Enrollment priority to change

Systemwide changes that will affect student enrollment are set to take place at all California Community Colleges beginning in the fall of 2014. The new regulations will give priority enrollment to students who make progress toward specific goals such as attaining a degree, transferring to a four-year institution, or training for a job, according to a press release from the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office.

The policy will encourage educational and career planning by giving enrollment priority to new students who use student support services, according to Linda Michalowski, vice chancellor for student services to the CCC.

"We've been doing a disservice to a lot of students by not giving them enough guidance to be able to plan their education pathway and the support to achieve it," Michalowski said in a media briefing Wednesday.

Students exceeding 100 units of degree-applicable courseworknot including basic skills classes such as English, math or English as a second language will lose priority enrollment under the new policy, according to the CCCCO press release.

Community college students usually need 60 units to transfer to a four-year institution or attain an associate degree.

"We're not saying that these students can no longer be served by the colleges," Michalowski said. "We're only saying that the priorities have to go to students who are coming in for a purpose, and who are willing to stay on track and make progress toward achieving that purpose, and then moving on and making space for other students." Students on academic probation or progress probation for two subsequent semesters will also lose priority enrollment.

"In the past, we've always said anyone can come to community college, you can stay as long as you want, you can come and go," Michalowski said. "We have not had any limits like this in most cases, but that's a bygone era, I'm afraid. The state of California is no longer willing to pay for students to do that." Michalowski said that the new system, approved by the CCC Board of Governors in September, seeks to improve student success in response to statewide budget woes that have prevented community colleges from accommodating student demand over the past few years. Across CCC campuses, class offerings have been reduced by 24 percent, and almost 500,000 students have been shut out of classes since 2008 due to budget cuts, according to the CCCCO press release. "I think that while there's somewhat of a shift in the mission of community colleges, given the limited resources of the state, it's still allowing students to go through the process of attaining a degree," said Teresita Rodriguez, vice president for enrollment development at Santa Monica College. It is hoped by CCCCO leaders that the new implementations will improve student success rates by ensuring that on-track students will have classes available to meet their needs, Michalowski said.

"I do feel that it takes time for most community college students to develop educational and career goals," said Robert G. Isomoto, vice president for business and administration at SMC. But Isomoto said that SMC students are given sufficient support to help plan their paths accordingly with the changes in priority enrollment.

"SMC provides a tremendous student services program for its students," Isomoto said. "SMC students definitely have greater opportunities to get the appropriate help, if they want to take advantage of them, than other community college students."

Some of these resources offered to SMC students, according to Isomoto, include counseling, supplemental instruction and tutoring, and student support services targeted toward specific groups, including Extended Opportunity Programs and Services, Disabled Students Programs and Services, the Veterans Resource Center, Latino Center, Black Collegians, and Scholars Program.

Rodriguez said that more resources will become available to assist SMC students with the transition in accordance with Title 5 education code regulations, such as notifications for students who are in danger of losing enrollment priority.

"That communication will be added at every college," Rodriguez said. "Additionally, it's required that districts will come up with an appeal process. Most colleges, including SMC, do not have that yet." CCC campuses will have to adhere to the new statewide enrollment regulations, but there will be differences in local implementation, according to the CCCCO press release. "Within the Title 5, there is a lot of local discretion for decisions to be made locally at the district level," Rodriguez said.

Priority enrollment at SMC is currently determined according to unit accumulation, with continuing students having a higher priority than new students, according to SMC's admissions website.

An SMC task force is still determining exactly how the current system will change at the college to comply with the new regulations, Rodriguez said.

California law mandates that certain groups will retain top enrollment priority, including active-duty military, veterans, and current and former foster youths, followed by students served by EOPS and DSPS, according to Michalowski. "We are seeing a refocusing of the state's emphasis on student success in our colleges," Michalowski said.