CCSF reveals improvement plan

City College of San Francisco will “hire new leaders, lay off faculty, close and lease out properties, and make enrichment classes a low priority” to remain accredited, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

One new approach also reflects an astonishing reality: City College has allowed students to take classes without paying the required enrollment fees, causing the college to lose at least $400,000 a year.

Pamila Fisher, the interim chancellor, previewed thecollege’s plan for addressing 14 major fiscal and managerial deficiencies identified in July by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. CCSF could lose accreditation, if it doesn’t meet its goal or make measurable progress by the commission’s March 15 deadline.

One major change already approved by the trustees is to shift City College’s main mission away from free enrichment classes like music appreciation and memoir writing, and focus instead on preparing students for transfer to a university, earning an associate degree, acquiring career skills and learning to speak English.

The plan calls for eliminating paid sabbaticals to save $800,000 a year and imposing across-the-board salary cuts of 1 percent to save $1.57 million.

A seat in college for high school grads

West Hills Community College District in California is ensuring high school seniors have a spot in college, reports the Campaign for College Opportunity. The district worked to reverse a 15 percent decline in enrollment of local high school graduates.

. . . West Hills worked directly with high school leaders to reach students early —  informing them of how to best prepare, enroll, and access financial aid.  New students were guided to complete an education plan stipulating their college goals, filled out the federal application for financial aid, received orientation and took the appropriate assessment tests for placement in critical math and English courses.

“In 2011-12, more than 20,000 community college course sections were cut across California – including basic skills, transfer-level English and math, career pathway courses, and ESL – yet Playing the Ukulele for Older Adults; Ceramics: An Option for Friday Night; and Reclaiming Joy: Meeting Your Inner Child,” were still available, said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity. “California no longer has the resources to subsidize students attending community college for recreational purposes.”

Long Beach City College, Riverside Community College, San Bernardino Community College, Victor Valley College also are focusing limited resources on students pursuing a degree, transfer or a vocational certificate. All community colleges in California will prioritize enrollment for students with academic or vocational plans starting in 2014.

In college at 91

At 91, Graham Witherspoon may be Colorado’s oldest college student. He’s taking oil painting at the Community College of Aurora. The class attracts a number of senior students.

“I’m very happy to have an older person to look up to,” Gene Meyer, 85, said.

. . . “He’s younger than me by a little bit, but he looks a lot older, doesn’t he?” Witherspoon teased. “It’s nice to have an old guy in the class with me, but the younger ones are pretty.”

A World War II Navy veteran, Witherspoon also has taken astronomy and creative writing courses. He plans to keep taking classes till the age of 100.

California colleges may limit recreation subsidies

California’s community colleges may limit access to low-cost P.E. and fine arts classes to focus scarce resources on students seeking degrees, certificates, transfer or job training. Under the proposal, students would be barred from repeating the same P.E. or fine arts class more than once, reports California Watch. Instead, colleges could create “community education” enrichment classes: Students pay the full cost and can take the class as often as they like.

The Foothill-De Anza Community College District, for example, offers a $60 class called Total Body Workout for Older Adults, which receives no state subsidies. Foothill College’s state-subsidized Aquatic Fitness class costs $36, by contrast.

College athletes would be able to repeat courses in their sport and music majors would be allowed to repeat choir class if needed to meet transfer requirements.


Budget cuts lead to downsizing

In response to budget cuts, community colleges are downsizing, reports USA Today.

Texarkana College in Texas is one of the latest schools to drop intercollegiate sports.

A group of older adults is working to keep alive some version of Santa Barbara City College‘s continuing education division, which offers free classes in subjects such as financial planning and pastry-making.

Starting this summer, Pima Community College in Tucson will no longer offer remediation for incoming adult students who fail a seventh-grade-level test of reading, writing and math.

Community colleges are focusing on improving completion rates and retraining workers who’ve been laid off.

“The challenge of this decade for community colleges is to make hard choices about whom they will serve, and in what ways,” says Kay McClenney, director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas.


California dreaming

California’s plan to focus community colleges on student success is “pure behaviorist claptrap based on fictional students being taught in fictional ways by fictional teachers,” writes David Clemens in California Dreamin’ on the National Association of Scholars blog.

California’s system — 2 1/2 million students at 112 community colleges — needs retooling, writes Clemens, an English professor at Monterey Peninsula College. Thanks to the taxpayers, students pay only $36 per credit hour, soon to rise to $46. Many receive fee waivers. Some are there to take lower-division courses before transferring, learn trades or take remedial courses, but colleges have been unable to resist the temptation to “turn everything into college and rake in the dough,” he writes.

Tiny tot swim club members and geriatric flamenco dancers: college students!  Fourth grade level readers and doodad ceramicists: college students!  Ellipticals, Yoga, Weaving Practicum, Volleyball Practicum, fitness, fitness, fitness: count `em all and hear that cash register ring!  Cheap golf, cheap tennis, cheap swimming pool, cheap fitness center, cheap kilns and studios, all subsidized by taxpayers.  And with dozens of financial aid options available under a blizzard of acronyms, often these “students” pay nothing at all.  Too many are not students at all either, but attend classes only to collect edu-welfare, to prevent deportation, or to maintain athletic eligibility.

. . . A nearby community college offers 31 courses in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Astronomy combined.  The same college offers 13 flavors of remedial English and over 200 courses in Art, PE, Physical Fitness, and Theatre Arts, most of them repeatable. Cha-ching.

Only 25% of community college students ever earn a degree, complains Gov. Jerry Brown. This is “mission failure,” responds Clemens. “Many students aren’t there for college.” 

California taxpayers aren’t willing to fund that model any more. The new plan caps enrollment and closes “enclaves of dubious academic merit.” In addition, the task force called for standardizing course names and numbers, descriptions, outcomes, placement and assessment.

But it’s all based on a fantasy, writes Clemens.

 “There’s a story that each member of this Task Force wants to be true . . .” and a gauzy fantasy unfolds.  Imaginary students are college-ready upon high school graduation and eager to learn (because we so want it to be true!); students have a major and an academic plan after one semester and are upper-division-ready after two years of community college (hurry, please!); students are job-ready upon college graduation (it has to be!); and remediation is trimmed and/or accelerated (the 33-year-old student who struggles to read Harry Potter will be soaking up Joyce and Heidigger in a matter of weeks).

All this will be done with software — placement software, instructional software, assessment software — the task force dreams.

The plan maintains “the poisonous fiction that college is for everyone,” Clemens writes.

In grand behaviorist fashion, the recommendations obsess over inputs and outcomes, testing, benchmarks, loss points, and scorecards, virtually ignoring the greatest influence on student learning: the student.

Will a “data-driven culture of evidence” produce a new kind of student? “Dream on,” writes Clemens.