Press "Enter" to skip to content

Undeclared students could become a lower priority

Faced with a decrease in state funding, the California Community College system may be giving “undeclared” students the lowest priority in terms of registration and admission.

Senate Bill 1456, waiting to be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, would push students who are not committed to an academic plan in order to achieve a certificate, degree or transfer qualifications to the back of the line to register for classes. This would refocus resources to student services aimed at helping students put a plan in place and start achieving their goals. More than 470,000 community college students in California were placed on wait lists for the 2012 fall semester according to the Community College Chancellor. SB1456 is aimed at getting more  students with an academic plan into the classes they need.

If passed, students who are undeclared could find California Community College doors shut next fall because there simply are not enough classes to accommodate the amount of students flooding these campuses. According to Kathryn Baron at EdSource Today, “(Chancellor Jack) Scott warned that if Proposition 30, the governor’s ballot initiative to raise taxes, does not pass, community colleges could lose another $338 million in addition to the $805 million already cut from the system.”

Mills transfer students make up about a third of the college’s overall student body, 950 of whom are undergraduates, approximately 317 students.

Denise Benavidas, a current Mills transfer student is concerned this sudden need for efficiency will cause more pressure for students to commit to a major before they have enough knowledge and experience in that field to make an educated decision.

“Community college should be a place where you can explore and find what you are interested in. If I did not attend community college and have the opportunity to explore different majors, I would never have made it to Mills and be graduating this year,” said Denise Benavides, current senior at
Mills College.

“Nearly 140,000 high school graduates found themselves shut out of classes at California Community Colleges in 2010 due to lack of classes and funding decreases,” said Sonia Ortiz-Mercado, Dean of Matriculation and Assessment of California Community Colleges.

According to the Student Success Task Force, appointed by the California Community College Board of Governors to improve educational achievements in California, this new plan will increase opportunities for new high school graduates with the implementation of a new ranking system and decrease the funding for lower priority students who are not on current academic plans.

Community Colleges technically does not turn students away, however, new implementations of the Student Success Act of 2012 will allow schools to rank students based on their educational goals and prioritize registration based on students rank status, not just the number of units accumulated thus far. The goal is to help students who are pursuing a certificate, degree or transfer to get in and out of the system as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“Currently one third of students fail to meet with counselors and 54% fail to transfer, graduate or receive any type of certification,” said: Paige Marlatt Dorr, Director of Communications for California Community Colleges of the Chancellor’s Office. SB1456 is not solely based on students meeting with counselors, but also student’s lack of ability to get through the system successfully.

One community college student, Nichole Lerwill, claims to have been trapped in the system for over seven years after getting the run around from multiple counselors, changing majors twice and struggling with financial aide requirements. She was maxed out of financial aide due to her total credits exceeding the limit allowed for the duration she has spent at the school, yet she did not accumulate enough credits to attain a certification or a degree. This occurred despite her meeting with counselors multiple times and having a plan in place.

De Anza Community College professor RaeAnne Ramsey is concerned that this new implementation “blocks a large number of people who need it most out of the system. Also, it would expect students to set goals and create academic plans without the resources to do it.” When students enter community college for the first time, most are unsure of their career path and need to take some classes first to discover their goals.  Also, in order to create an academic plan and complete it students need the support of advisors. Current budget cuts are creating a decline in the support staff of counselors who are already struggling to keep up with students already in the system, let alone the incoming rush of high school graduates every year.

Lake Tahoe Community College student Ryan Silkwood said:, “It’s not fair. I don’t know what I want to do yet and I don’t have enough knowledge or experience in the field I am pursuing yet to know if I can do it as a career. There is too much pressure to declare a major early which creates anxieties over if it was the right choice and a risk to have to start all over again if its not.”