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Unanswered Questions Raised by Proposed Enrollment Regulations at California Community Colleges

A plan to give enrollment priority to students who have a plan for completing college has won preliminary approval of the California Community College system.

According to information released by the chancellor's office last week, students planning to finish school will likely be allowed to register before others at California's 112 community colleges.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that a plan to give enrollment priority to students who have completed an orientation, taken English or math skills tests, or filled out a plan for completing college has won preliminary approval.

The community college state board is expected to vote on the proposal in September, and the new rules would take effect in 2014, but under these new rules, colleges would penalize students who have completed far more units than they need to transfer to a four-year school.Ch

It was not immediately clear how many of the state's 2.7 million or so students complete an educational plan, and it's also unknown at this time how educators who are grappling with an ongoing budget crunch, which has already slashed thousands of classes, can figure out how to help students plan their educational paths.

The Daily Democrat newspaper reports that Paul Feist in the California Community College's Chancellor's Office said the board also gave final approval to new regulations preventing students from repeating classes they have already passed.

KPGS news also reported that active-duty military, veterans and former foster children will still have priority standing. They will be followed by students who have completed education plans, are in good academic standing, and have fewer than 100 credits.

On the face of it, the proposed changes are good, theoretically getting rid of the professional student in favor of those who have clear career goals and are on track to graduate and join the professional ranks. 

On further inspection, these are proposed regulations that bring up more questions than they answer and that appear to be contrary to the traditional mission of community colleges: To give students another viable educational option, other than more expensive state schools and private colleges.

For example: will the new regulations exempt students retroactively, those who have amassed a great number of units sampling various career options prior to the implementation of the new laws, or will it punish them right away by not allowing them to register for classes?

And what of a program such as a school's journalism program? At Mt. SAC for example, we relied on student editors repeating classes for practice because it was impossible for them to learn their craft in one semester's time. These new regulations fail to address specialized programs like a school newspaper or specialized graphic art programs, which are very important to the campus community and the individual students.

There are many other activity, non-academic, courses, which require several semesters to achieve proficiency, but these new regulations would prevent students from repeating "activity" courses such as art or music starting in fall 2013.

In the end, if the regulations work out similar to the U.S. government’s practice of making federal mandates and then giving states the autonomy to implement and interpret their own laws, at least in theory, state colleges would have the same ability to regulate their curriculum to fit the system's requirements. Yet, this seems a messier process, and it could also be an expensive one, if counseling departments, some already affected by budget cuts, have to beef up their manpower to help the current and future generation of students.

It will be a "wait and see" game for those who are choosing community college as their primary educational institution, but one thing seems clear. If lawmakers get their way, the days of repeating courses and sampling various educational tracks are over.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Sherry Jones August 02, 2012 at 02:23 AM
In today's economy it is essential that people have choices for higher learning institutions. Some people who have earned higher educational degrees, have been laid off and forced to return to community colleges to learn new vocations. Some of these people are the baby boomers who must be re-educated at community colleges becauses they can not afford four year college tutitions, and in some cases, they must continue to provide for their families. In addition, there are recent high school graduates who take courses out of their curriculum because they are still exploring. I feel exposure is a doorway to new information and enrollment should not be regulated. Sincerely, Sherry Jones
Ariel Carmona Jr August 02, 2012 at 03:17 AM
I tend to agree with you Sherry but unfortunately it looks like the state is moving away from the philosophy that community colleges should be experimental in nature, or a place to explore careers and more a repository for adult education and other programs. The reality is teachers are overworked and underpaid, it is a wonder they have done so much with every dwindling resources

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