A Snapshot of Noncredit in the California Community Colleges

Mark Wade Lieu,

Noncredit has been a major focus of discussion in the system over the last year. In addition to the discussions of how to implement increased apportionment for noncredit under the provisions of the proposed community college funding formula found in SB361 (the impetus for my previous article on noncredit), the System Office is also coordinating the work of the noncredit alignment project, which is focusing on clearly defining the nine areas of noncredit and reviewing curricular approval processes, and discussions of quality standards in noncredit. Coincidentally, or perhaps serendipitously, the Educational Policies Committee of the academic senate has been working on the development of a paper about the status of noncredit in the community colleges this year as well.

My previous article on noncredit presented an overview of some major differences between credit and noncredit. This article takes the information gleaned by the Educational Policies Committee in preparation for writing its paper to provide a snapshot of noncredit in our system.

Colleges report almost 92,000 FTES of noncredit instruction in 2004-2005, 8% of the total FTES for the System for that year. While 98 out of the 109 colleges offered some noncredit, 22 colleges generated more than three-fourths of all noncredit FTES; in addition, many offered only noncredit supervised tutoring, which is used to support credit instruction.

Using MIS data for Fall 2004, we get an idea of the composition of students in noncredit. Over 60% were female with the majority being over the age of 40. The two largest ethnic populations were White (slightly over 32%) and hispanic (slightly under 32%), followed by asian with almost 14%.

Using 2003-2004 data, the System Office made a presentation to the Board of Governors in January 2005, Noncredit Instruction: A Portal to the Future, which adds to our understanding of noncredit students. twenty-three percent were immigrants, many of whom are English language learners. Approximately 15% never completed high school, and nearly 17% received some form of financial aid.

Over 50% of noncredit enrollments was in Basic Skills (35.3%) and English as a Second Language (17.2%). Short-term vocational programs enrolled almost 17% of noncredit students, with courses for older adults just slightly lower.

The demographics for the faculty in noncredit are markedly different from those for noncredit students. Noncredit employed 1,543 FTEF in Fall 2005. Of the 5,471 faculty, nearly 90% were part-time. In the fulltime ranks, women outnumbered the men by more than 2:1; in the part-time ranks, women outnumbered the men by 3:2. It is important to note that a number of faculty teach in both credit and noncredit programs. Whites comprised 70% of part-time faculty and 65% of full-time faculty in fall 2005. approximately 13% of both part-time and full-time faculty were hispanic, with asian being the third largest group at 8% (FT) and 10% (PT). More than 44% of Fall 2005 faculty were 55 years old or older.

Based on TOP Codes, the largest group of faculty was in ESL, with over 600 FTEF. Short-term vocational TOP Codes had over 300 FETF. Since there are no dedicated TOP Codes for courses for older adults, it is not clear how many faculty focus on service to older adults.

Although surveys being conducted for the paper by the committee of the largest noncredit programs are not yet completed, preliminary data reveal some additional information about the place of noncredit in our colleges and districts. With regard to noncredit participation in local senates, two districts have separate senates for noncredit, and six colleges report having dedicated seats for noncredit representation. The other nine respondents have representation for noncredit only if a noncredit person happens to be elected to the senate.

Many processes are essentially the same at most colleges between credit and noncredit. Curriculum and program development follow the same processes for credit and noncredit, but three colleges have no noncredit faculty on the curriculum committee and two report that noncredit program review is only an informal process. Accreditation generally encompasses a review of both credit and noncredit programs. In spite of the similarity of processes, articulation between noncredit and credit programs is lacking. Only three colleges reported that research was conducted to support articulation efforts, and several cited this lack of articulation as an important issue for their colleges.

The survey also covered some working condition issues.

Salaries for full-time noncredit faculty are generally equivalent to full-time credit faculty in terms of amount, but teaching load for noncredit faculty ranges from 5 to hours/week compared to 5 hours for most credit faculty.

Four of the colleges apply the minimum qualifications for credit, where applicable, to hires in noncredit; while most use the minimum qualifications for noncredit, where applicable. In most areas, the minimum qualifications for credit are higher; in some areas, such as older adults and parenting, there is no credit instruction and thus no credit minimum qualifications. a third of the colleges have one faculty association representing both credit and noncredit faculty; however, three colleges report having no union representation for noncredit faculty at all. Overall, the status of part-time noncredit faculty is generally equivalent to the status of part-time credit faculty.

Over the coming months, the Educational Policies Committee will complete the survey and develop its paper on the status of noncredit. Look for the paper to come up for adoption this fall.

The articles published in the Rostrum do not necessarily represent the adopted positions of the academic senate. For adopted positions and recommendations, please browse this website.