Image courtesy of the San Francisco Examiner

When have you gone to a restaurant and had to pay before you even got to taste your meal? You don’t show up to work and leave after an hour but still get paid for eight. If such a job does exist then I’ll give up writing.

Currently, California Community Colleges (CCC) are provided state funding based on the amount of students enrolled. That sounds great and all, but this census is being taken at the 20 percent mark of the semester—well before the dropout deadline to avoid a mark on a student’s transcripts. Students are being counted as enrolled for funding and then dropping out later. Governor Jerry Brown’s new budget proposal will require the census to be taken after the completion of a term rather than the beginning of one. So tell me, if you refuse to pay for food before tasting it why should the government be funding students who aren’t even in their seats?

Opponents are worried that this would lead to looser standards of grading and teaching in order to keep students from dropping out. Rather than being worried about a lack of teaching quality, maybe our teachers should focus on teaching styles that keep students in the classroom and challenge them to do better at the same time.

Other detractors dismiss Gov. Brown’s new proposal as coming aloft from an ivory tower. Really? All Gov. Brown wants to do is to get what the budget is paying for. What’s the point in using taxpayer money to fund schools when the students just drop out? Community colleges need to focus on the students enrolled and keep them determined to get an education for themselves.

Those who dispute the proposal need to quit focusing on what they think this policy will cause and look at how policy is working in the present. Sacramento’s Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy (SIHELP) released a report stating that the current system is only focusing on enrollment, not graduation, asserting, “Current finance policy places disproportionate emphasis on the front end of a student’s college pathway: we are buying college enrollments but not college completion.” For too long the CCC has just focused on students as cattle, urging them into their seats in order to receive funding and then not caring if they wander out to pasture.

Organizations like SIHELP have devised plans to keep students from dropping out so that everyone will benefit from the census occurring at the the end of the year. CCCs are worried that disadvantaged and underprepared students will drop out so they will not get appropriate funding at the end of the year. But the government could start giving bonus funding for said students who do complete, something SIHELP has proposed. These same students would also be given more chances for financial aid provided they complete their courses.

For too long community colleges have been fine with just “getting by.” A statewide Student Success Task Force took action in 2011 and reported that only 41 percent of community college students had success in transferring to a four-year university. If Gov. Brown’s proposal goes through, community colleges will be forced to keep students in the classroom through a better quality of teaching, which will only raise this number to a higher level. This isn’t baseball where hitting .400 is something to be proud of. This is higher education. It’s time for community colleges to get on par with their four-year university brethren.

Gov. Brown’s new proposal is giving CCCs an opportunity to create a new era of teaching. Opponents need to see this proposal as a challenge to create a better community college system. We must stop looking at students as dollar signs and focus on creating a better education for them. If colleges are held more accountable for keeping students in the classroom, only good will come from it.