Editorial: Without change student success in California community colleges will decline

In the past few months, the Student Success Task Force has been tasked with the development of plan to improve community colleges in California. Many ideas were discussed: outcome-based funding, improving K-12 education and tracking each student’s history.

After months of meetings between the members, they split over the issue of outcome-based funding, recommending that California sit idle for the time being, while surveying the results of states that have implemented outcome-based funding.

What community colleges need is an overwhelming change. This can be a similar funding procedure to the one already proposed or something else, as long as there is a change. The point is that a change is needed, and it is needed now.

There have been too many factors changing for students to keep expecting the same level of success from them. Classes have been reduced in size, questioned on their necessity and others have been completely removed from the list of offered classes.

And on top of that, students’ resources have also been cut. Part-time professors have become a rarity, while the professors left on staff are now being asked to do more, overextending their already limited availability.

Students in a situation of outcome-based funding would be expected to do better, and such a task is unimaginable with budgets cutting students hopes before they are even had. There are fewer classes being offered year-by-year. Furthermore, additional cuts are discussed every semester as of late. Student enrollment is still high, and many classes are full and students are left looking for an open spot.

And the human component is being left out of all of this debate. Even if enrollment stays at a consistent, manageable level and students can get into the classes they need, the school can’t be responsible to keep students from dropping. When a steady number of students continue to drop, the success of the remaining students won’t seem a higher percentage. Especially when there is an overall smaller numbers of students to look at.

It is not the college’s job to force students to stay in classes, and there will always be a number of students who drop any given class. That itself is something that won’t change on a yearly basis, so how can we grade success when there will always be room for improvement?

In economics class, a phrase gets thrown around quite often: ceteris paribus. What it means is “all else constant.” The phrase is used to explain that you can measure an overall change when one factor is your variable, and all other factors are not changing—ceteris paribus.

Right now, with the negative impacts that community colleges in California have experienced, the success of students is in jeopardy. Ceteris paribus, the success of students seems as if it will be challenged and slowly but surely diminished. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If another factor is changed, if California doesn’t wait and watch other states’ college systems as its own deteriorates, then things could change for the better.

But until a big change like that is made, until the phrase ceteris paribus is no longer applicable, we will see a decline in the success of students in California community colleges.