Community College Students Discouraged from Repeating Classes

Categories: Education
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Maybe now the third time will be the charm
The California Community Colleges Board of Governors has decided to limit the number of times a student can retake a class on the state's dime.

Turns out it is not unusual for students to take one class six or seven times for a variety of reasons. In 2009, approximately 33,000 students took the same class more than five times. And the more they start over, the more unlikely it is they will pass, data shows.

But this new legislation means that those who need to repeat classes more than three times will have to appeal to their community college. If granted, that fourth attempt will still be covered by the state. But any more times past that, the community colleges will have to foot the bill -- because the state won't anymore.

Shifting the burden onto the schools themselves could save the state as much as $1.5 million annually, according to Inside Higher Ed.

Chancellor Jack Scott presented the new policy in May after hearing that students who wanted to take a new class were being turned away in favor of students who had already taken it many times before. Last year, the state's 112 community colleges had to tell 140,000 students "better luck next time," according to Scott.

"The real issue here is that we are going to keep giving somebody fourth, fifth, and six times, and say to the other student, 'I'm sorry, the classes are full,'" Scott told the Board of Governors at its Monday afternoon meeting.

What's more, he hopes this new policy will make students take class more seriously -- the first three times around. "Some withdrawals I understand," he said. "Somebody had a surgery or something like that. But some withdrawals are because the student got a little behind and they say, 'Oh, well, I can take it again.'"

Opponents of the restrictions argued that the plan takes away from the idea that community colleges are open-access institutions for those who need several chances to succeed. They asked that the revision also consider why students flunk or drop their classes, and offer a strategy to keep them from getting to the point where they need to appeal.

"Community college students are not four-year students. We work three jobs, two jobs; sometimes we work weekends. This is consistent with the master plan. We need to make sure it's accessible, and community college is our doorway in for more students," said Jeffrey Fang, a student trustee at City College of San Francisco.

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