1. Support Student Success
Problem: Too few students are transferring to a four-year college, earning a certificate or earning an AA/AS degree. Numbers have declined significantly over the past ten years. For example, in 2008-2009, 32.9% of Pasadena High School students transferred to a four-year college, 27.1% earned their AA/AS degree and 7.7% earned a certificate. In 2014-2015, 3% of Pasadena High School students transferred, 4.1% earned a degree and 0.6% earned a certificate. And we don’t know what has happened since 2015. There is no data after 2015. Check out your high school by clicking this link.
Solution: Improve support and counseling for students. Enroll more students in the Pathways program and improve its effectiveness. Provide culturally sensitive support for students. Help first generation students and their families navigate the college experience. Make sure students are supported in their academic goals with counseling office hours in evenings and weekends and bringing support outside of the offices to where the students are. Investigate, research, and ask the students. Do exit surveys with students that leave PCC without reaching their goals whether it is to transfer, or get an AA/AS degree or a certificate. Act on what we learn from these surveys.
2. Promote Transparent Decision-making
Problem: Board of Trustee meeting minutes are silent on dollar amounts for contracts awarded and how that fits into the budget. Where do our tax dollars go? (click here to see examples of both PCC Board and Santa Monica College Board meeting minutes, and notice how much more transparent SMC is.)
Solution: Add dollar amounts and budget figures to Board minutes.
3. Offer the Right Courses
Problem: Students are not able to get the courses they need to quickly transfer to a four-year college, get a certificate, or get a job.
Solution: Prepare our students for the future. Make sure we have enough sections of critical courses needed to transfer to the University of California and California State University systems. Close the skills gap between what students can do and what employers need. Improve and add courses in technology, healthcare, and critical thinking skills. Other community colleges are doing a better job. For example, this fall Glendale Community College offers 178 sections in computer related courses. PCC offers 58. PCC needs to offer more coding, app design, web site design, robotics, 3-D printing, computer languages, algorithms, and cybersecurity.
4. Control Student Costs
Problem: It costs community college students $36,000+ more than students going directly to a four-year college to get a bachelors degree. Tuition itself is low but the additional years to get a degree increases out-of-pocket expenses for housing, transportation and books, and students pay higher opportunity costs of reduced earnings while working towards a degree. The path to transfer to a UC or CSU campus is unclear and is different for each UC and CSU campus. Because of this, students often take classes that won’t transfer and need to continue at PCC until they earn enough transfer credits. Taxpayers lose because students earn less during these years so they contribute less to the tax rolls. And we lose the boost their creativity and innovation gives our economy.
Solution: Work with the University of California, California State University systems and Sacramento to get a clear, logical path for community college students to move into a four-year college.
5. Establish Stable Leadership
Problem: PCC has had six superintendent-presidents in the past twelve years. Initiatives, projects and ideas were started and disappeared unfinished.
Solution: The Board of Trustees should step in and provide the leadership the college needs. The Board leads the culture of PCC. Board must foster collaboration and mutual respect between faculty and administration so we have a healthy and productive college environment.
6. Achieve Excellence
Problem: Our community should have the best community college in the nation and nothing less. That should always be our goal. Good enough just isn’t. For example, Santa Monica College and Pasadena City College are roughly the same size. In 2017-2018, 1,289 students transferred to a UC from Santa Monica College and only 783 from PCC. 146 Santa Monica College students transferred to USC and only 70 from PCC. And Santa Monica College sent 50 students to Columbia University in New York City.
Solution: Student outcome must be our number one priority. Hire and retain the best faculty and staff. Have the best, most effective resources for our students and faculty. Everything the Board does must be guided by what is best for our students. Create and sustain a robust transfer culture. Never rest on past success, always look for ways to improve. Pasadena City College should be #1 in transfers to UC’s, USC, and top universities nationwide. PCC must work with local school districts to make it easy for their advanced students to take courses at PCC. PCC must work with the districts to make a seamless transition from high school to community college.
7. Promote Listening
Problem: Often boards do not understand what is happening on the ground. They are too removed from what students, faculty and staff are really experiencing.
Solution: Survey students, faculty and staff. Find out why students leave. Find out what classes PCC should offer, what can we do to make the PCC experience the best possible. Is it easy to register? Is the website user-friendly? Ask faculty what we can do for them. What will make PCC the best place to teach? Ask the staff what we can do to make PCC more efficient. Use data- and evidence-based decision making. Collect data and use in every-day decision making. Have a virtual suggestion box.