• August 30, 2015

California Community-College Leaders to Recommend One Million New Graduates by 2020

California's community colleges should increase the number of certificates and degrees they award by one million by 2020, a panel of the state's community-college leaders will announce next week.

The ambitious pledge seeks to contribute California's share to a goal set by President Obama, who has called for an additional five million community-college graduates in the next decade. California's 112-campus system enrolls about one-fifth of the nation's community-college students.

The recommendation will be announced next Wednesday as part of a report issued by the Commission on the Future, a panel of California chancellors, trustees, and faculty leaders convened by the Community College League of California. The group will also recommend closing participation and achievement gaps among underserved groups, especially Latino students.

Meeting the graduation goal will be an immense challenge in a system that has traditionally focused more on enrolling students than on awarding them credentials. Colleges would need to nearly triple the number of students who graduate with a certificate or an associate degree each year. On average, each college would need to increase annual completions to 3,500 from 1,200.

The changes would be required as state support for the colleges remains shaky. On Wednesday lawmakers learned that the state would soon face a new budget deficit estimated at $25.4-billion, which college officials fear could lead to new cuts in state support.

"Nevertheless, while current budget constraints leading to reduced access, lost purchasing power, and student-service program cuts make the goal daunting, the commission believes that it is necessary to establish a goal that meets the economic needs of the state and nation," the report says.


1. 11180655 - November 11, 2010 at 03:54 pm

Let's do the math. What input would be required to result in 1mm more graduates. It is not only unlikely, but impossible that the community colleges could drastically increase their graduation rates...which are very low. And on average it takes far more than 2 years to produce a graduate. That timeframe sure won't change. So, by all accounts, they would need to increase the input to the system by 20,000,000 or far more since it is likely success rates would go down with such a drastic increase in input.

This is an excuse to grow the gov't school empires with minimal additional benefit to California at a cost that far surpasses any value this would provide.

But thanks for the hardy laugh.

2. baruch2 - November 11, 2010 at 04:35 pm

This is a very ambitious endeavor. I'm interested in knowing just how the California higher education system plans to do this.

3. 22063319 - November 11, 2010 at 05:46 pm

This might be nice for international bragging rights, but is the job market really crying out for so many more community college graduates? Also, do you get the sense the rush for more college graduates is equating Associate degrees with Bachelor's Degrees?

4. _perplexed_ - November 11, 2010 at 06:12 pm

I can't imagine California voters will be willing to allocate a single penny to make this "recommendation" become a reality.

5. the_pragmatist - November 11, 2010 at 06:19 pm

This must be a joke! Why is everything at the Chronicle always phrased as an effort to meet an artificial goal set by President Obama or another Democrat, while initiatives proposed by Republican's are deemed some sort of threat to higher ed.

Personally, I take issue with elements of each party... but it's time we in higher ed start looking at folks in both parties as potential partners/allies for education related initiatives (rather than waiting for Democrats), and frankly, it's also time that President Obama takes a few courses in economics (or hires someone with business savvy)... or we are going to have a hard time reaching any of our education related goals including those sited in this article!

6. elpocho - November 12, 2010 at 07:51 am

I find it interesting that California has finally decided to take the idiotically nonsensical policies of the Reagan years, i.e., destroying K-12 public education, eviscerating higher education, xenophobic attitudes towards Hispanic -- and toss them where they belong -- in the garbage bin.

I find it most telling that the person who saved capitalism from itself -- Obama is frequently cast as a person who knows nothing about economics. Or that people who attempt to frame themselves as "experts" or one who "knows" something -- do not have the capacity to make simple distinctions, use words properly, deny reality as in global warming, etc.

The Republicans have unleashed a set of know nothings on public education. I, for one, hope that this effort is duplicated across the country.

7. dnewton - November 12, 2010 at 11:32 am

Taking Pres. Obama's goal of 5,000,000 at face value means that California MUST produce 1,000,000 of those. In that sense setting this goal in California is a reasonable starting point to figure out if the national goal is achievable. We now have a few years to determine if we in California could possibly achieve our share of that goal. If so, fine; we all win. If not then the national goal is probably also unachievable. But somepne must start and, not surprisingly, California is where we start.

8. unabashedmale - November 12, 2010 at 11:42 am

Another entitlement wet dream

We don't need more college graduates. We already have too many deadbeats in the college student population already.

Guess what? Not everybody is meant for college. Some people do just fine as waitresses, maintenance men, clerks, groundskeepers, policemen, etc.

We have the illegal alien problem because we're telling all these American kids they need to go to college instead of pursuing unskilled labor jobs.

Keep it up, and we'll wind up with a lot of waitresses, maintenance men, clerks, groundskeepers, policemen, etc with huge college loans to pay off.


9. nebo113 - November 12, 2010 at 04:41 pm

Many CC students are there for enrichment, not a credential. Other students begin at a CC, drop out, and return years later. There are many good reasons why CC students might not receive a "credential."

However, it's easy to up the credential rate: lower standards.

10. prof_truthteller - November 13, 2010 at 01:40 pm

I am skeptical of any report from an endeavor sponsored by the Community College League, which is enmeshed with private higher education consultancy and lobbyist groups, and has as their explicit mission service to CEOs and Trustees. No mission on behalf of students. No mission on behalf of faculty. No mission on behalf of support staff.

This high-falutin' Commission was convened by invitation, with limited access to a limited number of meetings in a limited geographical area. It was nearly impossible to find out what was going on, and/or how to participate. So they sprinkled in a few faculty "leaders" to make it seem "collegial."

However, that is not to deny that there is, and will continue to be, a strong demand for educated citizens in the future, for employment, for civic participation, for the innovation required for the state to regain solvency and stability. Uneducated people make less money and pay less taxes and are less productive and more subject to media manipulation. But it's a difficult cycle to break without investment by the state, which funding must come from taxes. Or?

I suspect this report is simply part of an advance effort to generate documentation and rationales for more federal money. CA citizens are certainly not going to tax themselves to pay for this.

11. tsb2010 - November 15, 2010 at 11:15 am

Why not instead focusing on high school diplomas that actually *mean* something? (as opposed to a certification that the person carrying it may be able to read and sign her own name)

12. 11292833 - November 16, 2010 at 11:53 am

The report assumes only statutory enrollment growth funding over the period of time and only the funding that is projected by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst to be coming to community colleges. The goal requires an increase in completions of credit students from about 1 in 10 full-time equivalent students per year to about 1 in 4 full-time students per year, or really just moderately above the national average in community college degree and certificate completion. 127,000 to 395,000 degrees and certificates per year from the 1,700,000 students we enroll (accounting for 1.2 million full-time equivalents).

It may be audacious given the cynicism that frequently greets bold thinking (as found above), but reasonable for the college leaders to strive for and necessary enough to refuse to ignore that there are model practices in California and elsewhere that should be brought to scale across all our colleges.

Scott Lay
President and CEO
Community College League of California

13. shariyat5 - November 16, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Isnt it obvious we need widespread reform of California community colleges? But we are cutting enrollment,classes and enrollment AND STATE FUNDING so how will these folks be graduating?Why not put the funding towards more classes and faculty development. With this economy and lack of employment California community COlleges are already at growth max.

14. keis8427 - November 16, 2010 at 01:37 pm

I am all for community college education but I agree with "unabashedmale" that the country doesn't need to have its whole citizenry college educated. Not everyone needs nor wants to go to college (including me!). I'm doing just fine without wasting 4 years of my life in a classroom.

AND, where are they going to work once they have their degrees or certificates? What, I can't hear you? Oh yeah, that's right, we have out-sourced the good paying jobs so it's the service industry for ye'! Happy $8 bucks an hour!!

15. keis8427 - November 16, 2010 at 01:39 pm

Oh, and by the way, the country lost California a long time ago. The whole state is broken so why spin your wheels on this issue? This is a back-burner problem for Cali...

16. teds7447 - November 16, 2010 at 06:09 pm

Improving Ca's community college graduation rate is important, but nothing in this report suggests how this might be accomplished. CC students are in frequent need of basic skills remediation (9 in 10 students matriculating demonstrate one or more basic skills deficiencies). Where are the funds to address this? The state's support of public education has decreased precipitously, and California now ranks in per capita student spending at 47th in the nation. What about the range of other issues that CC students bring to the table? Poverty, substance abuse, learning disabilities? How will CA address these when each CC campus is already reducing and eliminating ancillary student suppport services? Let's get real: the majority of CA's CC students face huge hurdles, but without support and tons of money, the proposal to increase graduation rates is the worse type of hyperbole.

17. katikoos - November 17, 2010 at 09:46 am

I wondered what, exactly is behind the SB 1440 legislation.

Now I see: more graduates ... at what cost? Yes, they will earn a 'degree' but that degree severely compromises their actual education by severely cutting into the program requirements that have been established over years by experts in their fields.

SB 1440 limits the number of units that can be required for the "TRANSFER DEGREE". They reassure us that we can maintain our OTHER degree -- the one carefully hammered out by faculty and that reflects the true minimum requirements needed to be considered an 'educated' person. Local requirements must be cut from this transfer degree; a major is comprised of only 18 units, just six {6] semester classes for the major and a total of only 60 units overall. Would YOU want to hire this person?

For community college, where we educate those who tend to lack basic college skills, this is a particularly dangerous road. This will adversely affect our reputations as educators when these minimally "trained" individuals hit the marketplace, and the blame will be placed on us, NOT the legislators whose scheme defines what education is. Faculty are required to have advanced degrees in their fields: legislators? What education and educational requirements do they have to hold office?

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