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Delta, other colleges focus attention on first-time students

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Posted: Saturday, January 14, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:51 am, Sat Jan 14, 2012.

In an effort to increase the number of student degree-earners and transfers into California universities, the leaders of the state's community colleges recently endorsed 22 proposals for campus policy changes.

Backed by the state-appointed Student Success Task Force, the recommendations include: Prioritizing registration for first-time students and those advancing towards their academic goals; a higher focus on degreeand transfer-requirement courses; and more intensive tracking of academic progress.

And at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, steps are already being taken towards these ends.

"It's a very positive move because it gives first priority to students who are going to college," Delta President Jeff Marsee said of the new recommendations. "If the students have a goal clearly stated, and if the courses they're taking are effectively taking them to that goal, the likelihood of them succeeding and graduating will be higher. We endorse that concept."

In particular, Delta is looking to strengthen its early evaluation of incoming classes.

By this spring, Marsee hopes to instill a math skills assessment for current 10th-grade high school students in Delta's Passport to College program. Citing Alegbra I and Geometry as two of the biggest "gatekeeper" courses to a higher education, Marsee wants to make sure incoming students are showing proficiency for their grade level — and if not, to give opportunities for supplementary education in the subjects.

The new plan is part of a larger goal to increase collaboration with local high schools, in order to better prepare students overall.

"Our current way of business isn't working," Marsee said. "Community colleges have been waiting for many students to prepare when they arrive. One of the fallouts from this is that high schools may be held to a higher level of accountability in terms of how the students are doing."

Though the task force's proposals had raised initial concerns about funding being compromised for adult and life-long learning programs, Marsee believes that student graduation and transfer progress has to take priority in a time of decreased government funding.

"In times when state is having financial difficulties, the environment for life-long learning has to be re-evaluated," he said. "Obviously, (during) times where there are adequate funds, it would be wonderful ... but those days are not now."

Marsee doesn't believe the new prioritization recommendations would restrict equal access for lower-income students — noting that progress would "not be determined by how fast or how many credits per semester a student completes the course work, only if courses are passed when taken and/or not retaken."

Contact reporter Ed Yevelev at edy@lodinews.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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