Some positive news regarding the community colleges of California occurred recently. On September 27, 2012, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Student Success Act (SB 1456), which implemented a number of changes to California’s school system. The bill focuses on two of the twenty two recommendations proposed by the Student Success Task Force, which is made up of educators, students, and even researchers. Senator Alan Lowenthal, who authored the bill, said, “SB 1456 is about community college students and the tremendous fierce urgency of doing something now.” Studies have shown that only 30 percent of community college students earn a degree or transfer to a four-year university after even six years.
At the Yuba College campus, this issue is very pervasive. Many assume, or like to say, that underachieving or lack of focus is to blame. However, the truth is the combination of factors causing this horrible statistic are much more complex.
Firstly, the lack of SAT acceptance and differing entrance exams from around the state seem to be one of the original problems. Another is the lack of math proficiency. This issue stems from farther back in students’ academic careers, and combined with the increasingly long duration to even earn a degree from cuts in sections, time is deadly. The Student Task Force also said, “Of the students who enter our colleges at one level below transfer level in Math, only 46.2 percent ever achieve a certificate, degree, or transfer preparation. Of those students entering four levels below, only 25.5 percent ever achieve those outcomes.” In my opinion something needs to be done regarding this because many of the people failing to progress to a transferable math course have already sometimes taken them in highschool and even tested multiple classes higher on the SAT. Community Colleges serve people from all walks of life, and working to help all of them without stifling support for those most in need should always be priority. The lack of funds and budget cuts have exacerbated these long ignored or rationalized issues.
The Student Success Act, while far from perfect and not without flaw, implements much needed changes.
The first gives the responsibility to the local college itself to give support services for every student who needs it, such as orientation, counseling, and education planning. Still further, it requires the college to catch those students who have fallen behind or off track with their academic goals. The actual benefits of this will be reported to the Legislative Analyst office and reviewed. The second recommendation chosen is the first academic standards for those students who receive the BOG fee waiver. Almost a no-brainer that should probably have been created in the beggining, it would require the students to maintain a C average for 2 semesters. Retiring Community College Chancellor Jack Scott said, “Why did we put in there something about the BOG fee waiver? Well, we wanted not only institutions to accept responsibility for student success, but we wanted students to accept responsibility.”
It’s about time. Hopefully, if Prop 30 passes, and improvements continue to be made, a new sense of urgency along with purpose will give not just the state’s community college system some momentum, but our community as well.