Community colleges eye faculty boost

Coast Community College District is looking to ramp up the number of full-time faculty members by next fall.

In September, the board tasked Chancellor Andrew Jones with developing a report on a full-time faculty hiring plan.

In the past five years the three-college district hasn't had enough money to hire additional full-time faculty, Jones said.

"We weren't even able to cover other costs," he said. "We were operating with a deficit and stopped doing those things, like hiring faculty, that are important."

In his report to the board Wednesday night, Jones explained that current estimates from Orange Coast, Golden West and Coastline colleges suggest that there is enough money to hire 10 full-timers by fall 2014.

OCC will probably receive the bulk of the new hires, though plans have not been finalized, he said.

During the next several months, the district will organize a "consultation council" consisting of faculty members, union and student representatives, and classified staff to develop a hiring plan.

The next round of major hiring will probably be in 2015, Jones said, adding that he could not provide numbers for that year.

The colleges have been relying heavily on part-time faculty, who teach fewer classes and have fewer office hours for student consultations.

Eduardo Arismendi-Pardi, a full-time faculty member at OCC, urged the board and district staff to move quickly with the hiring plans.

"If you hire full-time faculty, they have a more vested interest in the college," he said, explaining that many part-time faculty teach their required number of classes and then leave campus to work elsewhere.

Increasing the number of full-time faculty would allow the colleges to create more class sections and move students through the system faster, Arismendi-Pardi said.

"The students are the ones who end up being hurt when there isn't enough faculty," he said.

Three students from Arismendi-Pardi's math classes also urged the board members to move forward with hiring, citing the need to reduce class wait lists and encourage students to build relationships with full-time faculty.

"It's not only the wait times, but the way [full-time faculty] teach," said Jaquelin Gonzalez, 22. "Knowing that my teachers are always going to be there makes a difference in how much I learn."

Jones agreed that more faculty would benefit the colleges by creating more opportunities for students.

"If we hire more faculty, we can create more sections and that creates more access," he said. "It's always good to have a blend of new people with existing faculty so you get new energy. It's a win-win situation."

Much of the district's ability to hire more faculty rests on its ability to recruit full-time students.

To collect money through Proposition 30, which gives additional funding to California's community college system through temporarily raised sales taxes and taxes on income above $250,000, the colleges need to meet specific growth targets, Jones said.

Out of the 60,000 students enrolled at OCC, just over half attend school on a full-time basis, meaning they take at least 12 units per semester.

Jones said that because the colleges are funded based on the number of full-time students, the district must increase that number to qualify for Proposition 30 funds next year.

"If we hit our targets this year, money will come to us next year," he said. "Then we'll be looking to add to our contingent of full-time faculty members. It's a matter of resources at this point."

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