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Why are new laws shrinking our community colleges?

Why are new laws shrinking our community colleges?


Wendy Brill-Wynkoop
February 1, 2023
Assembly Bill 928, legislation from the 2021 legislative year, was one of several recent bills developed by corporate-funded advocacy organizations that mandated oversimplified solutions to complex issues. The results often have unintended consequences that manifest themselves in the months and years after the law is implemented.
In the case of AB 928, the consequences are shrinking colleges.
The overarching aims of this particular bill were to reduce the time of transferring and obtaining a degree, as well as to improve course transferability and efficiency. In theory, this intention seemed sensible. In practice, however, it created new barriers and amplified existing challenges.
The bill had three objectives:
  • Rebooting the California Postsecondary Education Commission with a new oversight committee to streamline and improve coordination in California’s higher education systems.
  • Calling for a single general education transfer pattern from the community colleges to both the Cal State and University of California systems.
  • Mandating the automatic placement of students in the Associate Degree for Transfer programs, which provide students with guaranteed admission to a CSU (but not necessarily their CSU of choice).
While students, faculty, administrators and the community college chancellor’s office expressed concerns about AB 928 at various points in the legislative process, the bill moved forward without substantive amendments, and the governor ultimately signed it.
After a year of implementing this legislation, community college stakeholders already see the unintended consequences of a single general education transfer pattern known as Cal-GETC. The legislation limits this pattern to requiring a maximum of 34 units, reducing the number of units currently needed to transfer to the CSU by five.
This change is initiated by the University of California system, which holds all the power to create the Cal-GETC, has constitutional autonomy and is not subject to legislative mandates. The rigid reduction in units will create a double whammy of enrollment decline and a loss of educational offerings for community colleges already wrestling with a 16-20% statewide drop in enrollment. At a time when community colleges need to be expanding their appeal, new laws are forcing them to narrow their reach.
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