The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
A statewide effort to designate enrollment priorities for community college students could have local impacts but mostly in terms of how those services are funded.
Earlier this week, the California Community College Board of Governors met to discuss enrollment priority regulations, which will go up for a final vote in September. If approved, community colleges would have until the fall of 2014 to create a system of rewarding students progressing toward transferring or earning a certificate or a degree rather than students who take classes without that goal.
“The proposed changes encourage successful student behaviors and ensure the system is intelligently rationing classes at a time of scarce resources to provide more students with the opportunity to achieve their goals on time,” Chancellor Jack Scott wrote in a prepared statement. “Current law and practice guiding student enrollment tends to favor the continuing student, based solely on accrual of course units.”
Locally, the San Mateo County Community College District already has many of the requested changes in place. The challenge will be shifting money around to continue services as funding continues to slip, said Jennifer Hughes, vice president of student services at the College of San Mateo.
Hughes said many colleges, including those in San Mateo County, already offer priority enrollment as well as many of the additional services being proposed. Should the proposal be approved, and Hughes believes it will be, the district will have two years to work out any needed changes.
The proposal would give priority for new students who have completed college orientation, assessment and developed education plans as well as continuing students in good academic standing who have not exceeded 100 units, not including units in basic English, math or English as a Second Language.
In addition, active-duty military and veterans and former foster youth in good academic standing who have completed orientation, assessment and education plans will continue to have first call on courses, followed by students in extended opportunity programs and services and disabled students programs and services who have done the same.
With statewide budget cuts, changes are being suggested since the focus for school offerings has shifted to meeting academic and training needs instead of offering opportunities for others to enrich their education. The San Mateo County Community College District, for example, previously set priorities to focus funds for classes helping students earn a degree rather than explore an interest. It also canceled courses with low enrollment as funds have been cut — decisions district officials have said allow for the focus to remain on students attempting to earn a degree or job training.
Another change could impact lifelong learners. A rule that could go into effect in the fall 2013 would prevent students from repeating a course that they have already completed and earned a passing grade. Some classes — like performing arts and physical education — could be repeated as many as four times.
Committees are already in place to deal with the changes needed to make any needed changes, said Hughes. The difficulty will continue to be funding the services. District officials will need to continue to be creative when it comes to meeting needs while cuts continue, she said.