Archived: EDITORIAL: Proposed Community College Changes Make Sense


In theory, the California Community College system is open to all who want to attend. In reality, tens of thousands of potential students, most incoming freshman, are “turned away” because there are too few classes and too many students.

Each year, California’s 112 community colleges provide instruction to close to 2.6 million students. They train 70 percent of all nurses, 80 percent of all firefighters, law enforcement personnel and emergency medical technicians, and about 28 percent of University of California graduates and 55 percent of California State University graduates started at a community college.

Yet sadly, only about 4 out of 10 community college students will achieve a degree, certificate or be prepared to transfer to a four-year college system.

Last year a Student Success Task Force was established to study the community college completion rate and develop some recommendations to improve the system.

In a time of steep budget cuts and dwindling resources, it makes perfect sense to figure out how to do a better job with the resources that are available. It is not enough to just say give the system more money, though that would be ideal.

Changes must be implemented that will allow students who are serious about getting an education the opportunity to do just that.

The Task Force released a Revised Draft of its recommendations in December 2011, and many of the recommendations make common sense to us.

Among the Task Force key points is the development of “structured pathways” to help students decide on a program of study, and to provide the needed supportive services and direction to achieve that goal.

While there could be a concern that students who are not yet ready to commit to a single education direction or career path could be turned off by the process, it appears to us that the Task Force’s recommendations provide substantial flexibility to students to pursue a variety of interests while still helping them make progress toward an end goal.

With thousands of students unable to register for a single class, or attempting to piece together their education by attending more than one community college campus, or taking just any class in order to get priority registration status, we agree that it is time to change how students access the colleges.

While some are sure to disagree, a person taking a cooking or floral arrangement class just for personal gratification should not receive priority registration over a student seeking a college education to help them someday get a better job.

So we support the Task Force’s recommendation to change the community colleges’ current registration system from one that gives priority to anyone who has taken a class before, to one that gives priority to students seeking a certificate, degree or preparation for transfer to a four-year institution.

Too many students flounder for too long, denying thousands the opportunity to attend. That needs to change.

Among the reports’ many recommendations we support is its strategy to ensure that all students, especially those within groups that have the lowest completion rates, such as Latinos and other students of color, not be allowed to fall between the cracks, and that they are provided with adequate counseling and supportive services to be successful.

We are greatly heartened by the recommendations to implement a common centralized assessment, or placement tests across the system for Math, English and for English as a second language.

We  also believe that the Task Force’s strong emphasis on the need to have a common entrance application, the need for adequate counseling to help students develop an education plan as to assure the correct choice of classes to be able to transfer to a four-year institution, and to eliminate the prospect of unneeded classes and excess credits are noteworthy.

The recommendations have been submitted to the Community College Chancellor’s office and the Board of Governors for approval. We believe that with the dearth of resources the state will probably continue to endure, at the same time there is a need for a better educated and skilled workforce, steps are needed to ensure more students complete certificated classes to upgrade or learn new skills.  We also need to give priority and emphasis to students graduating from high schools and those in need of classes to complete their AA or transfer to four year institutions; they must be the priority.

We urge the Community College Board of Governors to approve the recommendations, and provide the needed funding for counseling and supportive services that will in the long run benefit the state of California by helping to provide a better-educated workforce, so they can hep our economy grow,

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