Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Two Articles on Low CCC Funding Harming Students

Community college enrollment at 20-year low 

Burdened by funding cuts, the system has fewer course offerings, especially in education, business, music and dance, a report says. 
By Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times March 26, 2013

Enrollment in California's community colleges has plunged to a 20-year low as budget-strapped campuses have had to slash classes and instructors, according to a report released Monday.
Course offerings are at a 15-year low, dropping 21% from 2007-08 to 2011-12, with music and dance, education and business programs particularly hard hit.

The report, published by the Public Policy Institute of California, charts a system staggering under the weight of unprecedented funding cuts: $1.5 billion from 2007-08 to 2011-12, considerably larger than those during past economic downturns.

The state's 112 two-year colleges are the nation's largest system of public higher education, serving about 2.4 million students each year. The system has been criticized in recent decades for a weak record of student success, with many ill-prepared students stuck in remedial courses or dropping out.

But its inability in recent years to serve the numbers of students who want to study should be of equal concern, said Sarah Bohn, a Public Policy Institute research fellow and coauthor of the report.

"All of the conversation has been focusing on student success and rightly so, but the most dramatic result is the participation rate," she said. "Access to higher education is really important to consider in tandem with student success."

The report found that between 2008-09 and 2011-12, overall participation rates — students per 1,000 state residents age 15 or over — declined by 21% to levels not seen since the early 1990s.

During roughly the same period, total enrollment declined by more than 500,000 students.

First-time students and those returning after an absence of one or more semesters suffered the sharpest declines in enrollment as priorities shifted to favor continuing students seeking degrees or transfer to a four-year university.

Recently adopted policies that give registration priority to new students who participate in orientation sessions and develop an education plan will improve access, said Paul Feist, the community college system's vice chancellor for communications.

"But this report is correct in warning that it's going to take many years to regain the footing we once had," he said.

The report contains some good news: The number of students who complete a course, earn a passing grade and transfer to a four-year school are up slightly among all ethnic and racial groups.

And voter approval in November of Proposition 30, which temporarily raises sales taxes and property taxes on higher earners, could reverse some trends. Community colleges will receive $210 million in additional funding for 2012-13.

But current funding levels are still too little to achieve goals, the report suggests, and colleges should look to additional sources of funding such as parcel taxes, lowering the income threshold for students receiving system-wide fee-waivers, as well as charging higher fees for those who can pay — a controversial proposal that is opposed by Chancellor Brice Harris.

California community college enrollment rates plunge, report shows

By KATY MURPHY, San Jose Mercury News
Published: Tuesday, Mar. 26, 2013 - 1:00 am

California's community colleges - the nation's largest public higher education system - have lost so many teachers and classes that students are being driven away.

With the number of course sections down systemwide by as much as 20 percent since 2008, enrollment rates have hit their lowest point in two decades, concludes a Public Policy Institute of California report released Monday.

The community colleges' ideal of open access for all, still dear to many Californians, barely resembles the reality on campuses today after years of budget cuts.

"I expected to get the classes I needed, but I was wrong," said Rigo Navarro, a second semester student at Chabot College in Hayward. Navarro wants to major in criminal justice and engineering but said he has yet to find space in a math or a criminal justice class.

Alexandra Olivares, 18, had it even worse, at least at first. Every class she tried to take in the fall at Chabot was full. She cried as she joined wait lists, thinking she would have to delay her career and find a low-wage job. Eventually, she got in.

Such stories have become more of a rule than an exception. The community college chancellor's office reports that a half-million students have been shut out of the system in recent years because they couldn't get into classes. The system counted 2.4 million students in 2011-12, down from 2.9 million students in 2008-09, according to the report.

The problem can be especially acute for those beginning their college careers, such as Olivares and Navarro, as they often must wait to register until after returning students have a chance.

The number of young, first-time community college students in California fell even further behind the number of recent high school graduates between 2008 and 2011 - a trend that, combined with lower California State University and University of California enrollment, "does not bode well" for the state's workforce, the report's researchers concluded.

Even though voters last year approved a tax hike and the governor wants to infuse the schools with an additional $210 million, the report authors say that's far from enough.

The state and the colleges must come up with a long-range plan to restore the system, whether through increased state revenue, local parcel taxes or student fees, the authors concluded. The report also listed online education and larger classes as possible ways to reach more students. A bill introduced this month by State Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, SB 520, would allow public college students shut out of classes to receive transfer credits for some online courses offered by the private sector.

"The saddest thing of all, for me, is that the one magnificent system that was open to all Californians has begun to ration what it can and cannot do," said Rita Cepeda, chancellor of the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District.

Statewide, the number of for-credit classes fell by 14 percent between 2008 and 2011; the number of noncredit classes, such as English-as-a-second-language, dropped by more than one-third. The noncredit decline is noteworthy, as the governor wants to make the colleges responsible for teaching ESL and other adult education classes now offered by K-12 districts.

Since 2010-11, Chabot has closed about 12 percent of its classes, including some sections of the popular mass communications course.

Last semester, class instructor Chad Mark Glen tried to ease the damage, letting in every student who tried to register for his introduction course. The cap was 44 students, but he invited more than 90 into a little lecture hall - basically, packing two sections into one. Students sat on the floor and poured into the hallway.

Glen said the class was vibrant and fun to teach. It was also draining. This semester, he said, "I told my dean, 'Put it back to 44.' I just felt I couldn't do it again."

No comments:

Post a Comment