The ability to get classes at and transfer on time from California’s community colleges has, with increased enrollment, gone from doable to a pipe dream for many students.
But a new policy on the horizon may help to fix that. The community college state board will vote on a new proposal in September that changes the registration process when it comes to priority, and the changes are sweeping.
The meat of the proposal would see students that have created a timeline for transferring, gone through orientation, or taken an English and math placement test receive higher priority when it comes to class registration. Conversely, students that have already exceeded the number of credits needed to transfer would receive much lower priority when registering.
Eloy Oakley, Superintendent-President of Long Beach City College, says these changes are a long time coming.
“Colleges have historically been completely open access and that’s caused problems in who gets seats,” Oakley said. “In recent years, this has become an even bigger issue because of budget pressure. It’s been exacerbated by the fact that we now have huge competition for courses, and historically we’ve done a terrible job at prioritizing which types of students get priority registration.”
And while the change would breed some relief for a community college system that has lost $809 million in funding in the last three years, Oakley explains that the proposal is purely in the education quality realm rather than finances.
“Quite frankly, the genesis of this whole concept, this whole idea, is really nothing to do with budget pressure. The concept is part of a larger student success initiative,” he said.
“It does have an effect [on the budget], so it’s an additional impact and it will provide our colleges with a much more rational way of rationing education, but in the end, regardless of whether there are budget pressures or not, this change has to happen.”
One of the primary changes would be to give incoming freshman more priority.
“What has been happening is that many students who have been turned away in recent years have been recent high school grabs, because the way our priority system was working was giving preference to other students and other groups above incoming freshmen,” Oakley said. “One of the biggest changes is giving incoming freshmen greater priority, and to gain that priority they must fully matriculate and go through orientation and assessment in order to get the priority.”
This includes filling out an education plan that maps out a student’s timeline while at school, which Oakley explains research shows improves success rates for students. About 60 percent of Long Beach City College students complete an education plan.
As for the students that seem to be attending community college indefinitely with no plan to transfer, the priority registration free ride will be coming to a close.
“In order for this system to work, particularly now, what we’re saying is if you are attending a community college and have exceeded 100 transferrable units, you have had the ample amount of time to decide on the educational path,” Oakley said. “You need 70 units to transfer, and certainly less to achieve an AA degree or certificate. You can continue coming but you’re not going to be at the front of the line anymore.”
The proposal isn’t without its critics, however. Some doubt the ability of the state’s community colleges to implement the changes by 2014, but Oakley disputes this. In fact, Long Beach City College has already implemented many of the proposal’s changes already, including the new registration system that will debut in the fall.
“There is absolutely no reason 112 colleges cannot implement this,” Oakley said. “I don’t mean to be critical of any of my colleagues, but it’s a matter of will. My colleges as well as many other colleges have been able to implement this even before the Board of Governors acted. I don’t buy this as any kind of excuse. These changes won’t happen by continuing to do things the way we’ve done things in the past.”