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Status of the Student Success Act: In Governor Brown's Hands

by Michael Higham, published

The status of the Student Success Act of 2012 (Senate Bill 1456) has passed through California's state legislature. The bill will be sent to the Governor's office and awaits his approval. California's Assemblymen and Senators reached near unanimity on Thursday, indicating bipartisan support. The bill's broad intention is to get Community College students more guidance in transferring to Universities and/or earning certifications or associate's degrees.

It goes without saying that academic institutions and our government wants students to accomplish educational goals. However, the means and information isn't always there for students. Sometimes the guidance is available, but it must be found on one's own volition. Incoming students are thrust into higher education and might not have the know-how to walk the necessary path. The bill would set in motion what is called The Student Success and Support Program.

What would the Student Success Act do to get students on track for what they want to do? For one, the bill's language emphasizes student orientation and counseling and ensuring the effectiveness of the two. This is all categorized as matriculation, and it is defined as,

A process that brings a college and a student into an agreement for the purpose of achieving the student's educational goals and completing the student's course of study. The agreement involves the responsibilities of both parties to attain those objectives through the college's established programs, policies, and requirements.

The intention is to hold the institution accountable for the planning and performance of its students. Counselors are responsible for helping define their students' goals.

Another factor in pushing for the success of students is the academic performance requirements to receive the Board of Governors' fee waiver (BoG waiver). While information for the availability of the BoG waiver is pointed out in the bill, progression towards the student's end goal must be made.

Colleges shall not impose requirements for fee waiver eligibility other than the minimum academic and progress standards adopted by the board of governors

Given that applicants need the financial assistance and are approved, they are given a full academic year for the waiver. Students cannot be barred from receiving the BoG waiver for having too many units on their record. Students with 100 units or more are usually those who've taken classes to fill in full-time status, while waiting to enroll in necessary classes in the following semesters. The bill had a provision struck out that would have restricted the BoG fee waiver for students with 110+ units.

The Student Success Act is essentially a support system for community college students. Now, where is the budgetary component to the bill? The Board of Governors has the discretion to allocate the funding for the enhanced matriculation outlined by the bill. The Board must work it into their budget.

The bill would require the board of governors to develop a formula for allocating funding for the Student Success and Support Program that would be implemented under the act.

Community Colleges who receive funding for having for the Student Success and Support Program must publish "scorecards". The scorecard requires the statistics of completion rates and how much the college has improved.

The idea that this bill would save money works as a chain-reaction. First, the program is supposed to help students from enrolling in units they do not need. Second, it is saving students money and the unneeded units will open space for prospective students. Audrey Dow of the Campaign for College Opportunity stated that the colleges will save $7.5 million and open 4,000 student spots for every unneeded unit a degree-seeking student avoids.

The bill does not call for direct funding for the programs, but instead a redirecting of funds. Public support isn't unanimous, though. Carla Rivera of LA Times stated,

The bill was endorsed by a broad coalition of academic, student, civic, business and community organizations. Some faculty and students, however, had opposed the bill, arguing that it did not provide sufficient funding to produce students’ success and that inequities for disadvantaged students would increase.

The Student Success Act will be complementary to Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative. The Student Success Act is now in the hands of Gov. Brown, and Prop 30 is in the hands of California voters. Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott is projecting a loss of $338 million in funding for Community Colleges if Prop 30 fails. That would put more of a strain on the Student Success Act if signed by Gov. Brown. It is hard to expect new, incoming college students to move up in academia if they don't have resources necessary.

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