Report targets community colleges

Rosemarie Davis

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By Rosemarie Davis
City Times

A report released last month by California State University Sacramento asserts that there are five state policies keeping California Community College (CCC) students from degree or transfer completion.

San Diego Community College District Chancellor, Constance M. Carroll wrote a response in The San Diego Union Tribune on Feb. 13 calling the report a “mixed bag of helpful analysis and misleading data coupled with prudent recommendations for policy change and naive suggestions.”

“California Community Colleges are not simple organisms, they are complex, just as the lives of the students that attend are complex. Many students attend part time, because they have full time jobs, need child care, or are affected by poverty,” Carroll said in an interview with City Times.

The report states that 73 percent of all undergraduate students in California attend community college and of the 73 percent, only 60 percent are seeking a degree. The 60 percent that are seeking a degree, only 1 out of 4 go onto to degree completion or transfer to a four-year institution.

The methodology used to gather these statistics is of great concern to college administrators because important funding is at stake if changes are made to state policy based on the recommendations in the report. For example, if a nineteen year old student, who does not plan on attending college for a degree, but wanted to take a French course (which is a transferable course) for self enrichment and passed, the report would place this student in the portion that did not complete a degree program.

According to administrators, the statistics for the report were not interpreted thoroughly enough.

Here is a summary of the report’s recommendations for changes to current state policies:

n State funding based on completion rates, with bonus funding for completions by disadvantaged and under prepared students, instead of enrollment based funding.

n Allow colleges to customize their spending needs that enhance student completion instead of the current CCC expenditure regulations.

n Grant colleges more flexibility to hire faculty based on student and workforce needs rather than the current hiring restrictions.

n Allow colleges to benefit from fee revenue rather than fees going to the state and funds are then allocated back to the CCC after the state computes money into a specialized formula. Also, modify financial aid services to allow more students to attend full time rather than granting only low fees and fee waivers.

n Revise assessment and placement policies that make assessment mandatory for degree seeking students and for mandatory placement for students with remedial needs. Also, for CCC to support students more by granting more counseling geared toward degree completion.

One section, titled “Race Matters,” states Latino and Black students have the lowest numbers of completion rates among degree-seekers. When asked if state policy reform should focus on the needs of these two groups more, Colleen Moore, an author of the report responded by saying that the policy reforms would help all students and may be especially helpful for those groups.

“For example, the barrier to providing enough counselors, financial aid, and academic advisors, posed by the 50 percent rule (spending regulation) likely has a particularly negative impact on minority students who are more likely to be under prepared, low-income, and first generation college students in need of those services,” Moore continued.

She also said that full time students have a greater likelihood of completion. If state policies can support changes to increase the number of full time students, that would be a valuable thing.

To read the report, go to http://www.csus.edu/ihe

Chancellor Carroll’s editorial response to the report can be found at http://www.signonsandiego.com.

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