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November 06, 2012 11:00 AM California Community Colleges and “Outcomes”

By Daniel Luzer

The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office has ordered California’s community colleges to focus on “students who can earn degrees or certificates or who can transfer to four-year institutions.” This focus on results might look impressive. Outcomes are important in education, after all. But the new policy is a huge headache for community colleges, particularly those in rural parts of the state.

According to an article by Lee Romney in the Los Angeles Times:

State efforts to ease overcrowding and help colleges adapt to budget cuts are backfiring in rural districts already burdened by vast territories, withered economies, high poverty rates and dwindling populations.
Rather than serving “lifelong learners,” the state’s 112 colleges have been directed to focus on students seeking to acquire such basic skills as English, transfer to four-year schools or earn associate degrees or certificates.

The problem is rural community colleges help serve their communities by running cultural programs like theatre departments and life skills classes like automobile repair that often never lead to degrees.

The trouble with this new policy is that “degrees, certificates, and transfers to four-year institutions” are not what community colleges are for, not exclusively.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer