SMC’s effectiveness still standing strong

Santa Monica College’s main goal has always been to help students achieve academic success and greatness. The school strives to be one of the top community colleges in California, transferring many students to four-year institutions. So when the Board of Trustees got an update on the institution’s effectiveness at their last meeting, they found that despite several budget cuts and the threat of further belt tightening, SMC still continues to fulfill its mission and purpose. The report, officially titled “2012 Update-Institutional Effectiveness,” covered a wide-range of topics, from the fiscal health of the school to sustainability efforts. The report showed SMC’s academic standing and its effectiveness as an institution.

But at the heart of the report were the numbers tracking student progress, and most importantly, student transfers. The beginning of the report includes a “Dashboard: Innovative and Responsive Academic Goal” section that shows the key indicators of SMC’s effectiveness.

The transfer rate held more or less steady at about 50 percent for 2011, and edged up slightly over 50 percent in 2012. The exception to the rule, however, appeared to be in 2010, which saw almost 60 percent of SMC student transfers to four-year institutions.

The goal, as stated in the report, was to hold the transfer rate steady, rather than improve it. However, it is good to see that the transfer rate is increasing, even if by a small margin.

According to the report, “the college has been severely affected by the state funding reductions.” It also identifies the funding reduction of nine percent during the 2011-12 school year as “the biggest in the college’s history,”

Santa Monica College’s general fund has suffered since the onset of the recession, dropping by almost six million dollars over the past four fiscal years. The college’s fund-balance ratio, which is a measure of the balance of the general fund against total expenditures, dropped to a record low of a little over eight percent, and is a difference of more than seven percent from the previous year. The ratio did, however, stay above the five percent minimum recommended by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

In spite of those financial headwinds, SMC has managed to uphold a well-deserved reputation as an efficient and effective community college, helping the school keep its great reputation unsullied.

The percent of first-time freshmen that re-enrolled in classes at SMC climbed steadily year after year, reaching well over 70 percent in 2010, the last year for which this data is available. But it still proves that freshmen are re-enrolling in SMC classes, coming back to SMC to continue their academic goals.

There is also a steady year-over-year climb with the student success rate, which increased from 65 percent in 2008-09 to almost 70 percent in the 2011-12 school year.  Success rates for transferable courses, which are key for moving students on to universities, were over 70 percent for the year. This means that SMC is doing well with giving students the courses needed for transfer.

A little over two thousand students transferred to public institutions in the 2010-2011 school year, just a little less than the 2,111 SMC students that transferred in 2007 before the recession. Regardless of how the economy is doing, SMC’s transfer rate stays steady.

Confronted with sometimes frightening budget scenarios, faculty and administrators of SMC have managed to produce, if not more, then at least the same results that the school is capable of producing.

As a solution to the nation’s long-term budget problems continues to remain elusive, teachers in many parts of the country continue to struggle with an uncertain financial landscape. In California, however, the passage of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 seems to have stabilized a very ill patient. The passage of the measure secures our school with more stability and capability to advance its academic goals.

Although fiscal and academic challenges remain, SMC, along with other California community colleges faced with similar hardships, have functioned well, even while mired in a seemingly endless slew of budget crises.

Even though SMC had initially announced the end of the winter semester, they have made a last-minute decision to bring back the slashed semester.

With a chance that a now fragile economic recovery may take deeper root after the new year, administrators may now be able to set new goals for SMC, not for protecting the bare essentials, but for new growth and expansion at the school.

Now, it is just up to the students to step up their game and accomplish their academic goals.