California community college officials eye new rule forcing districts to hand over data

Credit: Barbara Kinney

Foothill College in Los Altos Hills

Officials in California’s community college system are having trouble collecting data from local colleges across the state on important issues such as enrollment, campus policing and application fraud. And now the state chancellery wants the governing council to force the local universities to act.

The Chancellor’s Office, which oversees California’s 116 community colleges, plans to do so by creating a new state regulation that will require local colleges to respond within 10 days when the Chancellor’s Office requests data or others information asks.

The community college system, the country’s largest with about 1.5 million students, has been unable to fully report enrollments at its colleges in recent semesters. The system’s inability to accurately report enrollments was evident after the pandemic hit, when community colleges in California and across the country experienced double-digit enrollment losses. System officials have traced much of the problem to the challenges of counting certain students taking non-credit online courses.

With this initiative, the system’s leadership is acknowledging that one of their problems in collecting data is that local districts do not cooperate when asked to respond to requests for information.

Officials say complete data is necessary for the system to work towards its goals of improving student success in areas such as graduation and transfer to four-year universities. In a recent survey of college enrollment numbers, chancellery officials said nearly half of the colleges didn’t respond. In another survey on campus policing, the Chancellery received responses from less than half of the districts.

The proposed change to state regulations was presented Monday at a meeting of the system’s Board of Governors. The board can vote on the change in one of the next meetings.

“This article really gives us an opportunity to establish the responsibility of community college districts for responding to Chancellor’s requests for information and data that are critical to very important matters,” said Valerie Lundy-Wagner, vice chancellor of the System for Digital infrastructure. during a presentation to the board of directors.

Without a change in government regulation, universities currently consider data requests from the Chancellery “as voluntary,” said Marc LeForestier, General Counsel of the Chancellery, to the board.

Under the proposed regulatory change, universities would have 10 days to either provide the data or inform the Chancellery when the data will be ready. It’s not clear what the consequences would be for colleges if they failed to comply with the regulation. A spokesman for the community college system did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

In a memo submitted to the board on Monday, Lundy-Wagner and LeForestier wrote that the chancellor’s office had recently attempted to survey colleges regarding enrollment, but had received no response from all colleges. Only 67 colleges, or 58% of them, responded to one of the surveys, “even with additional reminders and requests for a relatively brief survey of information that colleges in general should have available,” the memo said.

The Chancellery also recently polled counties for information about policing on campus, but received responses from just 10 counties, according to a memo presented to the board during Monday’s meeting. That’s less than 14% of the state’s community college districts. These surveys sought information on campus policing models, costs, management, and oversight.

Since last year, the Chancellery has also been asking the districts for monthly reports on the subject of application fraud at universities. In late August, it was revealed that scammers at community colleges across the state were attempting to fraudulently apply and enroll in order to get their hands on financial aid.

In the five months in which the universities were asked to report, only nine universities submitted information to the Chancellery each month. Of the 116 colleges in the system, 52 have not reported in any month. The Chancellery said it even offered technical support to help colleges with their reporting, but the technology center received fewer than one request per month.

“These experiences and others suggest that the Board of Governors should formalize a collaborative process that establishes a clear requirement that critical data and information be shared with the Chancellery,” the memo said.

Without complete data from the colleges, the system won’t be able to realize its “vision for success,” said Amy Costa, vice president of the board. Vision for success, the system’s goal is to increase the number of students who complete their degrees or certificates and enter the labor market or transfer to a four-year university.

“To the districts that are listening, I just want to say that if we don’t have the data, there’s no way we can hope to fulfill the vision for success. It’s an important part of everything we’ve done,” Costa said during the meeting.

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