Last night, the shuttle from the airport was filled with Southern Californian community college teachers and administrators. Four of the other people were from really big community colleges, with over 300 faculty. I learned that an average of 40-45 people faculty at those campuses are involved in most committees and planning (just like at OC, but we only have 81 total faculty right now).

I also learned that the bigger schools have the resources to give 100% release time to an instructor to help the Matriculation counselors in the First Year Experience (FYE). The online orientations and the multi-track events they have for students were described by one person as a “buffet” of experirences, starting in the summer between high school and freshman year. They are really big on calling the year “freshman year” as well. They discussed priority enrollment for quite awhile (the shuttle took forever to arrive, so I got to listen in for quite awhile).

At VCCCD, we need to make sure we’re doing all we can to help students find a clear pathway to transfer, degrees and certificates (that should be obvious by now). If we ever want to teach others, we must take seriously the task of teaching the transfer-bound. I know we plan to relook at our priority registration policy this semester, and I listened hard when one person mentioned they had awarded first semester priority to freshmen (all incoming high school students were promoted to the top of their list!) but failed to work out a way for those same freshmen to get a second semester with priority. (They had placed students with 14 units or lower near the bottom of their list, they were rethinking this).

Naturally, many freshmen fail to pass all of their classes, even if they are taking 15 units. One woman had the job of running interventions for the freshmen who were on probation after one semester (below a 2.0 average). She was an instructor and worked with the students on study skills and basic skills. She talked a lot about “serve yourself” services, in which a student could use MOOCs or MOOC-like things (for free) for those students who wanted to “blast out” of Basic Skills. It was working very well (she is presenting at this Student Success Conference; they scaled up from 300 to 800 to 1500 students in one year).

I got to think about what “Accountability” means. At this Student Success Summit and similar places, we use the term to mean “Colleges are Accountable” to prove that their students are progressing. But, in the larger sense, the students have to be accountable too. Giving self-service tools to students makes them accountable too. A common theme in the airport and the shuttle was “The students have no idea what a 1.8 GPA will do to their financial aid and future prospects” or “they just aren’t used to having to read their textbooks at all” or “their math skills are 3 years behind where they should be.” (More on math, later, hopefully – on that topic the shuttle-waiters who were not educators got activated).

I think it’s a great idea to notify all students who are struggling and provide them with encouragement, counseling to continue, ed plans that include self study and advisement, etc. It’s apparently not that hard to do. At the particular college mentioned above, students were being turned away if no orientation and the invitation to the probationary students to receive more help was automatic and persistent attempts were made to reach out to them.

With at least half of California students “below college level” (hopefully more on that later”, what are we supposed to do? Naturally, our conversations turned frequented to student motivation and work habits…the First Year Experience is supposed to be designed to include a bit of that old college tradition (fun) that gets the students through the hard times. If only they knew, right away, the benefits of a college education and being able to read and write well…


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