While many challenges are currently facing California community colleges, the mandated Student Success and Support Program (SSSP) and Student Equity Plans are two of the most pressing requirements for colleges in Fall 2014. With the SSSP plans due October 17 and Student Equity Plans due November 21, faculty must help craft meaningful methods to locally address student completion of educational goals. The toughest questions concern access and success—specifically, how colleges will examine and respond to achievement gaps across student populations. Needless to say, both plans require significant thought, careful consideration, and nuanced preparation in a short amount of time.
Student Success and Support Program plans must document how colleges aim to increase student access and success by providing orientation, assessment, advising, and other educational planning services. These annual reports require a description of all SSSP services, policies, activities and procedures offered at a college or district, regardless of funding courses. Plans must also address how institutional evaluation and research will assist or improve services, including prerequisite procedures, professional development, technology, and policies on issues such as exemptions and appeals.
Not designed to be supplemental in nature, SSSP plans must be intimately coordinated with other college and district efforts, including those engaging student equity. As faculty consider the connections between student success and equity, the terrain becomes more complicated and challenging. Importantly, equity is not necessarily equality, and the spirit of the Student Success Act of 2012 centers on this point. While equality refers to ensuring similar treatment and resources for all, equity examines the difficulties of reaching the same outcome across all populations. Planning for equity therefore requires a complex understanding of the differences among individuals that may either pose barriers or contribute to success.
Student Equity Plans are not easy to implement. Fundamentally, these plans must explain how colleges will mitigate disproportionate impact: the evidential, structural conditions that affect student access and success. Colleges must address five student success indicators, or metrics, in examining and alleviating disproportionate impact: access, course completion, English as a Second Language and basic skills completion, degree and certificate completion, and transfer rates.
Because equity requires investment and intervention, the California Legislature recognized the need for funding equity in addition to the general SSSP formulas, with an approved figure of $70 million for 2014-2015. That funding should help colleges as they establish the work of their Student Equity Committees, which must plan to integrate and employ strategies that address and monitor equity and, when needed, organize interventions and services for students who are at risk of academic progress or probation. This work also became more complicated with the addition of the budget trailer bill SB 860 in June 2014, as the disaggregated subgroups to be considered expanded. Plans must now include ethnic and gender subpopulations, veterans, low-income-students, foster youth, and students with disabilities.
As institutions throughout the state consider the scope of the SSSP and Student Equity Plans, all local academic senates and their colleges face the arduous task of establishing processes that truly address student success and student equity in meaningful, concrete ways. Community colleges should share their processes as they develop and integrate these plans into their educational master planning, program reviews, accreditation work, and basic skills initiatives. Through such sharing, colleges can begin to address such issues as how to engender a holistic approach to planning, budgeting, and delivery of services to support equity in student access and success and how to best take into account the life cycle of the college student, from pre-enrollment through placement, enrollment, advising and counseling, persistence and sustainability, and graduation or transfer.
As you consider your local campus and its sociocultural context, a good place to start might be with the following questions:
- Where is disproportionate impact an issue?
- What strategies and approaches has your college successfully implemented to mitigate disproportionate impact?
- Has your college researched the literature of “best practices” that have proven to be successful in the retention, persistence and completion across various populations or best practices in admissions, assessment, orientation, counseling and advising, basic skills, or interventions?
- Have you considered what data makes sense to draw on to explore your success and equity issues—even beyond the Scorecard or DataMart?
- What analyses do you need in order to address and monitor changes in disproportionate impact?
- What information would be helpful for action planning and improvement?
- What kind of training or professional development is needed?
Colleges are currently at various stages in the planning, discussion, and writing of their Student Equity Plans. In the spirit of collegiality and helping colleges meet the deadline of November 21, 2014, all of our institutions should find ways of sharing our SSSP and Student Equity Plans across our colleges and districts. The ASCCC Executive Committee will work to provide assistance in helping colleges collaborate with each other and is exploring avenues to facilitate such discussions. The Academic Senate will strive not only to enable faculty-driven processes for student success and equity but also to collaborate with colleges on methods to implement, sustain, and evaluate local efforts that will inevitably benefit all students.
For more information, and to access your copy of the Student Equity Template, go to: http://extranet.cccco.edu/Divisions/StudentServices/StudentEquity.aspx