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Chaparral 2012-2013: 21.4 Speaking of the Senate

Speaking of The Senate (March 2013)

Speaking of the Senate: Budget Funding Round II

by Michael Scott

Academic Senate President


A few years ago, legislation was proposed to fund apportionment by the amount of degrees and certificates a district awarded. Community colleges escaped unharmed when the legislation never went to a vote. The Legislature decided to let this issue be until they could determine a funding mechanism that made more sense and was in line with the new student success taskforce recommendations.

The Governor’s latest budget proposal recommends a five-year phase-in to move from census date enrollment to a course completion formula (performance-based funding). Any apportionment funds lost would be transferred to student services making it appear cost neutral. There is no guidance on how this might work, but it raises some interesting questions.

  1. What will they do with the census date – keep it as is, move it back, move it forward, or eliminate it altogether?
  2. Will we be able to use excess funds shifted to student services (fund 03) for unrestricted expenses (fund 01)?
  3. How will course completion work for non-credit courses? Are they exempt?
  4. How will course completion be defined? Does it mean a student must pass the course with a C or better, or will any grade suffice? 

The Governor’s proposal is a continuation of Sacramento’s apparent desire to impart a business model on community colleges. Performance based funding works for business, but may not be the best approach for education. 

There are many factors why students don’t complete courses. Will the process adopted by the legislature take into account some of the mitigating circumstances students drop such as illness, family problems, employment changes, and military deployment, just to name a few?

In order for funding based on course completion to be fair, instructors must have more control over students’ educational behaviors that go beyond the requirements that they: attend all classes, take copious notes, do all homework assignments, read all textbook and reference materials, have the requisite math and English skills, put in at least two hours of work for every one hour of classroom instruction outside of class, and attend office hours when they are having difficulties with course requirements. We can’t force them to do these things, but we will be held accountable if they don’t and drop the class.

It is also unfair to teach students until the drop date and not be reimbursed for the cost of that instruction. The student services costs are paid for by receiving a larger amount of apportionment under the proposal.

If we are going to be treated like businesses, we must accept the fact that the customer is always right and they must be kept happy. What will make students happy, you ask? Some students have suggested to me they would guarantee completing courses at GCC if instructors would eliminate finals, make tests/quizzes easier, eliminate homework and promise not to give a grade less than a B. Dream on! But if things do get dire, and funding for instruction is reduced because of poor course completion, we may well see pressure on faculty to engage in grade inflation to preserve courses and programs. Hopefully, the Governor’s proposal is rejected by the Legislature.



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