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Progress Report on 2012 Bill’s Implementation

LAO Report on Community Colleges Finds “Notable Progress” in Some Areas under Student Success Act

July 21, 2014

(Editor’s note: The California Legislative Analyst’s Office issued a report on July 1 titled “California Community Colleges: A Progress Report on the Student Success Act of 2012.” The report’s executive summary is reprinted below; click on the link at the end to read the entire report.)

Executive Summary

Legislature Requires Community College Improvement Plan. The California Community Colleges (CCC) serve more than 2 million students annually at 112 colleges operated by 72 districts throughout the state. For years, the Legislature has expressed concern about the low completion rates of CCC students. In an effort to promote better results, the Legislature passed legislation in 2010 requiring the Board of Governors (BOG) – the CC’s state–level governing body – to adopt and implement a comprehensive plan for improving student success. To meet this requirement, the BOG formed a “Student Success Task Force” that ultimately produced a report containing 22 recommendations – all of which were adopted by the board in early 2012.

Legislature Passes Student Success Act of 2012 to Support Systemwide Changes. To provide statutory authority for the CCC system to implement four key task force recommendations, the Legislature passed the Student Success Act of 2012—Chapter 624, Statutes of 2012 (SB 1456, Lowenthal). Chapter 624: (1) requires the BOG to establish policies around mandatory assessment, orientation, and education planning for incoming students; (2) permits the BOG to set a time or unit limit for students to declare a major or other specific educational goal; (3) authorizes the BOG to establish minimum academic standards for financially needy students who receive enrollment fee waivers; and (4) establishes the Student Success and Support Program (SSSP). Chapter 624 also includes intent language emphasizing that students not be “unfairly impacted” by the resulting policies adopted by the board.

Legislation Has Reporting Requirement for Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO). In addition, the legislation requires the LAO to provide a status report to the Legislature by July 1, 2014 (and July 1 of every even–numbered year thereafter) on CCC’s implementation of Chapter 624 as well as the overall progress on implementation of the other task force recommendations. This report fulfills the 2014 reporting requirement.

Notable Progress Being Made on Implementing Chapter 624. . . Over the past two years, CCC and the state have engaged in a number of efforts to fulfill Chapter 624’s provisions, as highlighted below.

  1. Priority for Classes Granted to Students Completing Assessment, Orientation, and Education Plans. Regulations adopted by the BOG stipulate that, beginning in fall 2014, first–time students receive enrollment (that is, registration) priority if they undergo assessment and orientation and develop an education plan. (First–time students who do not participate in these activities are not permitted to register for classes until open registration.) Colleges are using a number of strategies to accommodate increased student demand for these support services, such as hiring additional counseling staff and creating orientation sessions that students can access online.
  2. Students Required to Declare an Educational Goal Early On. Recent board regulations also require students to identify a specific educational goal either after completing 15 degree–applicable semester units or before the end of their third semester. Beginning in fall 2015, districts may place a hold on registration for students who do not comply with this requirement.
  3. Academic Standards Adopted for Students Receiving Fee Waivers. In addition, board regulations stipulate that, beginning in fall 2016, students lose their fee waiver if they are placed on college probation for two consecutive terms. (As of this writing, the board is awaiting approval of this regulation by the Department of Finance [DOF], as is required by state law.)
  4. SSSP Augmented. Since Chapter 624 was enacted, the Legislature and Governor have provided substantial augmentations to SSSP – increasing annual funding from $49 million in 2012–13 to $269 million in 2014–15. In addition, the Chancellor’s Office – the administrative arm of the board – has developed a new district allocation formula for SSSP funds based in large part on actual services delivered to students.

...But Implementation Timeframe for New Enrollment Priority Policy Is Problematic for Many Colleges. We generally find that the regulations adopted by the BOG are in alignment with Chapter 624’s provisions. Based on a recent CCC survey of districts, we are concerned, however, that many colleges will not be able to implement the new enrollment priority policy in a manner that is consistent with legislative intent. Specifically, a potentially large number of first–time students could be denied—through no fault of their own—the opportunity to gain enrollment priority in fall 2014 due to insufficient access to counseling and other support services. In light of this information, we recommend the Legislature direct the Chancellor’s Office to allow districts to delay implementation until they can fully comply with the new requirement. Given the substantial amount of new resources for SSSP in the 2014–15 budget, we believe all districts would be ready to implement the policy in time for the spring 2015 term.

CCC System Making Great Strides on Several Other Task Force Recommendations. . . In addition to implementing Chapter 624, the CCC system and state have made notable progress on initial implementation of several other task force recommendations. For example, community colleges have formed regional consortia with school districts to improve delivery of adult education instruction and adopted a new accountability “scorecard.” In addition, the 2014–15 budget package creates a new Chancellor’s Office–led technical assistance program designed to improve system and student performance.

. . .With Still Much More to Address and Accomplish. Though the system is well underway in implementing several aspects of the task force report, significant opportunities exist to address other important priorities identified by the task force. In particular, while some initial work has been done, much more progress in the areas of (1) course alignment, (2) basic skills instruction, and (3) professional development will be needed to complement and bolster CCC’s other efforts.

To read the full report from the LAO, click on the link below:

Sources:  California Legislative Analyst's Office