Community colleges need more state oversight?
March 5, 2012
Several bills introduced during the past few years have tried – unsuccessfully – to reform the California Community Colleges system known for having a large percentage of public attendance and lower than national graduation rates. [CaliforniaWatch]
Of the six community colleges in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties all but one, Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, are currently under fire from the state’s accreditation agency.
Now, the Little Hoover Commission – an independent state oversight agency– has renewed the call for change, describing the sprawling system as “starved of essential leadership in Sacramento.”
The commission zeroed in on key governance changes it says are critical. At present, thousands of students who want degrees or certificates leave the system without them, and thousands more are unable to get into the classes they need, California Watch said.
The Little Hoover Commission’s Feb. 28 report says that the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office should be given more authority and autonomy to oversee and coordinate the state’s 72 college districts and 112 colleges.
The commission asks the Legislature to change the community colleges’ funding formula so that it rewards colleges for getting students to advance to the next class, complete a certificate or transfer to a four-year university – rather than rewarding them for the number of students enrolled in the first few weeks of class, as under the current system, California Watch said.
Lawmakers have unsuccessfully introduced bills to change the way the colleges are funded.
The commission said the funding structure rewards colleges for maintaining or increasing the enrollment of students early on in the term, without financial consequences when students drop after the third week, California Watch added.
The report calls California’s system inefficient because while the state spends relatively little per community college student, the state pays 30 percent more per degree and 40 percent more per completion than the national average.
Failed AB 2542, introduced in 2010, would have set up a pilot program for five colleges. The schools would have gotten greater flexibility in how they could spend their money in exchange for volunteering to receive funding based on course completions, the Watch said.
Eloy Oakley, president of the Long Beach Community College District, told California Watch the report did a good job of distilling the challenges the college system faces, and he agreed that the funding model needs to change.
“It’s time to look at the funding model differently – not in a radically different way, but as we’ve funded access, we also have to look at ways to incentivize increased completion,” Oakley told California Watch.