said there is a flat fee for taking the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and the student does not have to pay tuition if the test is passed.
Senator Kerr asked about the challenge exams in which professors write exams based on course outcomes. Dr. Connell said the professors will write an exam on the learning outcomes for the class and if students make a C or better, they are awarded credit for the course. Senator Kerr asked if the exam was designed for a specific student. Dr. Connell said the exam is designed specifically for the course and could be the final exam.
Representative Embry asked how the statistics were accumulated for the percentages of college graduates and adult learners. He also asked if private colleges and public institutions are working together on the adult learner initiative. Dr. Bell said the data she used for the report was the non-traditional students as a percentage of total enrollment from the public universities. She will have to have to do some additional research to find the information of total adult learners enrolled in all types of universities in Kentucky. She said the national data came from the National Center on Data Statistics and does include total enrollment. She said the CPE is encouraging the private institutions to work with the public institutions on the adult learner issues. Private institutions have a wealth of knowledge about adult learners and have focused on this group for some time. She said there may be specific partnerships formed, but she does not know of any.
President King said legislators and educators across the country are realizing that there are enormous opportunities to encourage more people to seek higher education. Through this effort, President Obama and others are hoping the United States can regain its position as number one in the world in terms of the proportion of its population being the most highly educated. He said the CPE wants to expand adult learning friendly programs across the institutions throughout Kentucky in an effort to reach the goal of doubling the number of college graduates.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 11:35 a.m.