by Greg Perkins, EOPS
Who can argue with the ideas of a “Student Success Task Force"? Many of our students can. Despite several
well-intentioned proposals to enhance the matriculation services for the general population of students and despite recommendations to allow the greatest access to classes and services to those students who make the effort to find and pursue a well-defined educational/career goal, the true movement behind the SSTF recommendations and the associated legislative proposals is to impose a business model on our educational programs. It is also a movement to downsize the community college system in California at a time when it is needed more than ever as the best hope for spurring an economic renaissance in our state and for lifting us toward achieving the 2020 college graduate goals.
Our students recognize these recommendations as part of the trend toward downsizing their opportunities by increasing their share of the costs for education while eliminating programs and reducing classes. They can see the absence of courage and vision on the part of elected officials in Sacramento who lack the will to raise taxes and revenues to maintain the master plan for higher education in California that promised to be these students’ ticket to the American Dream. They see these same politicians, who by and large are graduates of the UC, CSU and community college systems, along with many shortsighted California taxpayers, who got their higher education for next to nothing in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, telling the new generation, “you must carry the burden of your own education.” They can see the irony of the SSTF recommendations' façade of promoting student success as clearly as the hypocrisy of the “I got mine, but you have to pay for yours” attitude of such politicians.
What do the recommendations propose that is so disturbing? They just say that every student should be expected to state a specific educational goal and follow a well-considered Student Educational Plan from the beginning of their educational careers. They recommend that orientation, assessment and counseling services be enhanced for this general population of students, and that in return these students should be expected to complete their educational plans within the equivalent of three years of full-time attendance. If not, these students should have their BOG fee waivers, hard- earned registration priority, and other important services taken away and given to someone else who knows what to do. Isn’t that reasonable? Well, it might be for the students who come to our doors with everything figured out, but that is not, for better or for worse, the typical student that we serve. Most of our students come without knowing their specific goal, while many of those who think they know are following wild and poorly researched ideas that they don’t fully understand. The nature of our community college students (vs. the UC and CSU students) is to need ample time for exploration, trial and error, to arrive at their true path to success. For more details see resources on FACCC’s website:
For more details see resources on FACCC’s website:
In EOPS, we have lived by the student support service model of mandatory orientation, counseling and educational planning that underlies the SSTF recommendations for more than forty years, and it has worked very well for our population of non-traditional, educationally and economically disadvantaged students up until now. However, we are now asked to believe that the same elected officials who have cut this program’s funding by over forty percent in the past several years are going to give our colleges the funding to make the same model happen for the general population of basic skills, vocational and transfer students.
Our students are smart enough to see through that one too. And so should we. Ask our adjunct faculty about the state funding for the parity pay and health benefits and office hours that they were promised. Unfunded mandates galore!
After the token initial funding is withdrawn, the support services wither away, and we are left with nothing but a battery of sanctions that will cause our many honestly peregrinating students to lose their fee waivers, registration and more. We are not allowed to advocate blatantly partisan positions to our students in the classroom, but this is not a matter of partisan politics. This is a battle for the soul of California’s educational master plan. This is a battle for the future of our students and our state. We owe it to our students to empower them to take political action on these issues, just as we must educate them for competitiveness in our state’s developing high-tech and information-based economy. We need to mobilize our students and our community supporters to work for passage of the November 2012 tax initiatives and for legislation that truly enhances our educational mission, rather than diminishes it or makes it the privilege of a select few.
The ASGCC has taken some leadership in attempting to rally students and to lead lobbying efforts in Sacramento, but they need us to teach our students how to identify their elected officials and how to inform themselves about the issues that affect their educational opportunities. We must empower our students to make phone calls, write letters and to educate their parents and neighbors about the consequences of SSTF and any political proposals that threaten educational equity for all of our students. In addition to the ASGCC, a number of GCC’s student organizations, including Spark, EOPS Club, VOICES, Occupy and others, have engaged in letter writing and other legislative advocacy programs.
As you read these words, many of our students will have participated in lobby days alongside faculty and staff members who are organizing to halt the erosion of our proud and indispensable community college mission: to be the safety net for the underprepared, underrepresented and underserved. The ASGCC will be flying student representatives to Sacramento to advocate for educational access and equity. Other students will ride buses provided by various faculty associations and political advocacy groups to fill Sacramento in early March with voices asking for the same chance to find their educational pathway at their own pace that has restored so many Californians to active participation in our economic well being and to enlightened citizenship. Will we stand with our students to defend these opportunities? I pray that we do.