The future of community college


Jesse Sutterley

Chancellor Harris address an audience of 4CDLI and DVC staff in Martinez about the challenges still facing the Community College System on Dec 8

Jesse Sutterley, News editor

In his final year as chancellor of the California Community College District, Dr. Brice W. Harris is still working tirelessly to find the shortcomings in the Community College System. In a lecture hosted by the Community College of California Leadership Imitative (4CDLI). Harris covered the challenges facing the system and how they are faring.

The room was packed with 150 staff members from across the Contra Costa Community College District and the lecture was live streamed for those that could not attend.

Helen Benjamin, who is in her eleventh year as the Chancellor for the Contra Costa District, introduced Harris and said he has “set us on a path to righteousness.”

Harris began the lecture by discussing his optimistic outlook on the challenges that have been facing the Community College system since he has been at his position. “This system is really a quite healthy one, in spite of the challenges we face. We now enroll about 2.1 million students, and thankfully that number is up over last year,” Harris told the group. Harris also noted that the numbers have steadily risen since the economic crash in 2010 and 2011.

“From our high water mark back in 2008-09 at about 2.6 million students, down to lower than 2.1 million students, was really a tragedy for all of us at community colleges,” Harris said.”We got in this work because we believe in open access. If someone wants to benefit from an education, there ought be a place for them to go.”

Making a point to talk about the necessity for a diverse teaching staff, he said, “A diverse faculty is a leader in success.” Harris also pointed out that the teaching staff will not be able to fully catch up with the diversity of the student body due to the higher rates of diversity in the K-12 student body.

He believes that hiring someone based on their ability to effectively work with students from all different backgrounds should be a high priority.

However, Harris made sure to end the lecture on a high note as he spoke of the success coming from Skill Builder Indicator. Harris mentioned that in the past two weeks, a group working on a project developed a new tool to help make students become more successful. The data capture by the indicator is about 70 percent of the entire student population in California and 90 percent of the courses that are offered by community colleges.

That leaves 30 percent of students outside the scorecard, and up until now they have all been considered failures.

Those from the 30 percent that fit into the criteria for a Skill Builder program were students that were not seeking a degree or a certificate for transfer. They are generally older and in the workforce and are usually taking one or two Career Tech courses.

Harris said, “What they found were 92,000 students that fit the bill and the average wage gain for taking one or two courses was 4,500. That’s a 420 million plus shot into the California economy.”

Harris thanked the audience for attending, and told them that it’s “people like you who attend these leadership events that are shaping the future of California.”