By Sonny Tapia
California Community College Chancellor Eloy Oakley believes that online courses will be normal until 2024.
Oakley discussed enrollment and efforts being made by the community college system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health and safety of students and faculty remains the focus of Oakley and his office during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that the students and faculty will not return to campus until it is safe to do so and in accordance with the regulations set by each county.
“Colleges and districts should be prepared for an extended period of time educating like this,” Oakley said.
California community colleges experienced a 5% to 7% enrollment drop since the start of the fall semester. Although, during the summer, colleges experienced more enrollments due to shortened class periods according to Oakley.
Oakley said that the enrollment gap is closing, even though the chancellor’s office will not know the exact percentage until 2021.
“A lot of students picked up credits and courses that they could not in spring. The fall enrollment is much softer, but I am sure the gap will close with time,” Oakley said.
The chancellor’s office said that expects a rise in enrollment when adult courses, late-start courses and intertwined courses with high schoolers transitioning to college begin.
Oakley stressed the importance of voting during the primary election to help the country and the international students in need of help from the government.
The chancellor’s office created a partnership with the Student Senate of California Community Colleges to create a program to help students register to vote.
The SSCCC has sent out emails and text messages to students that are in need of help and to inform them about the importance of voting.
The SSCCC has created another program with Secretary of State Alex Padilla in order to reach students more directly to make sure they are registered to vote by Nov. 3.
Oakley considers this to be a big deal because President Donald Trump has been talking about a new plan for international students.
Trump’s new plan would cut students’ travel visas off at four years and would be cut to two years depending on what country the students come from.
If students are from one of 43 countries, including Nigeria, Iraq, Ethiopia and the Philippeans, they would be given only two years on their visas.
Trump is also limiting students to two years from nations deemed by Trump to be terrorist supporters: which are Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan.
The chancellor’s office has initiated a “Stay Enrolled” campaign that helps students and faculty receive the help that they need to continue to stay enrolled in their courses.
Oakley has been able to keep colleges within the California community held harmless. Oakley said that harmless means that the colleges and districts will receive the same amount of resources and funding that they had before the enrollment decline.
Full-time instructors are also protected under the held harmless initiative, but part-time instructors are not. “Part-time instructors may see a reduction in load, due to the move to online teaching,” Oakley said.
Extended Opportunity Programs and Services students and Diversabilities Support Program and Services (DSP&S) students have been a key part to the “Stay Enrolled” campaign according to Oakley.
Through this campaign each district throughout California has received information, directly from students who use these services, for their districts to properly assess their needs through this pandemic and shift.
The Los Angeles Community College District has made several opportunities available to students in EOPS and DSP&S.
The staff involved with the two programs reaches out to students that are in the programs directly through email to find out what the specific needs of the students are.
The emails contain surveys and questionnaires for the students to discuss any issues the students are having in classes or at home.
“Our staff reaches out to our DSP&S and EOPS students by making phone calls to students and sending announcements via email. We also send out surveys to find out their needs and to find out if they are having any struggles.”
“They receive emails from both programs on a regular basis,” Associate Dean of DSP&S and EOPS Graciela Hernandez said.
The programs have made adjustments to the qualifications for acceptance by lowering the numbers of credits required. Before the number of units required were 12.
However, students may now be accepted if they are enrolled in nine units.
Another adjustment to EOPS and DSP&S is that the appointments with workers and students are longer, to provide more service to the students with technology difficulties.
Hernandez said that students in these programs had to work harder to keep their grades up because of the shift and online content. She said that the students will be receiving calls and help from hired interns to keep them engaged in the learning process.
“They are resilient and I couldn’t be more proud of them for staying strong and continuing their education.
“They struggle, but with the help from these programs, they have managed to adapt and they have persevered,” Hernandez said.
EOPS students are given book vouchers as a part of the program, along with information and help to sign them up with resources like the CARES Act.
The funding that was provided and distributed to colleges and universities through the CARES Act was based on how many students were enrolled full-time.
Oakley said that we were short changed as a college system compared to other private universities, so the chancellor’s office created a presence in Washington D.C.
It is pushing for the next government payment to be distributed accurately based on head count and not full-time enrollment.
“We continue to encourage our students to email and mail letters to their local officials in order to push for more funding,” Oakley said.
Along with funding, the system is also pushing the state government for more flexibility with grading and getting into courses students need.