2009-10 Budget Analysis Series: Higher Education

Changing CCC Funding Levels for Lower–Priority Credit Coursework

State Law Sets Educational Priorities for CCC System. The state’s Master Plan for Higher Education and existing statute charge the community colleges with carrying out a number of educational missions. Figure 18 summarizes those responsibilities. As the figure shows, the state has established a hierarchy that prioritizes the roles of the CCC system. The core mission of the community colleges is to provide academic and occupational programs at the lower–division (freshman and sophomore) level. Other key missions include providing opportunities for workers to update their job skills (such as by taking a computer class) and offering precollegiate basic skills instruction. In addition, the state allows CCC to perform two activities on a conditional basis if funding is available: offer community services courses (such as Art Appreciation and Pilates classes) and conduct research on student success.

Figure 18

California Community Colleges
Statutory Missions and Functions


Core Mission—Education Code Section 66010.4(a)(1)

“Offer academic and vocational instruction at the lower-division level.”

Other Missions and Functions—Education Code Section 66010.4(a)(2)

“A primary mission.”

  • Provide education, training, and services that help to continuously improve California’s workforce.

“Essential and important functions.”

  • Provide remedial education for those in need of it.
  • Provide instruction in English as a second language.
  • Provide adult non-credit education in areas defined as being in the state’s interest.

“Authorized function” to the extent it does not reduce CCC’s ability to fulfill its main missions.

  • Provide community services courses and programs.

“Permitted activity to the extent that state funding is provided.”

  • Conduct research on student learning and retention.

Two Funding Rates for Noncredit Instruction. Community college courses can be either for credit or noncredit. Noncredit instruction, which is the equivalent of K–12’s adult education program, does not assign grades, and students are typically permitted to join or leave a class at any point in the term. The state provides two rates of noncredit instruction: about $3,250 per FTE student for courses that advance career development and college preparation (defined to include programs such as short–term vocational coursework and English–as–a–second–language classes), and $2,750 per FTE student for regular noncredit courses (such as home economics and fitness classes for older adults).

Credit Courses Vary Significantly, Yet Receive the Same Funding Rate. The vast majority (over 90 percent) of CCC courses are categorized as for credit. There are several different types of credit instruction. Some credit courses (such as calculus) are transferable to a four–year institution, while others (such as basic arithmetic) do not even count toward an associate’s degree. Some credit courses (such as welding) are designed to train students for a trade, while others (such as golf and tennis) are primarily for students’ personal enjoyment. Notwithstanding these differences, all credit courses receive the same per–student funding rate (about $4,600 per FTE student in 2008–09).

Recreational Courses Are Popular at Community Colleges. The CCC system provides a variety of recreational courses to students. Credit physical education courses accounted for about 65,000 FTE students in 2007–08, or over 5 percent of total credit enrollment. (Although these courses are designed primarily for personal enrichment, some four–year institutions such as CSU allow students to apply one CCC unit of physical education toward a bachelor’s degree.) In addition, the system served about 3,000 FTE students in credit courses that are neither transferable to four–year institutions, nor vocational, nor precollegiate basic skills. Figure 19 includes examples of such courses.

Figure 19

Examples of Credit Recreational Courses at
California Community Colleges


Physical Education

Other Personal Enrichment Instruction

Aerobic Exercise

Birds of Southern California


Broadway Tap Dance


Introduction to Ceramics

Weight Training

Painting for Pleasure


Recording Your Autobiography

Recommend New Funding Rate for Lower–Priority Credit Enrollment. All CCC courses can be of value to students. Given resource limitations, however, the Legislature has established priorities for the CCC system that emphasize developing basic skills (such as communicating in English) and preparing students for professional careers. Given the state’s fiscal condition, it is more important than ever to ensure that available resources are put to their highest use. We recommend, therefore, that the Legislature reflect its priorities in the way it funds CCC classes. Specifically, we recommend the Legislature reduce the funding for credit–bearing physical education courses and other enrichment classes to the regular noncredit rate. (Our recommendation excludes “adaptive physical education” courses, which are designed for individuals with physical disabilities.) Under our recommendation, these courses would continue to be classified as credit; only the funding rate would change. This action would result in savings to the state of up to $120 million in 2009–10.

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