By Josephine Clay
City College has a plan to retain students through spring 2024 and future semesters using various marketing and outreach tactics, but concerns have been raised that there aren’t enough classes to meet student needs.
The spring 2024 schedule became available Nov. 13, and registration will begin as early as Nov. 27, according to a Nov. 8 CityNotes email.
CityNotes are bi-weekly emails produced by the Office of Marketing and Public Information, according to their page on the City College website. The distribution of information about the college and updates such as those provided in CityNotes are part of a larger effort to “increase student retention and enrollment rates,” according to the initial Student Outreach and Retention plan in the June 22 chancellor’s report.
The plan was created as directed in the Retention and Enrollment Outreach Resolution, which members of the Board of Trustees submitted May 30. The Office of Outreach Services was specifically tasked with launching the campaign, according to the resolution. There hasn’t been a Marketing Director since at least May 2022, according to the resolution. Other ideas in the plan include virtual tours, hosting more on-campus events, amping up digital and traditional marketing, hiring a coordinator for the Student Ambassador program, and providing students funding for basic needs like food and transportation.
The college maintains and regularly updates several social media accounts such as its Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to share college events and goings-on. It also created a YouTube channel called CCSFOutreachRecruitment to offer a virtual tour of Ocean campus.
City College has also sent out postcards to San Francisco residents. The postcard cover art, designed by visual media design student Cherilin Kipke, is colorful and features digital illustrations with a hand-drawn look. It outlines the journey that begins with applying to City College to earning a degree or certificate, transferring to a university, or learning something new by the end. The back of the card includes information in English, Spanish, and Chinese about the college’s various centers, what the college offers, and a QR code linking to the college’s welcome page. In addition to these marketing efforts, a Student Retention and Recruitment Task Force was created to “develop recommendations specific to areas identified” in the resolution and has already begun meeting, according to the Oct. 26 chancellor’s report.
According to the resolution, the college had $2.7 million remaining from $2.9 million offered by the State of California “in the year ending June 30, 2022” for the purpose of enrollment and retention. The state also gave City College a portion of “$26.7 million in retention and enrollment categorical funds” for the year ending June 2023.
The goals of the resolution were to spend the money “on a robust enrollment campaign” carried out by the Office of Outreach Services that might include efforts such as working with a firm for marketing, connecting community organizations with CCSF departments, and mailing out schedules and postcards.
Despite efforts made, the chancellor could not be reached for comment.
Marilyn, a second-year chemistry major, agreed to answer some questions on Nov. 13 under the condition her last name was left out.
She said she wasn’t aware of what classes were being offered for the spring, but she remembered seeing a date “in an email, maybe from CityNotes or some other college email.” When asked what marketing she has seen, she said, “I suppose there hasn’t been as much in-person ads.” But she added that it was important to remember classes had been primarily online not long ago.
She said she did not think there had been a significant decrease in ads or marketing from the college.
She said, however, that hanging posters up in buildings like Rosenberg Library with dates for when classes could be viewed and registered for along with a link or QR code would be helpful. Malaika Finkelstein, an instructor at Mission Center, shared her thoughts at the June 22 Board of Trustees meeting about the initial Student Outreach and Retention plan during a public comment segment.
“It’s a plan. Unfortunately, it’s not a very good one,” she said. “[Chancellor David Martin] lists some good ideas. But they won’t work. And they won’t work because one crucial piece is missing.” That piece, according to Finkelstein, is classes.
She added, “He left out classes, he left out libraries, and he left out counseling. The things that require faculty.”
Via email correspondence on Nov. 13, Finkelstein said she stood by what she said at the meeting. “To be fair,” she added, “the District has added credit classes to the schedule in spring 2024. But the number of non-credit sections has only increased by one.”
“In Fall 2023, the English department had so much demand that even the waiting lists were full,” she said. “Every credit student in the college needs English. When students can’t get their required English classes, they might just drop out of school completely. And although there are credit classes added to the schedule, there’s nothing at all added in English.”
She said adding English classes would require bringing back faculty that had been laid off. Several other departments impacted by the layoff include business, broadcast electronic media arts, physics, chemistry, biotech, and French, according to Finkelstein.
And although the chancellor was directed by the Board of Trustees to bring back all full-time faculty that were laid off, “he has brought back a grand total of zero full-time faculty,” she said. According to the July 23 Board of Trustees meeting, laid off full-time faculty are meant to be rehired “in the subsequent semesters without delay through summer 2024.”
At the end of her email, Finkelstein said, “Outreach is clearly necessary. But if there are no classes, outreach doesn’t work.”