City College students defy Student Success Task Force’s definition of success

By Brian Rinker, Lulu Orozco, and Sara Bloomberg

The Guardsman

Looking to Update his Education: Glen Peckman

Glen Peckman talks about his experience at City College. SARA BLOOMBERG/THE GUARDSMAN






Task Force
Recommendation 3.1
The Community Colleges will adopt system-wide enrollment priorities that: (1) reflect the core mission of transfer, career technical education and basic skills development: (2) encourage students to identify their education objective and follow a prescribed path most likely to lead to success: (3) ensure access and the opportunity for success for new students: and (4) incentivize students to make progress toward their educational goal.

Professionals in all fields are finding they need to constantly update their skills in order to remain desirable to employers, but under section 4.1 of the Student Success Task Force draft report it may become harder for people to obtain the certificate that would best meet their needs.

With a degree in fine arts from Washington University and 30 years of experience as a successful textile designer, Glen Peckman, 54, decided it was time for a career change.

A resident of San Francisco for 20 years, Peckman enrolled this semester in an introductory graphic design class to learn the basics of Adobe CS5, a software package that includes Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash.

“Because of the way the economy has been, I think a lot of people are in situations that they never expected,” said Peckman, reflecting on his own experience.
He explained that as the economy tanked, he began to lose many independent contracts from big clients, forcing him to reevaluate his options. He was worried not only for himself but about providing for his 15-year-old daughter Georgia as well.

This semester, he is only taking one class but is seriously considering pursuing a graphic design certificate in the near future. However, he may take next semester off to explore the field on his own.

But Peckman has not enrolled in a program major, and has no plan to transfer, so if the Task Force’s proposals are adopted, he would be required to pay out-of-state tuition for his classes.

“For someone like myself who has all this experience in certain ways in working creatively, I don’t know if another class right away would be good.” Then he added, “I am considering maybe some certification. Whatever it is, it would be on a more artistic kinda thing,” such as graphic design or digital illustration, both highly-creative and highly-marketable skills.

He was uncertain about attending City College at first, but has come to appreciate what the school offers.

“I’m pretty impressed [with City College]. It seems to be offering a diverse array of courses and certifications and degrees, even in light of the economy and budget concerns,” he said.

–Sara Bloomberg


The Lifelong Student: Dave Whitaker

"Diamond" Dave Whitaker talks about his experience at City College. BRIAN RINKER/THE GUARDSMAN

Task Force

Recommendation 4.1

Community Colleges will use aggregated data from students’ programs of study, along with state and local data, including enrollment trends, and labor market demand to develop course schedules and determine course offerings.


On his way to an Associated Student meeting, “Diamond” Dave Whitaker couldn’t walk a few feet down the hall of the Student Union without getting distracted.

Wearing a faded flannel shirt, blue jeans, hi-top sneakers and a ragged knitted hat on top of a full head of unkempt hair, the 74-year-old City College student was either talking politics with his classmates or stopping to give a paternal hug to a young lady. A student gently pats Whitaker on the shoulder, handing him a cup of coffee with a shot of espresso and three sugars.

He is a revered and iconic figure here on campus.

But Whitaker knows his 6-year-run at City College might soon come to an end — if the Student Success Task Force gets its way.

The Task Force is recommending legislation to overhaul the community college system by prioritizing transfer students and leveraging state funding as incentives to help streamline this process.

A senior citizen on social security, with no approved educational plan and no desire for transfer, Whitaker doesn’t fit the mold of what the Task Force deems a “successful student.”

“These recommendations would essentially change the community colleges into junior colleges or 2-year transfer schools,” said Whitaker. “Those who will be hurt the most by these changes will be older people, single mothers and returning students.”

As the state budget crisis continues to threaten economic and social stability, state administrators often look to public higher education. By slashing funding, increasing tuition fees and downsizing employees, the state tries to balance the budget deficit.

But budget cuts and increased tuition and parking fees make it difficult to attend college. And jobs are hard to come by. California unemployment is at 11.5 percent, and that’s not counting underemployed or underpaid workers.

“Does the task force really believe things are going to get better?” asks Whitaker. “Why should we be speeding students through college to a job that doesn’t exist?”
For people like Whitaker, community college is for the community and education is for the individual, and both contribute to a higher quality of life.
“City College is my micro world — my community,” said Whitaker. “I hope to share my many years of experience.”

When he’s not taking classes or fulfilling the obligations of an Associated Student senator, Whitaker spends his free time staffing the info desk at Occupy San Francisco or reading poetry at a local café.

Whitaker said he’s not worried about himself if the Task Force does get its way.

“I’m flexible. I’ll be doing just fine regardless,” he said.

What about the rest of us?

–Brian Rinker


The Undeclared Major: Jason Cohen




Jason Cohen talks about his experience at City College. BRIAN RINKER/THE GUARDSMAN
Task Force
Recommendation 2.2
Require all incoming community college students to: (1) participate in (a) diagnostic assessment and (b) orientation, and (2) develop an education plan.
Recommendation 2.4
Require students whose diagnostic assessments show a lack of readiness for college to participate in a support resource, such as a student success course, learning community, or other sustained intervention, provided by the college for new students.

Jason Cohen returned to City College last spring after a 15 year hiatus, with an undeclared major he may become subject to out-of-state fees, due to recommendations from the Student Success Task Force.

Recommendations 2.2 and 2.4 would require students to participate in a diagnostic assessment, orientation and development of an educational plan.  In other words students who do not have a chosen major, aimed at a transfer or certificate program, would have to pay out of state fees if taking classes out of their chosen field.

In state enrollment fees are at a small $36 per unit, while Non-California residents pay an increased amount of $187 fee per unit, not to mention an additional $36 enrollment fee per unit.

“It’s easy to just take a class here to ease myself into the process of things,” said Cohen “I probably wouldn’t take a class if I had to pay out of state tuition again.”

He said that it was the structure of the school,  that made him able to take one class at a time, making it easier for him.  If the Task Force was in affect then , he would of been put on an educational plan and not been allowed to do this.

A native from Phillidalphia, Cohen had to pay out of state fees during his first semester at City College until he became a California resident, saying “ I became a state student because I knew tuition would be cheaper.”

Hundreds of students come into City College with an undeclared major and know what classes they want to enroll in based on their primary interests which they use to figure out what they’re truly passionate about and what their career path should be.

Yet priority enrollment will only consider those who have a chosen major which will force students to choose only one path with uncertainty.

Although Cohen has an undeclared major, he plans to pursue a degree in English, take on personal enrichment classes in Art and he plans to transfer to a four year university.

If the Task Force were in effect, Cohen would have to declare English as his major, and therefor pay out of state tuition for his enrichment art class.

The Task Force declares that they’re making these changes to ensure student’s success but their measure of success if based on gaining credits to be able to find a job or start your career.

Cohen says, “I didn’t go to college for a long time, I’m just excited to be back in school.  Success for me is just to be in school.”

–Lulu Orozco


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