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New Report Highlights Community College Pathways to Baltimore Region’s “Best Prospect” Jobs

Recommends ways to remove of barriers to access and completion

BALTIMORE, MD (March 19, 2015)  – More can, and must, be done to improve post-secondary career training programs to better prepare Baltimore high school graduates and connect them with living-wage jobs, according to a new report funded by the Abell Foundation.

The Path to Baltimore’s “Best Prospect” Jobs without a College Degree: Career Credentialing Programs at Baltimore’s Community Colleges identifies “best prospect” jobs—those that require a two-year degree or less and pay more than $34,000—and explores the associated credentialing programs at Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) and the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC).

The report finds 74 “best prospect” jobs across six industry sectors such as medical assistants and medical coders in the health care sector and electricians and carpenters in the construction sector; it also identifies 105 programs at the community colleges that deliver training and often lead to a workplace credential relevant to those jobs.   Those programs, however, often carry significant obstacles that make it difficult for students to complete them.

Seventy percent of these programs require placement testing and pre-requisite courses.  Although the remaining offerings are more affordable, many of them are not eligible for Pell grants. Furthermore, CCBC houses 80% of these programs, creating geographic obstacles and higher tuition for City residents.

“Only one in five graduates of Baltimore City Public Schools matriculates to a four-year college; the vast majority enroll in a community college or look for a full-time job,” said Abell Foundation President Robert C. Embry, Jr.   “The path to these living-wage jobs is often rocky, and there is currently not enough information to help job seekers choose the right path to existing jobs or to help them deal with challenges that arise along the way.”

For students who do complete certain programs and earn a degree or certificate, the earnings gains can be significant.  Unfortunately, the report, authored by workforce development consultant Barbara Hopkins, finds that it is nearly impossible for policy makers and job seekers to evaluate the effectiveness of the vast majority of these programs by knowing the graduation, credential and placement rates given the current lack of individual-level student records.

“Our goal is to better communicate what is known and not known about these career credentialing programs to high school students and graduates and press for the production of relevant program success data,” said Mr. Embry.  “Students, families, and the public at large should be informed about how effectively community colleges are – and are not – preparing students to enter the workforce.” 

The Path to Baltimore’s “Best Prospect” Jobs without a College Degree: Career Credentialing Programs at Baltimore’s Community Colleges finds that the available data from community colleges is incomplete, making it difficult to create a comprehensive picture of program enrollment, completion and earning potential.

To improve the community college pathways and students’ access to them, the report recommends:

  • Collecting and reporting valid and reliable data on enrollment, completion, certification and employment to determine program effectiveness and public accountability;
  • Eliminating obstacles to enrollment and completion such as the ACCUPLACER, an assessment used by area colleges that often tests applicants for skills not needed in the actual jobs for which they are training;
  • Making programs more affordable by expanding federal Pell grants or providing other tuition assistance to cover courses not eligible for Pell grants; and
  • Providing relevant information to students, parents, teachers and job seekers about programs and program quality.  

For more information about The Path to Baltimore’s “Best Prospect” Jobs without a College Degree: Career Credentialing Programs at Baltimore’s Community Colleges and to read more information about available programs, please visit www.abell.org

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