Noncredit Instruction: Opportunity and Challenge

Noncredit, Pre-Transfer, & Continuing Education Committee

Adopted Spring 2009 and Revised Spring 2019

This paper provides information about noncredit instruction in the California Community Colleges and updates the 2009 paper Noncredit Instruction: Opportunity and Challenge to incorporate subsequent changes from the last decade. Since the passage of SB 361 (Scott, 2006), noncredit instruction has seen significant changes, including the equalization of funding for some areas of noncredit instruction, the passage of the Adult Education Block Grant that created adult education consortia including K-12 and community college adult education providers, and the passage of AB 705 (Irwin, 2017) that specifically encouraged colleges to use noncredit courses to support the needs of credit students. Despite noncredit’s long history in the community colleges, a limited number of robust noncredit programs currently exist, and many colleges may be looking to or are beginning to offer noncredit courses for the first time. This paper is intended to provide information about noncredit instruction that will be useful to individuals with varying backgrounds and experience with noncredit and to provide recommendations that will help noncredit continue to serve the needs of diverse student populations.

Noncredit students pay no enrollment fees and normally receive no college credit. Noncredit courses are nevertheless funded entirely by state apportionment, with different rates of apportionment depending on the area of noncredit instruction. The landscape for noncredit instruction has evolved dramatically since the publication of the original version of this paper in 2009. In passing SB 361 (Scott, 2006), the California Legislature created a two-tier funding system that would eventually lead to certain areas of noncredit instruction being funded at the same rate as credit instruction. Additionally, noncredit programs are essential in the transformation of adult education that began with the passage of AB 86 (Assembly Committee on Budgets, 2013), have been an essential provider of vocational training, were specifically included in recommendations created by the Taskforce on Workforce and a Strong Economy in 2015, and were specifically mentioned in AB 705 (Irwin, 2017) to address the remediation needs of credit students.

The increasing interest in noncredit programs shown by the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, the California Legislature, and other professionals is not a coincidence. Several studies have focused on changing student demographics and the need to increase the number of skilled workers to meet the needs of the California economy. 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 noncredit programs.

The ASCCC has an established history of advocating for the continued development and expansion of noncredit programs to support the needs of students. To help facilitate that expansion and ensure the offering of high quality programs, the Academic Senate has advocated for equalized funding with credit (Resolution 9.02 Fall 2011), inclusion of noncredit faculty in the Faculty Obligation Number and the development of an equivalent to the 75/25 ratio goal for noncredit instruction (Resolution 7.01 Fall 2018 and Resolution 7.01 Fall 2014), equalization of statewide processes for credit and noncredit curriculum (Resolution 9.02 Fall 2018), more accurate noncredit outcomes and the design of metrics that accurately represent the quality of noncredit programs (Resolution 14.02 Fall 2014, Resolution 13.01 Spring 2012, and Resolution 9.01 Fall 2009), and recognition that noncredit instruction meets the needs of a wide range of students (Resolution 7.03 Spring 2018, Resolution 17.01 Spring 2018, Resolution 9.07 Spring 2016 and Resolution 13.02 Fall 2011). Considerable progress has been made in some of these areas, but ongoing uncertainty remains about whether noncredit programs will be given the support necessary to allow them to flourish. Continued advocacy is vital to ensure that the progress that noncredit has experienced in the last ten years continues and that noncredit programs continue to evolve and serve the changing needs of students.