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Last Updated: 2/16/2011
Budget Issue: Funding and flexibility for credit basic-skills instruction
Program: California Community Colleges
Finding or Recommendation: Recommend the Legislature reduce the funding rate for credit basic-skills instruction to the same rate provided for noncredit basic skills, for state savings of about $125 million in 2011-12. Provide more flexibility by permitting colleges to (1) hire basic-skills instructors possessing a bachelor's degree or higher, as well as to (2) contract out basic-skills instruction to a third party.
Further Detail

Basic Skills Can Be Credit or Noncredit. Basic-skills education refers to courses designed for CCC students who lack proficiency in college-level math and English. Basic-skills courses can be either credit or noncredit. Unlike credit courses, students taking noncredit basic-skills courses do not receive grades and are typically permitted to join or leave a class at any time during the semester. (Adult education in the K-12 system is the equivalent of noncredit instruction at CCC.) Despite the name, students taking credit basic-skills courses do not receive college credit. That is, units for these courses do not count toward an associate's degree, and are not transferable to UC or CSU. 

Two Funding Rates for Basic Skills. Under current law, the state provides colleges about $3,250 per full-time equivalent student (FTES) for noncredit basic-skills classes, and about $4,600 per FTES for credit basic-skills courses. This credit funding rate is the same rate that colleges receive for college-level credit courses (such as lower-division transfer instruction and degree-applicable vocational education).

Different Minimum Qualification for Credit, Noncredit Basic-Skills Faculty. Community college regulations generally require faculty to possess at least a master's degree in order to teach a credit course (with exceptions made for certain vocational disciplines).  Thus, for example, a math instructor must hold a master's degree in math, even if he or she is assigned to teach precollegiate classes (such as basic arithmetic) to underprepared CCC students. Faculty teaching noncredit classes, on the other hand, require only a bachelor's degree. Despite this difference, noncredit basic-skills instructors generally teach the same subject matter to students (such as arithmetic, algebra, precollegiate reading and writing, and English-as-a-second-language classes) as their counterparts who teach credit basic skills.

Recommend New Funding Rate, Flexibility for Credit Basic Skills. In order to achieve General Fund savings and give more flexibility to colleges, the Legislature could reduce the funding rate for credit basic-skills instruction to the same rate provided for noncredit basic skills. This would generate about $125 million in savings in 2011-12. In addition, legislation could permit colleges to hire credit basic-skills instructors possessing a bachelor's degree or higher -- just as CCC regulations already allow for faculty teaching noncredit basic skills. Colleges also could be permitted to contract out basic-skills instruction to a third party, such as a community-based organization or local library. Under this approach, credit basic-skills courses would continue to be classified as credit; only the funding rate would change to the noncredit basic-skills level.