July 16, 1998

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas J. Nussbaum, Chancellor

California Community Colleges

1107 Ninth Street

Sacramento, CA 95814-3607

Dear Chancellor Nussbaum:

Tom, thank you for the opportunity to respond to Partnership for Excellence funding discussions within the Sonoma County Junior College District. Please take the following as preliminary, since discussion of this funding is ongoing and will resume at a higher intensity when faculty return after the summer break.

One of the cornerstones for measuring student/institutional outcomes in using Partnership for Excellence funds at the Sonoma County Junior College District is establishing an Office of Institutional Research. This has been a need addressed within our Accreditation Self Study and is intended to bring together the diverse research now being done, coordinate it and make it readily accessible, and assist in framing research questions pertaining to student outcomes measures and developing plans to answer these questions. Our intent is to closely track initiatives that are begun under PFE funding and to measure the impact of these as well as other initiatives on outcomes. Among the specific returns expected from this investment in an Office of Instructional Research will be the establishment of baseline data needed to report relevant student outcomes. Additionally the Sonoma County Junior College District would be better able to track retention and persistence with the objective of developing intervention strategies to improve both.

We have discussed adding full-time faculty (including counselors and librarians) particularly in areas identified as being difficult to recruit adjunct faculty. By doing this we may be able to offer more high demand classes, thus increasing student access and simultaneously lowering student-to-instructor ratios. In areas in which students are better served by having a lower student-to-instructor ratio, full-time faculty may also be added.

 

 

Thomas J. Nussbaum, Chancellor

July 16, 1998

Page 2

 

 

Many of the support services needed to increase student success and retention at the department level need to be supplemented and PFE funding would be a means to accomplish this. These include activities related to increased hours for paraprofessional help in laboratories (particularly computer labs), increased tutorial hours in areas such as mathematics and English, expanded services for groups of students such as first-time freshmen, academic probationary students and students enrolled in off-campus facilities, and increased library hours. We expect PFE funds to allow us (1) to increase individual or small group assistance to students less prepared for the typical class/lab environment and (2) to be able to measure and report the outcomes of these efforts in terms of student success, e.g. completers, GPA, etc.

We plan to strengthen our outreach efforts with our local K-12 districts by creating an office appropriately staffed to perform these activities. This should result in improved access for students in the local district educational pipeline.

There is increased demand from students, faculty, and the community for "non-traditional" instructional delivery. PFE funds will allow us to develop and offer more courses completely or partially mediated via the internet. With this expansion would also come the need to pilot how student services (counseling in particular) could be delivered using distance learning techniques. We also hope to increase our highly successful--but currently limited--efforts to offer short-term, intensive courses and programs, particularly in response to workforce needs.

We believe on-going curricular review and revision is crucial to the goals of the PFE funds. Activities related to greater curriculum coordination across College program areas as well as between College programs and the CSU/UC campuses are being seriously discussed. We are doing a major review of our general education patterns as well as the requirements for the associate degree, with the goal of providing more coherent educational pathways for students and improving our ability to verify both academic excellence and student success rates. In addition, the College community is committed to identifying and giving students recognition for the successful completion of meaningful course sequences that do not fit the traditional certificate or degree patterns.

PFE funding would allow us to better coordinate offerings with local businesses and industry in order to meet their needs. Activities aimed at better assessing businesses’ needs, tailoring curriculum to meet those needs, and offering the curriculum in non-traditional time frames have been discussed. PFE funding will allow us to solidify and expand our efforts at “business outreach” such as our current program at a local shopping mall which tailors business and computing courses to the needs of local business. With these new funds it will be possible to better assess local business needs and further refine and perhaps expand our offerings.

Thomas J. Nussbaum, Chancellor

July 16, 1998

Page 3

 

While these are some of the activities that we have planned or discussed, they are not the only ones. Throughout our discussions we have been cognizant of the need to be able to demonstrate the impacts upon students. At the same time, we have been very concerned about assigning an arbitrary “number” or “rate increase” to any activity without much more discussion and thought. We believe our district does an excellent job already in producing graduates, preparing transfer-ready students, preparing students for employment, and other areas that can be identified. We have been able to do this providing extensive course offerings and significant institutional investment that many other colleges have not, or have not been able, to provide. The impact of PFE funding for an institution like ours will be significant, but may not appear as dramatic or immediate as it might at some other colleges. Yet, PFE funding for the Sonoma County Junior College District will allow us to have a material and measurable impact upon our institution.

We are more than willing to be held accountable for the use of PFE funding and to annually demonstrate how the funds were used, the intended outcomes, and the actual outcomes.

Sincerely,

 

Robert F. Agrella

Superintendent/President

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