Editor’s Note: This is the first segment in a four-part series covering changes coming to Palomar as a result of the Student Success Task Force plan. Click here for more stories from the series and additional info on SSTF.
PUSHED TO SUCCEED – PART 1: FROM THE TOP
A new bill will force students to finish coursework at Palomar or face penalties for lagging behind.
Last year, California legislators hoping to push students through the state’s 100 community colleges passed the Student Success Task Force (SSTF) bill. Drafters said the legislation was crafted to lessen strain on a system that sees many students stay long past the two-year mark.
The exact mark SSTF will make on Palomar’s sprawling 30,000-student district in still unclear.
At Palomar, a Student Success Task Force Committee was put together to revise school policy and make transitioning to the new requirements easier. Despite confusion among some staff and most students about the bill’s measures, college administrators believe they have a firm grasp on possible changes.
“The implementation of all the recommendations would require that every student see a counselor and create an education plan, among other things,” Vice President of Student Services Mark Vernoy wrote in an email. “We would then need to significantly increase the number of counselors and counseling appointments to meet this demand.”
According to Vernoy, the bill would call for over 14,000 Palomar students to be assessed each year. Palomar employs 16 full-time counselors.
According to SSTF drafters, the plan should increase by 50 percent the number of students who receive college degrees in California each year.
Over 70 percent of undergraduates enrolled in California public schools are at community colleges, according to the text of SSTF. Only 24 percent of degree-seeking students complete a certificate or associate degree or transfer to a four-year college or university within six years, the bill says.
Under the SB 1143, each college must establish a task force like Palomar’s to help implement the laws. While the general contours are covered under the bill itself, certain details are left up to each school.
For instance, every student will be required to have an education plan, but it is left up to the schools to decide how they want to accomplish that, be it through the counseling department, online or school owned software.
“Under the leadership of the Palomar’s Faculty Senate, we will be convening a committee work group to plan for the the various required activities from the Student Success Task Force initiative,” Vice President for Instruction Berta Cuaron said. “Once Palomar’s committee working group starts to meet more formally, we expect that the group will seek college-wide input and make recommendations as to how we will move forward.”
According to bill proponents, high school students will have to know their education plans before enrolling in a two-year school in order for the recommendation to increase the transfer rates at community colleges. Entering college students will be required to participate in a diagnostic assessment to develop an education plan. Those students lacking in “readiness” will be required to participate in support resources.
In short, students will no longer be allowed to slip through the cracks and waste time in their classes. Students will be pressured to decide what they want to do or forced out of the school.
SSTF also mandates statewide standardized testing to gauge students’ progress toward meeting curriculum requirements. Under the plan, student test scores will be shared with other community colleges throughout the state.
Palomar student government President Evelyn Lucero said Palomar students using the Board of Governors waiver to pay for classes will feel the most heat under the task force’s plan. Those students will be asked to meet grade requirements or lose their financial aid.
“If students don’t have an education plan by their third semester, they are not going to get the BOG,” Lucero said. “That is one of the recommendations they are proposing. That doesn’t help because many of the students that come here to college don’t yet know where they want to go to, and that is not enough time to decide.”
The SSTF is a broad, sprawling set of proposals with deep implications at Palomar and throughout the state. The Telescope will focus on individual mandates in the bill over the next few weeks to better explain its implication.