This paper considers noncredit instruction in the California Community College System. Noncredit students pay no enrollment fees and normally receive no college credit or official course grades. State apportionment funding is provided for noncredit instruction in specified areas (see Appendix A). The paper identifies three related concepts: a state need for increased levels of education that noncredit instruction is well placed to supply, several changes that begin to facilitate that response, and additional changes that are needed to ensure success. The landscape for noncredit instruction has evolved dramatically since 2006 when the Academic Senate adopted The Role of Noncredit in the California Community Colleges and the Chancellor’s Office Noncredit Alignment Project produced A Learner-Centered Curriculum for All Students. In passing SB361 in Fall 2006, the California Legislature opened the door to the potential of equitable funding for noncredit instruction. Curriculum regulations in Title 5 changed to permit local certificate programs in noncredit. The systemwide Basic Skills Initiative has recognized the important role noncredit programs can play in introducing more students to the wide range of programs and certificates available in California Community Colleges. But the promise of these efforts will remain unfulfilled until noncredit students, faculty, and programs receive equitable resources and levels of instruction and support comparable to their credit counterparts. Education is the American promise that we can do better; for noncredit instruction, the promise of doing better is more tangible than it has been in a long time; but much remains to be done. This paper establishes a roadmap to fulfill that promise to our most vulnerable students—those who receive the fewest resources and often need the most help in their educational journey.
The increasing interest in noncredit programs shown by the Academic Senate, the Chancellor’s Office, the Legislature, and other professionals is not a coincidence. Several recent studies have focused on the rapid demographic changes and declining educational levels that are affecting California society and its economy. In response to these studies, noncredit programs join the renewed interest in basic skills success and adult learners as one way to provide the workers that the state requires. This paper will describe several legislative and policy developments to explain the link between noncredit history and current hopes for improved student success through enhanced funding, staffing, and academic integrity of programs.
The Academic Senate has long highlighted the research showing that there is an integral connection between an institutional commitment to providing quality instruction and the educational outcomes that students achieve. Among its statewide recommendations, the 2006 paper urged that attention be given to the equitable funding of noncredit programs, the number of full-time faculty who teach in them, and the conditions of employment that require higher faculty workloads with a direct consequence of reduced preparation and office time. The very structure of many programs guarantees that while noncredit students are often the most in need of individual help and support, they receive fewer interactions with faculty and support services than do their credit counterparts. While very modest progress has been made on this front, this paper will provide an agenda for continuing change and improvement that will enhance the overall academic integrity of noncredit programs. Without these additional changes the promise of the current developments cannot be fully realized.