State Ed Officials Fear Looming Ed Cuts

JAN. 20, 2011

By KATY GRIMES

During Tuesday’s hearing to discuss education cuts in the light of tough budget times, Assembly members failed to analyze the cost of compensation and benefits of teachers and administrators in California’s higher education system, or discuss any cost-saving alternative educational solutions, which already are being used with success in other states.

At the Assembly Higher Education Committee hearing, university chancellors said they were concerned about facing more cuts to higher education even as they acknowledged that 85 percent of their entire budget went to salaries, pensions and benefits. There was no discussion about reforms that would lower the cost of pensions and benefits, or about improving the efficiency of current budgets — such as by using  tenured professors more frequently in the classroom.

Before the additional cuts were addressed, Steve Boilard with the Legislative Analyst’s Office, discussed the state’s master plan for higher education as well as necessary changes in the “institutional delivery,” touching on a need for alternative forms of education, but never got into specifics. “A lot of it is very dated,” Boilard said. He covered regional and local access issues for students, and the need to better address accessibility for students in rural and urban areas.

“We need to link all of these decisions together with legislative guidance,” said Boilard.

Boilard said that of the students who attend college for a total of six years, there is a 50-percent dropout rate, for a myriad of reasons, including the lack of availability of required classes, which some education reformers say is a deliberate move by colleges to keep students enrolled longer.

Community College Chancellor Jack Scott, and CSU Chancellor Charles Reed addressed the committee, with nearly identical messages. Reminding the committee that community colleges are required to accept every student who applies, Scott, who also served as a California senator from 2000 to 2008, said that California’s community colleges serve 2.76 million students. Scott said the colleges have become quite efficient, even with larger class sizes, as teachers and professors are wearing many hats due to budget cuts.

However, Scott warned that even with the least expensive cost per student in the state, community colleges cannot do more with less without compromising other student support services necessary for graduation or elevation to a university.

“We are doing all we can. Are we perfect? Of course not,” Scott added. “But we may have to offer fewer courses. With the least expensive cost per student in California, we can’t continue to do more with less.”

But education reformers think that much more can be done. The state of Florida already is offering lower division and general education courses online, alleviating substantial costs.

“The CSU system serves 450,000 students, and already has dealt with a $625 million budget cut from the 2009-10 budget,” Reed said.

The other costly aspect of all state colleges and universities is student preparedness, or lack thereof, according to Reed. “$30 million a year is spent on remediation to better prepare students to actually graduate,” Reed said. In a freshman class of 80,000 CSU students, most are not prepared to do college work, and must spend the first year in remedial math and English classes.

James Postima, a five-year CSU board trustee and  Academic Senate Chairman, said that he was struck by the amount of students ill-prepared for college coursework, so he started researching the problem. Postima said that many as 70 percent of incoming college freshman are not ready for college classes. “It is well-documented that if we can get students into non-credit remedial classes for one year, there is an 80 percent success rate,” Postima said. He proposed a way to cut this cost is to offer incoming freshmen remedial crash courses during the summer before their first year, along with financial aid.

Education reform experts argue that colleges and universities have become large empires, kids are the gravy train, and financial aid is the money machine feeding the empire. The early assessment testing done in high schools is not sufficiently weeding out the kids who aren’t ready for college. Then the cost to the colleges increases, and money already spent on kids in high school, is being spent again on them in colleges in remedial programs.

Postima, as well as the other college leaders, would like to see students coming to the colleges and universities ready for college work. He said he plans to pursue this issue with high schools.

Additionally, the chancellors have been working on making cleaner transfers from community college through SB1440, a bill that standardizes transfer credits to university, as well as coordinating coursework better from community college through university.

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  1. John Galt
    John Galt 20 January, 2011, 16:46

    The CSU policy for requiring Remedial Math & English Classes during the Freshman Year before beginning college level classes is highly dependent on how ‘easy” or “liberal” high school teachers have graded students during grades 10, 11, & 12 in college prep classes (“a-g” series). Many high schools, for example, in the Los Angeles Unified School District are very easy on students, resulting in a large proportion of their seniors graduating with GPA’s exceeding 3.000, while the majority of high schools are quite tough during those years, resulting in few seniiors graduating with GPA’s pof 3.000 or better. This is illustrated when one compares state published SAT and ACT score data by high school to percentage of seniors graduating and qualified to enter CSU college classes straight away. SAT scores are not necessary is a student achieves an overall 3.000 GPA or better, per high school SAT scores, its obvious that about 50% of LAUSD graduating seniors with GPA’s exceeding 3.000 are entering CSU or UC schools ill prepared for Freshman year, but they don’t have to test nor take remedial classes, while students with slightly less than 3.000 GPA’s have to pass college entry math and english tests to begin college classes, or, take remedial class during their first year before they can begin classes that actually count towards their CSU or UC degree. If one has had very tough high school grading teachers, and were unable to achieve a 3.000 GPA, CSU and UC have set the alternative entrance requirements (GPA & SAT or ACT scores) to equal to individuals whose SAT or ACT scores meet or exceed the 95 percentile (IQ = 120+). Fun and games for all as we continue to waste significant tax money on LAUSD seniors who aren’t ready but sneak in due to easy grading; and, charging goog students an extra year in college wasted on remdial learning not needed. Typical California legislation that is not needed and is loaded with unintended consequences and costs.

    From CalState Mentor Online:
    “Test scores are required unless you have a grade point average above 3.0 and are a resident of California. The CSU uses a calculation called an eligibility index that combines your high school grade point average with the score you earn on either the SAT or ACT tests. Even if you have a GPA above 3.0, it is useful to take either an SAT or ACT as the score may indicate if you do not need to take English and math placement tests after you are admitted and before you enroll at the CSU. The eligibility index for out-of-state students is higher and admission requirements for international students are somewhat different.

    While SAT/ACT test scores are not required to establish the admission eligibility of California residents with high school grade point averages of 3.00 or above (nonresidents 3.61 or above), impacted campuses and impacted first-time freshmen enrollment categories often include test scores among the supplemental criteria required of all applicants to those campuses and enrollment categories.”

    http://www.csumentor.edu/planning/high_school/grades_tests.asp

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