OP-ED: Is SMC all brains and no brawn?

Okay let's talk dollars and sense, or I guess I mean cents, when examining the economic impact of Kinesiology Classes on students and the state of California. California Community College physical education and kinesiology programs are critical to the economic recovery of the region. They provide rigorous academic programs for transfer as well as workforce training for students seeking employment in rapidly growing occupations. Physical activity courses are an integral part of such academic programs as they impart the practical aspect of education for those interested in these employment opportunities.

California Community Colleges' physical education programs and certificates fuel a workforce while saving the state millions of dollars by offering high quality, affordable courses to fight the skyrocketing costs associated with obesity-related workman's compensation claims and health care. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States with two-thirds of the adult population classified as obese or overweight (Trust for America's Health, 2010). Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (2009) indicate that California's obesity rates have risen from less than 10 percent of the population in 1985 to 24.8 percent in 2009.

Higher rates of obesity come with higher rates of obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease (Trust for America's Health, 2010). Communities with the highest rates of obesity are unattractive to business investors due to inherent increased employee health care costs and decreased productivity. Community Colleges PE courses are affordable and incorporate physical knowledge of total health.

The CDC granted $300,000 to the University of South Carolina's Prevention Research Center to develop strategies for a national physical activity plan (Trust for America's Health, 2010) in September 2007. The Education segment of the plan outlines six strategies for increasing physical activity, with strategies 6 & 7 calling upon post-secondary educational institutions to incorporate population-focused physical activity promotion training in a range of disciplinary degree and certificate programs (National Physical Activity Plan, 2010 p. 13).

Kinesiology and Athletics programs are uniquely poised to save our country billions of dollars in obesity related workman's compensation and health care costs. Keeping our students fit will also help us remain healthy and competitive in the global marketplace.

According to the American Kinesiology Association, the number of undergraduate kinesiology majors grew 50 percent from 2003 to 2008, to more than 26,000 students, making it one of the fastest-growing majors in the country (Inside Higher Ed, 2010). Between 2008 and 2010 the discipline of Kinesiology/Physical Education had the 7th highest degree transfer rate of California Community College students to the CSU system (3.2 percent of total transfers for a total of 2691 students) (California State University Chancellor's Office, 2010). This is an indication of the value students place in this curriculum and the job market that awaits them after graduation. The American College of Sports Medicine's (ACSM) worldwide survey of fitness trends for 2011 indicates that there will be an exponential growth of educational programs at community colleges, undergraduate programs, and graduate programs at colleges and universities that will become accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) (ACSM, 2010).

Currently there are 20 fitness education certifications (personal trainer, athletic trainer) offered that are accredited by the National Commission on Certifying Agencies (NCCA), a third party, independent accrediting agency. Of these 20 fitness education certifications, which are required to work in the industry, seven require an Associate or Bachelor's degree in Kinesiology to sit for their certification exam.

Another eight certifications require education offered in community college kinesiology programs. The other five require a high school diploma and recommend additional education. Ten of the 20 certifications have partnerships with educational institutions, including California Community Colleges, which provide the education necessary for students to sit for their certification exam required for employment. Re-certification or continuing education units are required generally every two years. Pilates and yoga certifications offer specialized certifications that require 200 training hours often secured through community college courses.

California Community College kinesiology programs, which include physical activity classes, provide the necessary education to train those interested in these employment opportunities. Physical Education classes are an essential part of the kinesiology curriculum teaching the proper biomechanics of movement to improve physical skills and prevent injury.

Furthermore all units at Santa Monica College in the Kinesiology /Athletics Department transfer to UC and CSU campuses and students at these institutions receive credit for similar courses so WHY discriminate against Community College student's vs. Cal state and UC students?  Students at UC Berkley get credit why not Santa Monica College students? California Community College physical education and kinesiology programs can claim a rightful stake to curricular offerings as they play a key role in the economic recovery of our state. These programs educate a workforce and provide opportunities for employment in occupations that are growing faster than the norm.

Further, certificate programs drive local economies by having a plethora of qualified applicants to meet job requirements. Finally, physical education and kinesiology programs are uniquely positioned to reduce expenditures for obesity related workman's compensation claims and healthcare costs, saving our state millions of dollars per year through education.

Anna Collier is the Chair for Kinesiology/Athletics department and has been working as an instructor in the Kinesiology department since 1980.