Student Success Task Force recommendations change enrollment priority

The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s office began the process of implementing the 22 recommendations made by the Student Success Task Force, which were unanimously approved by the Board of Governors in January.

The Task Force, which was created in 2011 with the goal of increasing success at California community colleges, spent most of last year examining the education system and recommended a list of ideas to improve various areas.

One of the recommendations being implemented is dividing priority enrollment into three distinct groups of students, removing enrollment priority for students who have earned over 100 units and adding the ability for college districts to require matriculation steps, such as orientation or education plans, in order for students to maintain enrollment priority.

“We are de facto rationing education right now,” said Cosumnes River College Academic Senate President Charles Braden. “We no longer have the resources to get all of the sections out there that we used to do. We’ve cut our sections by significant amounts in the last four years. We need to make sure that we are serving those students who are trying to get in and out as best as we can because they’re not going to be giving us any more resources to help us with that.”

Braden is serving on the State Chancellor’s Enrollment Prioritization Task Force. He has worked with the committee since March to rewrite with Title V Section 58.108, to clarify the details made by the task force. The proposal creates enrollment priority based on three groups of students. Armed forces veterans and foster youth would have first priority.

Extended Opportunity Programs and Services and Disabled Services students would have second priority. The third group would contain the rest of the students and could be defined or subdivided at the district-level.

The change will be proposed to the Board of Governors in May. A final decision could be reached in July.
However, at the Chancellor’s Consultation Council meeting on April 19, several members raised concerns that the process was moving too quickly. The Chancellor’s office and the Board of Governors agreed to wait until September before reaching a final decision, Braden said.

Other recommendations, such as introducing a scorecard to track student success and developing technology applications to create more student services, are in the process of being implemented through various task forces.

Enrollment prioritization could go into effect when registering for fall 2013 classes, and the entire list of recommendations will take between three and six years to fully implement, Braden said.

According to the Task Force’s final report, the recommendations will make “good policy sense and will help ensure that the community colleges are leveraging all available resources to help students succeed.”

However, some have criticized the recommendations for limiting community colleges to certain groups.

“The other thing that concerns me is that with the Student Success Task Force recommendations, the easiest way to meet some of these is to disenfranchise our most vulnerable students,” Braden said.

“That’s something that all of us were all committed to not doing,” he added.

Braden compared the relationship between access and success. Before 2008, local districts focused on success, but community colleges were funded based on access.

However, with budget cuts, the state has indicated that it wants students to graduate in two years, which Braden called  “often totally unrealistic.”

“The principles of the task force are designed to push out working people from the benefits of community college,” said CRC faculty president Jason Newman. “We are at an unfortunate crossroads right now in community college education in which we’re seeing state leaders, with the help of faculty, reducing access to our community colleges. And the task force is that mechanism that is being used to decrease access for the state’s most needy populations for education.”

“It is very unfortunate to see administrators, with the help of outside corporations, creating this task force that does direct harm to the economic futures of working people in California,” he added.

Los Rios Chancellor Brice Harris said that the district has been monitoring student success long before the formation of the Task Force, and many of the recommendations would not be new to the district.

However, Harris said some recommendations, such as the academic progress requirements, will require caution and need to be implemented carefully to avoid “terrible, unintended consequences.”

“If we’re going to implement those kind of changes, we need to do it gradually over a period of time so that students know what’s going to be expected of them and make alterations accordingly,” he said.

Harris added that students need to plan carefully, start early and be purposeful in their education.
“Students are going to have to get very serious in their education very quickly,” he said.