Editorial: Colleges should not undermine accomplishments of skill builders

Community colleges exist to help students further themselves. Whether it’s in pursuit of a degree, transferring to a university or just looking to better themselves for their career, success should be measured in different ways.

Currently, students who want to enhance their professional skills for employment, referred to as skill builders, are not considered successful students by federal and state measures. As a result, colleges do not receive credit for the students’ success.

Success should not be deemed purely as a student earning a degree from a community college or earning credits in order to transfer, but currently those are the only people considered completers when community colleges are evaluated.

At a time when 11 community colleges in California, including Cosumnes River College, are only receiving an 18-month reaffirmation by the Accrediting Commision for Community and Junior Colleges and being asked to improve the outcome of student success in multiple programs, a new definition of success needs to be created.

Referring to skills builders as non-completers is disrespectful to the hard work and time those students put into improving their skills and it also takes credit away from professors and community colleges that deserve it for helping students better themselves.

College is designed to help people better themselves and put them in position to be more successful in their professional lives. Students who take classes to better their skills are bettering themselves in their professions and the data proves it.

Across the board, skill builders saw benefits from their added educational experience. In California, skill builders saw a cumulative $498 million in wage gains, according to a student performance measurement developed by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

At CRC, the data showed significant increases in median wages across 35 different fields. Skill builders in health occupations saw a nearly 14 percent median wage increase, 23 percent in accounting, 24 percent increase in computer programming and 38 percent increase in business and commerce serving as just a few examples.

Increased wages are not just helping to improve the lives of the individual workers who improved their skill, it goes beyond that. Higher wages mean they are able to support their families, and provide a brighter future for them. It also gives families more money to spend, which goes right back into California’s economy to help other businesses and trickle down to help others.

By the very definition of success, these students accomplished their goals and it carried over to help others. Steps need to be made in order to recognize what they have done and what community colleges across the country did for them.

There are steps being taken to push things in the right direction. California is taking some of the first big changes, making changes to the California Community Colleges’ Student Success Scorecard, the scorecard serves as a performance measurement system for all 112 community colleges in California.

This could be critical for the accreditation process for community colleges as a new way to show that campuses are accomplishing their purpose of having successful students who will have greater futures.

By increasing the amount of completers, community colleges stand a better chance at receiving their accreditation and being able to serve students for years to come.