Changes Ahead for Noncredit?

ASCCC Secretary and Noncredit Committee Chair

In 2009, the Academic Senate adopted the paper Noncredit Instruction: Opportunity and Challenge, which described the state of noncredit instruction at that time and provided a set of recommendations for changes that could improve various aspects of noncredit instruction. In the 10 years since that paper was published, many things have changed for noncredit programs, and those changes are reflected in the updated paper Noncredit Instruction: Opportunity and Challenge, which will be presented for adoption at the Spring 2019 Plenary Session. The revised paper includes new recommendations for noncredit, and two of those recommendations are currently being examined by the legislature.

Many noncredit courses are offered as open-entry/openexit, where the student is allowed to enroll in the course throughout the term. Open-entry/open-exit courses can be offered in credit and in noncredit. Colleges are required to track the actual hours of instruction for each student, and the college then submits those hours to the Chancellor’s Office for apportionment, an attendance accounting method known as positive attendance. The majority of credit courses are regularly scheduled and meet for the entire semester, and students are required to enroll before the census date. Once the census enrollment is set, colleges collect apportionment based on one of the methods outlined in the Student Attendance Accounting Manual. Noncredit also offers regularly scheduled courses, usually referred to as managed enrollment, where students enroll prior to the census date and are expected to attend class each week just like most credit courses; however, unlike credit courses, these noncredit courses are still required to record the instructional hours for each student, and colleges collect apportionment for them using the positive attendance accounting method. For career development and college preparation managed enrolled courses, colleges would receive less apportionment than an equivalent credit course prior to the implementation of the new Student Centered Funding Formula. Therefore, colleges that created and scheduled mirrored credit and noncredit courses would receive less apportionment for each noncredit student, which could have been an incentive to only offer the credit version of the course.

AB 1727 (Weber, 2019) would allow managed enrollment noncredit courses to use the same attendance accounting methods as regularly scheduled credit courses. If AB 1727 is adopted, it would create parity between the funding methods for credit and noncredit courses where enrollment and scheduling is happening in the same way. This change would provide colleges with the maximum amount of funding possible, currently more than the apportionment for an equivalent credit course, and would eliminate the need to track every hour that the student spends in the classroom. AB 1727 would implement one of the recommendations in the revised noncredit paper, but faculty must continue to advocate for the scheduling of both managed enrollment and open-entry/open-exit courses. The increased funding that would become available for managed enrollment courses could lead colleges to schedule more noncredit courses using that method, but only offering managed enrollment courses would eliminate the flexibility of open-entry/open-exit that is a benefit for many students. The ASCCC Noncredit Committee’s goal is to have noncredit and credit courses have access to the same attendance accounting methods, but faculty must advocate to maintain various options when scheduling noncredit courses to ensure the needs of all students are being met.

The other recommendation that the legislature may act on is incorporating full-time noncredit faculty into the Faculty Obligation Number, or FON. Resolutions 7.01 F14 and 7.01 F18 both directed the Academic Senate to work with the Chancellor’s Office to incorporate noncredit faculty into the FON. Title 5 §51025 requires colleges to increase the number of full-time credit faculty each year in proportion to their funded growth in credit FTES. Adding noncredit into the regulation might seem a simple matter, but the issue is more complicated than it appears. The FON for credit faculty was initially calculated for each district in 1989 and has been adjusted for each district over time as funded credit FTES have increased. Since noncredit faculty have never been included in the FON, no minimum number of full-time noncredit faculty has been required for each district. To establish the starting noncredit FON, the Chancellor’s Office could use the current total of full-time noncredit faculty in each district, use the same percentage of instruction that must be delivered by full-time faculty that is used for their credit programs, or use some other method. The problem with setting the initial FON based on the number of full-time noncredit faculty that a district normally employs is that most districts do not have a significant number of full-time noncredit faculty, and many districts do not have any. If increases in noncredit FTES required districts to hire additional full-time noncredit faculty, the number of full-time noncredit faculty in the system would go up, but the percentage of noncredit instruction done by full-time faculty would be low. If districts were required to have the same percentage of full-time instruction for both credit or noncredit, many districts would not have the financial or human resources necessary to hire a sufficient number of full-time noncredit faculty to meet their new FON.

SB 777 (Rubio, 2019) would revise the FON to require districts to develop a five-year plan to reach the goal of having 75% of instruction delivered by full-time faculty. While the 75% goal was established for credit instruction by AB 1725 (Vasconcellos) in 1988, the proposed legislation states that “because noncredit instruction has an increasing role in college efforts to address student success needs, the board of governors shall determine how to apply the 75-percent goal to both credit and noncredit faculty in both state-supported and basic-aid districts.” If SB 777 is adopted, the Chancellor’s Office will be required to incorporate noncredit faculty into the FON. The challenge of establishing a baseline for the FON for noncredit faculty still needs to be addressed, but SB 777 would require that it happen. No guarantee exists that SB 777 will be adopted or that it will not be changed during the legislative process, but the introduction of the bill indicates that the legislature is looking to revisit the goal of 75% full-time instruction and that noncredit faculty are a vital part of community college instruction.

The legislative process has only recently begun, and these two bills may change significantly over the coming months, but the introduction of the bills indicates that the legislature has continued interest in noncredit instruction and its value for students. The Academic Senate will be monitoring both bills and will continue to work with legislative staff to ensure that the staff has all of the information that is necessary. Noncredit instruction has changed significantly over the years, and more changes may well be coming in the near future.