Governor Brown's community college plan isn't sitting well with some

January 22, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Students and staff at Fresno City College are reacting to Governor Jerry Brown's controversial new plan to reshape California's Community Colleges.

Now that Proposition 30 has passed, the Governor is placing a renewed focus on the state's struggling school system -- and that could mean big changes are in store for the 112 community college system.

Brown's recommendations are reportedly aimed at keeping community colleges affordable, classes accessible and moving students faster through the system towards graduation or transfer to a four-year university, but some of his suggestions aren't sitting well with students.

"We all have different learning abilities. Some are quicker, some are slower, but that doesn't make any one of us better than the other," said Fresno City College student Michael Urtigliano.

Fresno City college President Tony Cantu said the completion of courses is the driving force behind the Governor's plan.

"We need to make sure students come in, get the services they need and then move on," he said.

Cantu agreed the proposals are among the most significant policy changes to community colleges in recent years. Changes, he said, that could reshape campus operations.

"I think there's some components to it that the system has been talking about for a long time anyway," he said. "So I think it gives the community colleges some leverage to see some of those things come true."

Cantu said the plan is intended to build upon changes proposed last year by a statewide task force to improve the colleges. Some of the ideas include priority registration for certain groups such as veterans and foster youth, as well as preventing students from repeating courses merely to improve their grades.

"I don't think that's fair, because if you want to transfer to a university sometimes you need to pick up your GPA to meet the University requirements and if you're not allowed to repeat the class, how are you supposed to replace the grade?" said student Vanna Nauk.

Cantu said Brown's plan goes further than the task force by including provisions to move students faster through the system. Starting next fall, Brown suggests putting a cap on classes at 90 units, requiring students who go beyond that to pay the full cost of instruction or $190 dollars per unit. That's compared to the $46 they're paying now.

Students we talked with said they're concerned the cap will be devastating to students with a double major, who may be returning to college to increase their skills for a new job or want to explore their interests before deciding which field of study to pursue a degree in.

"For some students it may take them a little longer to figure out what they want to do, for instance, myself, it's taken me a lot longer to figure out what I want to do and I'm passed the 90," said Urtigliano.

Urtigliano said he finally decided to become a paralegal and is now on track to graduate.

While that didn't sit well with students, one of the most controversial components of the plan is to change the funding formula for community colleges to pay schools for students who complete courses. Right now, funding is based on the number of students enrolled in the third or fourth week of a term. If the plan is approved by state legislators, it would be phased in over several years and the savings would be reinvested in support services.

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