Beginning next fall, incoming freshmen will have a new graduation requirement: English 1A. Currently, English 51, “Preparatory Composition and Reading,” is the graduation requirement at Yuba College. The California Code of Regulations allows community colleges to set their English graduation requirement as low as the English 51 level, but Yuba College has raised the bar.
“It’s a level of English that is appropriate,” said Larry Michel, the Curriculum Committee faculty co-chair.
Yuba College speech instructor Suzanne Ruckle agrees: “If you are in college, you should have college-level English.”
This new requirement was approved by the Curriculum Committee last semester and will be in place for incoming students this fall, except for those who have catalog rights.
Catalog rights are guaranteed to students who attend classes at least one semester in a calender year. Only those students who register for the first time this fall or who have not had a class at Yuba College for more than a year will have to meet the new English requirement.
The English Department wanted to return to the original requirement that was changed in the early 90s to English 51. According to Tim May, Composition Coordinator, the preparatory English class is the equivalent of a high school English class, and the department found that Yuba College was out of step with other states and other colleges across California.
In fact, the English Council of California Two-Year Colleges, a professional organization whose membership includes departments of English and their faculty in all public and private two-year colleges across the state, passed two different resolutions to encourage all English departments to require English 1A as a graduation requirement.
In May 2003, ECCTYC passed a resolution, urging community college faculty to adopt the successful completion of a college-level English writing course as a requirement for the Associate of Arts and the Associate of Science degrees. And in October 2004, the organization passed another resolution, affirming its first position and supporting the state Academic Senate of California Community Colleges’ resolution to change the current Title 5 requirement for English leading to associate degrees.
“Title 5 is the section of the California Code of Regulations that deals with community colleges,” explained Brian Jukes, president of the Yuba College Academic Senate. “This semester the state Academic Senate will consider making English 1A, or its equivalent, the new requirement statewide. Right now any community college can go as low as our English 51 level, but that may change in April.”According to Jukes, once the state Academic Senate votes on changes to the graduation requirement for California, its recommendation goes to the Board of Governors, which usually adopts the Senate’s recommendations without question. “This possible change may cause a lot of concern from some California community college faculty,” said Jukes.
The concern at Yuba College, according to May, was that the new graduation requirement would be too difficult for some students to complete, but the English department was convinced that the change would not be too dramatic.
According to Yuba College’s Education Master Plan statistics, “Although English 1A is not currently a YCCD graduation requirement, the majority of our graduates successfully complete English 1A.”
In fact, over a six-year period, between 1999 and 2004, an average of 84 percent of all Yuba College graduates passed English 1A. Spring 2004 saw 90 percent of Yuba College graduates completing English 1A, even without the requirement in place. According to the Master Plan, those statistics do not include graduates who passed English 1A or its equivalent at another college.
“Thus, the percentage of YCCD graduates successfully completing English 1A may actually be greater,” concludes the Education Master Plan.
Because a clear majority of Yuba College graduates already take English 1A, very few other concerns were raised.
When asked, most students do not have any objections to the change. “I think it can come in handy if you are planning to go to a four-year college,” said Yuba College student Candy Sawyer.
Yuba College students Elizabeth Gonzoles and Maria Oregel also agree that the new English requirements are appropriate.
DeEtta Bird, another Yuba College student, said, “I think it (the change in the English requirement) is very important.”
One other concern among some faculty was that an alternative class should be offered to meet the new graduation requirement. That suggestion is up in the air right now, but according to May, the English department is willing to work with other departments, such as the Business department, to create an alternative class.