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Non-degree certificates don’t serve women

Yesterday, I wrote about the coming data collection requirements associated with the Department of Education’s “Gainful Employment” rule. Starting July 1, private, for-profit education institutions and public community colleges that issue non-degree certificates will need to report the employment and wage data of former students who completed educational programs for two years.

The data will enable the Department of Education to determine whether the degrees (or non-degree certificates) enabled the student to earn more than the average high school graduate. If the program fails the test twice in the first two reporting years, future students may not use federal financial aid to pay for the program. Likewise, if the program fails in two of any three year period, the program will also lose its federal financial aid eligibility. The Department of Labor expects to be able to publish initial data in early 2025.

I. Can’t. Wait.

The data are exceptionally important. As it turns out, women – especially Black and Hispanic women – occupy two-thirds of all low-wage jobs. If these women are no better off having earned non-degree certificates than they would have been had they simply entered the workforce, the community that funds WCC at a rate of more than $70M per year needs to know that.

Not only that, but the community will also deserve an explanation of why our $70M+ – which is extraordinarily generous – is not sufficient to deliver programs for high-wage, high demand industries. Additionally, the WCC Trustees will be forced to acknowledge that their largely performative gesture of hiring a woman to lead WCC has not translated into economic gains for female students , but rather, it has produced extraordinary economic gains for only a handful of women – primarily those on WCC’s executive payroll.

Non-degree certificates don’t serve anyone

It is time to demand real accountability for the lame, ill-conceived, poorly executed, and exorbitantly expensive decisions that the WCC Trustees have either made themselves or signed off on over the last two decades. These decisions have inflicted real damage onto WCC. The outcomes include lost enrollment, low completion rates, excessive administrative hiring, lightweight academic programs, a proliferation of non-degree certificates of questionable value, minimization of the maintenance budget, and a growing mound of obligations that the college must finance from its operating budget.

At the same time, the current administration has eliminated services and programs (like the Children’s Center) that would have made the college an attractive option for student parents.

The people deserve to know what they’re getting in return for over-funding the community college. And it had better be a lot more than a collection of low-wattage non-degree certificates. Fortunately, the Department of Education will soon start publishing the results.

Photo Credit: WOCInTech Chat, via Flickr