Bill targets school funding

Glendale News Press

GLENDALE — A bill that would tweak the way California community colleges are funded could change the number of math and English classes offered at Glendale Community College, officials said.

The bill by state Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) would adjust the roughly $5,500 per-student revenue that the state allocates for community colleges by requiring another snapshot of classroom attendance, which drives the bulk of state funding.

In addition to college officials reporting attendance at the end of the course, they would also have to give a snapshot of enrollment one-fifth of the way through the semester, under the bill.

The change gives a more accurate picture of college attendance, and incentivizes community colleges to ensure their students finish the classes they begin, Liu said.

"It's not to ding anybody," she said. "[We need] a conversation about how serious we are about having our kids become more successful."

Liu said about 70% of community college students need basic skills in reading, writing or math, but the completion rate is roughly 10%. The bill would reserve 5% or 10% of community college funding as an award to the campus that improves most. The bill, if passed and signed into law with Liu's amendments, would affect the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Glendale Community College reported that 45.5% of its students pass a higher-level basic skills course within three years, below the state average of 51.2%.

College officials said the rate was lower because certain courses count toward degrees, a system that will change for 2010 data.

College officials said the new law could push course offerings to cater toward meeting state benchmarks, rather than addressing the wide array of education needs among students.

The college currently serves all students who want an education, college Supt./President Dawn Lindsay said.

"We understand the intent of the bill, but . . . anyone who wants to take advantage of an educational opportunity is going to come here," she said. "Our students are more than just the 18- to 22-year-old student."

Students drop classes for various reasons throughout the year, and the bill could trigger class offerings with fewer challenging sections of mathematics because that would create a greater course completion rate, college Controller Ron Nakasone said.

"No matter what you want to do, you have to take that math class," he said. "Then, are we offering fewer opportunities for students who want to continue their career?"

But Liu said that wasn't the intent of the bill, which was meant to ensure maximum impact from a dwindling pot of state money.

"This may be kind of a challenge to them," she said. "We don't have moneys to do the status quo anymore. We only have money for the basic, basic services, and we better get our biggest bang for the buck."

The bill is supported by the Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Gabriel Valley chambers of commerce, as well as Long Beach City College.

But the Community College League, of which Glendale is a member, opposes it.

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