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Changes proposed for California's community colleges

January 30, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Big changes are proposed for California's community colleges. The main goal is to increase the number of students who finish their programs or transfer to four-year schools.

There are 2.6 million students at California's community colleges, but roughly half of them don't complete their programs or transfer and earn a degree. In light of that statistic, state lawmakers are considering changes to improve student success.

A task force made up of students, faculty and administrators have outlined 22 recommendations in a report.

Pasadena City College student, Daniela Rueda, says the recommendations by the student success task force will help students who are serious about their educational goals. They'd be required to develop an education plan and declare a program of study by the end of the second semester.

"I believe in the long run, it does have a lot of potential for the new incoming students that are going to be able to start this process from the get go," Rueda said.

Pasadena City College President Mark Rocha says the proposals will help bridge access with success.

"We think that for access to be meaningful ... rather (than) to just come and take courses, that the students should be guided to a goal," Rocha said.

The task force also recommends giving first-year students priority registration. Currently, priority registration goes to students who have more than 110 units. Student Simon Fraser says those students should not be penalized.

"We want to make sure that students still have the opportunity to decide, 'You know what, this wasn't the right path for me, I can get on to my new path. I can get to where I'm going,' without feeling like they've already reached that limit," Fraser said.

Glendale City College President Dawn Lindsay supports the recommendations, but at a time when community college funding has been drastically reduced, she worries personal development courses would be cut in order to shift funding for the proposals.

"Those courses are not going to be offered to the same degree because we've got to shift the financing and the money for those programs, obviously, into the courses that are going to get the students out and into their careers.

The state legislature was expected to vote on the recommendations this spring. If approved, community colleges would have about two years to implement changes.