We are already one month into spring semester! As we move through the coming weeks, I encourage you to attend one of our college's athletic events, gallery exhibits or theatre productions. These events and interactions can remind us why we are here.
During challenging times, it is helpful to keep our students' academic success front and center. Their stories sustain us. Student by student, they tell of the positive impact our faculty and staff have on their lives. We could not make that impact without each one of you.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
In mid-February members of the Board of Trustees and I traveled to Washington DC for the ACCT National Legislative Summit and to meet with our congressional representatives to discuss issues having an impact on our District and community, with DACA at the top of the list. At the summit itself, community college leaders from across the nation voiced their support for DACA students and demanded a solution. At Capitol Hill, congressional representatives expressed their appreciation for the many contributions of DACA recipients and stated they wanted to make a deal, yet, when it came time for the immigration debate, they dedicated less than an afternoon and resolved nothing. Shameful.
Last Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the DACA case, which means the program will remain in place while the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals continues its review. This temporary reprieve from the March 5th deadline does nothing to relieve the daily fear and anxiety of our DACA students and their families. This legislative inaction keeps them in limbo and continues to push them and their families into the shadows of our community.
I am proud of how active our Board of Trustees has been on this issue and their clear and strong message in the resolution they passed nearly a year ago. Our student leaders and the District will continue to reach out to legislators looking for a permanent and positive solution for our deserving students.
Impact of the New Budget Model
Similar to many of our colleagues across the state, we continue to work on determining the likely impact of the new community college funding model on our District. Much is still unknown. What we do know is that 50% of our funding will be determined by FTES enrollment and, unfortunately, our enrollment is declining.
At the last Board of Trustees meeting, the college presidents shared enrollment updates. At Santiago Canyon College, President Hernandez reported that SCC anticipates making its annual FTES target of 8514. At Santa Ana College, President Rose reported that SAC expects to produce 20,001 FTES, which is 2% down from the college's annual FTES goal of 20,407. The colleges still have eight-week classes to come, and at SAC, the college will initiate a four-week summer session from June 1-30.
Administrators, staff and faculty at both colleges are working diligently to increase enrollment, however, as hard as everyone is working, our declining enrollment will have an impact on our budget. In the coming year, the District expects an $8 to $9 million increase in our STRS and PERS commitments, step and column increases, and projected health benefit increases. As I mentioned at last week's Board of Trustees meeting, we have no choice but to trim at least $3 million from the 2018-2019 proposed budget. In the coming weeks, discussions will take place through participatory governance regarding these cuts.
The more I study the success Guided Pathways has had in community colleges across the country, the more excited I become about its potential for our students. This student-centered initiative, inspired by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Pathways Project, is designed to increase the number of students who earn a certificate or a degree - a major component of the state's new student-centered funding model. At its core, Guided Pathways is based on a commitment to equity.
As much as we would like to think that our students understand what it takes for them to move through our colleges as quickly and effectively as possible, data shows that they often lack the information and support to do so. This video produced by the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office tells the story from the students' perspective.
The Guided Pathways Model intends to redesign the student experience by establishing a set of clear course-taking patterns that helps students make better enrollment-related decisions. Integral to this approach are concise program maps with specific course sequences, progress milestones, and program learning outcomes. These maps are aligned to knowledge and skills required by four-year institutions and the labor market.
The four pillars of Guided Pathways are:
- Clarify the Path: Create clear curricular pathways to employment and further education.
- Enter the Path: Help students choose and enter their pathway.
- Stay on the Path: Provide proactive academic counseling and career advising, and responsive student tracking systems.
- Ensure Learning: Offer instructional support and co-curricular activities designed to reinforce classroom learning and career goals.
I am thrilled that Santa Ana College was selected as one of 20 California community colleges to participate in the California Guided Pathways Project. We have much to learn from the rigorous process that the Santa Ana College Guided Pathways team is undertaking. You can catch a glimpse of their work by visiting these webpages. I am also excited that the Academic Senate at Santiago Canyon College has approved a resolution to undertake a year of exploration to study the benefits for students in the Guided Pathways Project.
I look forward to learning about the exploration and findings in Guided Pathways, as these will guide many of our District's future endeavors.
I hope that the coming weeks are productive and positive for you. Thank you for all you do to support our students, our community, and each other.