Renewed threats emerge
As faculty, we are all aware of the life-changing mission of California’s community colleges. In recent years, however, that mission has been threatened by new initiatives, specifically, concurrent enrollment of high school students in our colleges and the effort to provide bachelors’ degrees in a variety of programs.
Concurrent enrollment has been in place for a number of years. Under these programs, high school students, sometimes as young as 15, enroll in college classes. These classes can be held at their high schools or on the college campus. The stated basis for the legislature’s support of these programs is that they encourage high school students to continue at the community colleges when they graduate from high school. However, there is scant evidence that this is the case – anecdotal evidence indicates that these students go on to the four-year institutions, CSU or UC.
These students have used the concurrent enrollment programs as an alternative to Advanced Placement classes in stacking the odds in their favor for admission to a four-year university. While we have no objection to this in principle, we are just coming out of a severe economic recession, we are having trouble serving the students we were designed to serve, and we are fighting just to restore the programs that we have lost over the past few years.
If there were evidence that concurrent enrollment in California has served its stated purpose, we would be more supportive, but there is no such evidence. At some colleges, even some quite small colleges, there are over 100 concurrent enrollment classes taught by community college faculty and reserved for high school students. This is a clear example of “mission creep” – expanding the mission of the community colleges without a clear basis in research.
There are also some legal and contractual concerns with concurrent enrollment. The two models for these classes are high school teachers teaching the classes at the high school sites or community college faculty teaching them either at the high school or at the college sites. In the case of high school teachers, we have had issues with the hiring process. Normal hiring requires advertisement of the position, paper screening, selection of candidates and interviews, both with the input of the faculty. In some cases, high school teachers were hired by college administrators, sometimes with the consent of Department Chairs or the Academic Senate, but without any input from the community college faculty who normally take part in hiring. These instructors were not offered union membership.
Violation of law
We call this “contracting out,” and it is a violation of the law, both because of the process and because these teachers were excluded from our bargaining units. The second model involves community college faculty teaching high school students. There is a wrinkle here that most of us are not aware of, but one that was raised in Sacramento during the discussion of the Chancellor’s Office-sponsored legislation on concurrent enrollment, AB 1451 by Assembly Member Chris Holden, (D-Pasadena).
To conform to NCLB, all high school students must be taught by credentialed teachers. Community college faculty are not credentialed, so there are serious questions about whether this will affect the application of these classes to high school diplomas when that is the purpose.
Finally, there are funding problems with concurrent enrollment. If you have these programs at your campuses, ask about how the funding is handled. Do these students pay fees? Do their K-12 districts fund them? Do they pay for books and materials? Do we receive state funding for them or does the K-12 district receive ADA (Average Daily Attendance) funding – or do both receive funding? These are critical questions, because many of our districts are claiming during bargaining that they have insufficient funding to meet their needs.
Still in recovery mode
Now to the other side of our mission. We have noticed a huge push in legislation for community college baccalaureate programs. The justification for these programs is that in some areas of the state, students have few options for transfer to a public university, and in some restricted fields, especially in Career Technical Education, community colleges need to offer bachelor’s degrees. Again here, we have problems with this in terms of “mission creep.” Is this really our mission? What about the students – our students – California has promised to serve? Will they be pushed aside so that we can fund bachelor’s degrees? We are still in recovery mode from the Great Recession – do we really have the money to expand our mission in this way?
Our job is to hold the line so that our students, the students for whom the Master Plan is designed, get the education they deserve. Look for a new Discussion Board on our website in the next few months, and please contribute your perspectives so that we can represent you when we go to the Chancellor’s Office and the Legislature.