Completion-Based Funding

The shift to completion-based funding that is proposed in Governor Brown’s budget has triggered concern and speculation within California community colleges. According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Governor’s budget creates a funding model based on being able to determine whether colleges were meeting “clear expectations in areas such as program completions, degrees earned, research activity, and cost reductions.”

At Bakersfield College we currently receive 90 percent of our funding, as do all other California community colleges, based on the number of students enrolled in classes at a “census date,” about one month into the semester. Governor Brown’s plan would call for an incremental five-year shift of this funding model to include a completion formula, where a lack of completion as determined by this completion formula would have the impact of redirecting a greater portion of the college’s funding to student support services such as tutoring, counseling, and educational planning.

According to findings by the Student Success Task Force in 2011, only 41 percent of community college students who enter college with transfer in mind actually succeed. The reasons for the lack of success are as varied as community college students themselves: home, family, work, and preparation are all contributing factors for failure in community colleges.

Whatever the reasons, the overwhelming reality is that a large number of students who come to California community colleges are unprepared for college-level work, and the impact of the Governor’s proposed model might affect certain groups of students more than others and have unintended consequences. A core value of community colleges is that Access and Success are for all. Will access to higher education become only for some in California and not for all?

Because of the potential impact of the Governor’s proposed community college budget model changes they must be carefully and broadly considered so that any revisions to the community college funding model continue to reflect the values that we hold in California.

One thought on “Completion-Based Funding

  1. Joseph Newton March 4, 2013 at 7:55 am Reply

    I agree. One thing such a funding formula doesn’t take into account is that community colleges serve the community as a source of enrichment, without having any specific credential or goal other than learning.

    IN terms of unintended consequences, there are indeed serious issues. Like the metrics that came in the wake of “No Child Left Behind” this can be a disincentive to serve those most in need of community college education–those who may not be as well-equipped for success. It is the measure of a community college’s success that it is able to open the door to all, but when rates of completion become an institutional goal, the incentive will tend to push for exclusion of those less likely to succeed.

    For many returning students, it may take a few rounds of schooling to actually push through and finish a program. These students already face major challenges such as financial aid loss and loan repayments. The subtle, or in some cases, not so subtle efforts to cherry pick for students most likely to bring in better funding simply adds to the burden a struggling student, or returning student, faces.

    Thanks, Sonya, for shedding light on the issue.

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