Student Success at RCC

A report by the Public Policy Institute of California that says that within the California Community College system only 10 percent of students who intend to get a degree, and only 26 percent of those hoping to transfer, achieve their goals. With over 15,000 students attending Riverside City College Viewpoints decided to sit down with Daniel Castro, the college president, to see how RCC fared in relation to this report.

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By Joshua Duran

By Joshua Duran

A report by the Public Policy Institute of California that says that within the California Community College system only 10 percent of students who intend to get a degree, and only 26 percent of those hoping to transfer, achieve their goals. With over 15,000 students attending Riverside City College Viewpoints decided to sit down with Daniel Castro, the college president, to see how RCC fared in relation to this report.

Viewpoints: Castro, tell me what you think about the results of the report?

You know the report is something that’s needed because it needs to start spotlighting things I’m not sure if the conclusions or even the premises are right. It’s right for I think a situation that people have sort of concluded with. And that is that everyone that comes to community college has got to transfer. That’s not the truth, not by far. If we look at the old model, and that is that kids coming out of high school are going to come to school here, and most of them all aspire to transfer to the university. Our average age is 27. 17 to 27 tons of things happen in those ten years. The 17-year-old lives at home probably mom and dad bought them a car, work a couple of hours and they go to class taking a full load. The 27-year-old has probably got their own kids, a house payment, car payment, working full time if not two jobs. And were saying well they’re not transferring. Their intent is to just try and come to class. That’s the bottom line plus the fact that when they say that these kids aren’t transferring kids coming right out of high school if you’ve been gone for ten years how adept are you going to be to be able to jump into those classes to be able to transfer. How much technology has gone up? So when wee look at that I think it’s important for us to look at a couple of things. What are we measuring? Not we in this la la land of what we think it should be and I would even say that the universities aren’t doing that good of a job simply because we have a situation. They’ve got a 25 percent drop out rate their first year. Most of the kids at the four year institutions 25 percent of them are gone. So if that’s the case, and here’s another interesting fact, people have put this thing that we are to transfer students to the university right? More kids come from the university to us than we send them. It’s called reverse transfer. Why is that? Why are they coming to us? This is a phenomenon that people aren’t looking at. That’s a duty that we are performing. We are the catch when they slip through the cracks over there. They come to us and then they get themselves rebalanced and then they can go. That is the top four percent at the UC, the group that we are talking about. Now take the kid, student, that 27-year old that maybe didn’t graduate or has maybe been ten years away from high school. And when they were in high school they weren’t in the top four percent because they didn’t go to the UC and were supposed to be doing all this magic that the UC cant do? We are doing a fantastic job with the students that are coming to us. I would happen to say that I believe that most students coming here are coming here because they want to get a job and they want to get the skills. Now the surveys that we take all ask; do you want to transfer? That’s like me asking; do you want to be a millionaire? Heck yeah, I’m not going to say I want to be poor all my life. Do you really think that your going to be a millionaire? Nah not really but I’m not going to tell you that because I don’t want you to think that, whatever. So kid walks you on campus you say hey do you want to transfer? Sure I want to transfer. Their not going to say no I don’t want to transfer I just want to get a job so I can get a car. I got a kid to pay for. And I think that that’s the other thing that we are faltering with. This institution was set up to assist people to get better jobs and transfer if they could. I say transfer if they could, because remember the Cal State’s and the four year schools are four year institutions, why aren’t they taking the students themselves?

Viewpoints: You have said that you would like to focus more on vocational training but RCC has the slogan “RCC today University tomorrow” That seems to be conflicting statements between yourself and the college. What do you have to say about that?

I try to align myself with the students that are here. If I know that twenty-five percent of the kids, and that’s high, are going to transfer, and I got seventy-five percent of them that aren’t transferring, then I better be able to service those kids as well as the ones that are going to transfer. And if we look closer it’s probably more like thirteen percent that we are going to transfer out of here. And if we look at what the completion rate is I don’t think it’s even going to be that high. So if that’s the case, if I am the president of the students that are here should I only focus on that twenty-five percent or should I really focus on the entire population. That other population wants to come and they need to learn how to work a computer, maybe they are a nurse and they need to take some classes, maybe they are a welder and they want to get a certificate to do something else. Those are all very important elements of what we do. The other side of it is, and I’m going to be very candid, this economy couldn’t handle it if everyone had a B.A. Were still a system of having people that can compute, that can use a computer and stuff. They don’t all need a B.A. some of them just need to be able to get a job because they got three kids at home. And I don’t care what anybody says, your not going to be coming to school over your kids starving. That’s the real world. And if you look at this community, you’ve got those kids that can come here and then you’ve got those kids that the majority of them are not going to come. Fifty-two percent of the Inland Empire has never been to college. That will continue and that will mean that big industry will never come out here, because we don’t have an educated workforce.

Viewpoints: This report states that the older demographic will be declining in community colleges yet the State of California, Department of Finance, California Public Postsecondary Enrollment Projections, 2005 Series, Sacramento, California, January 2006 report it states that by the year 2014 there will be a 32 percent increase in community college enrollment comprised primarily of older workers returning to gain updated skills. Which report do you think more clearly outlines the future of our student population?

Remember when we get funded, we get funded on the percentage of new people coming into the adult population; 17 to 20 years old. Basically were getting funded by those people finishing high school if we want to use general terms. The higher that number is the more we get funded for. The children of the baby boomers are coming through that pipeline now. That number used to be (low) and now it’s starting to go (high) because the children are getting to be 27 and not 17. If we continue to be funded at that level, our population is going to be (high) and are funding is going to be (low). Why? Because now we got all the kids that are now 27 plus we have their parents. Who are over 65, and are from a generation that is very active and are going to return to school. We need to have a senior college if we are really going to meet their needs. Now let me ask you this: How many of those are going to transfer? Zero. So have we failed in our mission? If that person has been out there I’ve been a college president and I retire tomorrow and I decide I want to go back and take a class. Does that mean the system has failed me? Because I’m coming back to school because I want to learn how to paint. I want to do water color, whatever it is. But I’m a student here. So do we add that? You’re a failure because you didn’t do it.

Viewpoints: The report breaks down student into five classifications. Transfer students, vocational students, basic student (tha
t only take basic courses like ESL), non-credit students (students who just want to take enrichment classes) and miscellaneous students (students that take non transferable classes). Based on their classification you wouldn’t be considered a failure for taking a painting class.

But the report is saying that we are only transferring 27 percent to the university, right? I’m part of that 27 percent. I took a three unit watercolor class. You got to look. Across the top it looks one way, but if you start to drill down. If 75 percent of the kids that come here because they want to pick up (skills) so they can get a better job, so they can get a job. Or If I was retired if I came back because I wanted to learn a new trade or something. I want to go out and help in a hospital. I’m not really sure what to do in the hospital but I want to help. I’m going to come take some classes. Or I want to take care of my parents; I want to do elder care. I want to run a child care center. I come back here but I never plan on transferring. What am I going to go back to school for? Understand what that means. And the other thing is, if I ask you hey do you want to go to Harvard? (Yeah) Do you think your going to go to Harvard? Your never going to say no. It’s like on that survey, you’re never going to say, I don’t want to transfer. I think it’s misleading, because it’s like asking a student, are you dumb? No, I’m not dumb. You can’t do that. You really got to ask the real question. That question is would you like to transfer? Yeah. Are you taking the classes and how long do you think it’s going to take you to transfer? Because if you’re working full time how long is it going to take you just to get the A.A.? Three years, are you married? Do you have children? Add that on. How long do you think it’s going to take? Probably do the six-year plan. At the end of six years, do you think that your still going to say I’m going to transfer? Now your kids are six years older and your that much more, you know. We have got to look at what we do. Our, one of the big goals may not sit with everybody. Our main goal is to create a workforce for people that they can go get a job and feed their families. The university is doing what it’s got to do and yes we will supplement that, but I don’t think that that’s the main thing that we do. If that is the main thing that we do, then the whole way of thinking, let’s get rid of the vocational. What are we going to do then? Let’s get rid of the basic skills, we don’t need them.

Viewpoints: The report sites another study that shows an 8-10 percent increase in the earnings of workers who merely attended college.

Sure, but if you go by the hard premise that our task is to transfer students, then let’s scrap everything else. That’s not our job we got five things that we have to do. We’ve got to do lifelong learning, we’ve got to do transfer, we’ve got to do A.A. completion, and they need the remedial help and the vocational programs. Having those five things you really, really; we cant just concentrate on one of them, they are all important. But I think it’s kind of like people have got sort of a negative look at what you do in vocational programs. Vocational programs are helping people fee their families. That’s what we’re supposed to be about. Just because you have a BA that does not mean that you, you know. You may have to be able to come back and be a chef or whatever. The fact is that you have to at least be able to do the main things, whatever it is. That is to read, write and compute. If you can’t do those things then your going to be in trouble.

Viewpoints: What do you think about California Community college Chancellor Marshall Drummond saying that community colleges have a great front door but not a very good backdoor?

I think he speaks the truth. Look at it we have a great front door because we allow people to come in. How many people are graduating? That’s something we’ve got to look at, how many people are getting through the system. To be able to get what they need. Whether it be the AA degree whether it be that we’re transferring students or whether were just preparing them or training them for remedial, for ESL. Come on, we are nowhere close to that. Partially because some folks don’t believe that we should even be doing that. And you’ll see people say; well that’s the problems of the high schools and the elementaries. They should have fixed it. You know we could sit here and debate that who’s problem it is but those student are sitting on our doorstep. I take that back. They won’t even come to our doorstep because we have not been very friendly to them. If in fact we are going to be a community college, we need to start being friendly to everybody. Just not the 17 year old who just graduated from high school that wants to transfer to the university. That means that I may not teach what I want to teach. I may have to teach people how to read. I may have to figure out another delivery model because the one that’s working right now is not working. If in fact, if you were ford motor company folks, you’d be in trouble. Any business that has, if they built a hundred cars and only thirteen of them, or ten, sold how long do you think you’d be in business? And what that’s saying is, is that we have the potential to do a lot but we’d better figure out some other ways. Look at the basic skills programs. 90 percent of the kids that come to this school test into remedial. Where is the remedial building on this campus? Do we offer remedial classes here? What if I come to class here and I can’t read? You asked from a president’s standpoint. This is a question I got to ask all the time. Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing in terms of getting people to this school, or us going to the community and saying, what do you need and how best can we prepare you so that you can start turning this around? Because the reality is that if we don’t, technology is changing so fast, that what you learn today in five years is going to be outdated anyway. If we don’t teach people how to read, write and compute; they’re dead. Those three things have a limited impact on transfer. They have to have those if they want to transfer, but all the people that we need to get to, they need to pick that up before they can go onto the next step before they even consider transferring. We have to look at what we’re trying to accomplish.

Viewpoints: Despite the fact that there are many wonderful programs here at RCC there are several that are severely limited due to a lack of equipment or facilities. How can this report help the students that truly need the funding?

It comes down to, how we can afford to get that new equipment? Let me share something with you. Funding for the full-time equivalent student, FTE, is $5,346. That’s for the top. On this campus we’re going to be getting about $4,500. Given that, as I look at that right there, if I was a second grade student I would be getting how much? $7,000. If I was going to Cal State Los Angeles, $10,000. If I was going to UCR, $25,000. Now the top 11 percent go to the Cal State’s. The top 4 percent go to the UC’s. What percentage comes to us? Anybody that’s eighteen years of age. Meaning that whether they read write or whatever. And how much do we get? $4,500. I would be willing to say I would be happy if they would change us and call us all second graders and give me $3,000 more per student. So I could get those computers for you. It’s not happening. Those were the figures the state gave us. And they’re bragging about the fact that they got us up to $5,400. Look at what the UC’s get. UC’s got the top 4 percent. The brightest and the best are getting almost $20,000 more. We are getting the Cal works people and the people that can’t do anything because they’ve been out of school for 20 years. Who needs more money to be able to fix the problem? What’s the priority and how do people look at us? I think you look at how they fund us, and I’m very critical of the state legislature for that. You ask us to do this every time there’s a new initiative you don’t go throw it at somebod
y else. Oh, well your the workforce, you’ve got to build it. And the money’s not coming to us it’s going to the programs. We are the largest system of the three.

Viewpoints: This is why bureaucratically they have to pay us less. With 2.5 million part-time students, equivalent to 1 million full-time students, it would cost the state an incredible sum of money to fund community college student as well as the fund UC or Cal State students.

That depends on what you want to invest it on. If you want to invest it on trying to get this workforce up so that we could have, we could become the leader in the country and maybe the world in terms of productivity and technology. Right now we’re far from that. Why is that? Because we decided not to invest in that. The other thing is that if you want to do it, if you want to put people to work, which will help boost the economy, where are you going to get that from? The number of students that they graduate from the UC’s. Flip the coin on this thing. If you really want to jumpstart this system, the place to jumpstart it is at the community college level, get many people trained. You want to bring nanotechnology to Riverside County. They are not going to come right now. Half the county has never been to college. I’ll give you an example. Silicon Valley; everybody know what they did up there. They were going to expand that. They came to L.A. and I was part of that. I was there waiting saying we’re going to do this. They came and they looked and they went right past us and went to San Diego. Do you know why? We didn’t have an educated workforce. San Diego had more people with degrees over there. They said we don’t want to have to come back and retrain everybody to come to work here. So they went past us. They’re trying to address that right now in L.A. Who do you think is going to come out here? Biotech? You think genetic companies are going to come out here? You got to have scientists out here, people doing that. Look at what are we turning out here. If you ever want to be able to change the economy, and that means that this place becomes another Silicone Valley, what are you going to need? Silicone Valley and what do they have around there? They have Berkley and they have Stanford. They had those places community colleges turning out kids. They had a different attitude about it. Those people were willing to pump money into the schools. I’m saying hey, you know what? We need to look at a different way of doing that. We need to look at what our students are, and say how can we address these students? How can we help them get through this process? Without that we are using an outdated model.

Viewpoints: Drummond also said that “we are set up to deal with the student of the ’80s; the students of 2006 are not like those students. The students that come to us are not that well prepared and there is a wider diversity” What do you think of the current student population?

I would say that we are dealing with the people of the ’60s. Look at the technology that they are coming to us with. And you know the scary part-the technology that we’ve discovered in the last 70 years will double in the next 5 years. Ten years ago we never would have talked about the biggest reason to have accidents on the freeway was the telephone, right? Look at what they’re doing today with the fact that you have a tape recorder-this was unheard of in the ’60s. And yet we still want to teach the way we taught in the ’60s. Understand that the whole educational system in this country was built on an agrarian model, and I’ll explain this to you. We’re getting ready next semester for spring break. You know why we have spring break? It was time to plant the crops so they shut the schools down. You know why we have summer? So they could pick the crops. You’d want school in the harsh months cause there was nothing to do out in the fields. So we kept that model and we keep that model today and say “what are you talking about?” No one around here is going to work in the field and take spring break to go plant! “Oh we got to keep the system.” As bad as we are right now, we have to figure out how to keep kids in school every day.

Viewpoints: That would be a pretty radical change.

Let me explain it to you. Radical is nothing compared to what’s going on. That’s a radical change. The real question is what’s our task? To keep things on level keel, or to change radically so that we can move forward? Either we change or we die-there’s nothing static. I don’t care what anybody says. Nothing’s static. We’ve got to deal with that. And I’m saying, start looking around at to how we can bring around change. The fact is that the report said that we’re not doing a very good job right now, and I concur.

Viewpoints: You said that community colleges in California weren’t doing very well and we need to do better to maintain our status. How does RCC compare as far as the transfer rates and the degree completion rates?

We’re number 7 in the state as far as transfer rates-great.

Viewpoints: That’s out of how many?

110. Now, you want to ask me? I would say I’m not happy. We need to be number 1 if that’s one of the tasks we’re going to do. Cause once you get to that point that you’re satisfied with what you’ve done, you just lost your game. The biggest enemy of greatness; guess what it is?

Viewpoints: What is it?

Good. Cause once you think you’re good, you’ll never want to be great. People say “Wow, you’re 7 in terms of transfers!” Number 7 compared to what man! You understand that we’ve got more kids that never even complete! I want to see us-if that’s going to be our challenge-that we’re actually doing that. That becomes the question, and we as the educators have got to constantly put that. No, we’re not going to sit back and rest on our laurels and say “Oh we’re number 7 so we don’t have to do anymore.” Number 7 compared to what? We’ve already admitted that the systems not working in terms of transferring the kids that need to be there. So we got to change it. I believe that that’s the one thing that we sell on this campus is change. We have to sell change. You come to this campus, you can’t read, the bigger change that you make, the more that you read, the better grade you’re going to get, right? And you got a better grade because you did well-you changed. If you came in and you did nothing, you didn’t change how well you could read or do math, you get an F. We grade you on how much you change. And yet, I’ll use your quote, that’s a pretty radical change. What better way to say it? Maybe what we should be doing is shooting for C’s? Too radical a change? And I’m just saying, Come on folks, this is what school’s all about-being radical about changing and moving people. I don’t want to teach somebody something that’s going to get them a job today-we’re doing that. Because the reality is that if technology doubles in the next 5 years, what I taught them means in 3 years they’re going to be back saying “I lost my job because I don’t know the next level of what we’re doing.” What we need to do is train people for 20 years from now. I have no idea what kind of jobs will be out there. But I can tell you they’re going to have to be able to read, write, compute, and do critical thinking. I don’t care what job is out there, you’re going to need those 4 things. That is a task, and if that’s radical, then you know what, I think that’s our job. To be that person that is changing, that is trying to take you out of your comfort zone. “Oh I know how to read.” “Now, can I depend on you that you can read technical terms?” Do you want to have a paying job; do you want to be on the cutting edge, a great whatever that is? If not, you’ll be good? If you’re good, you’ll never be great. And my job is not to turn out good students; it’s to turn out great students. As crazy as that sounds, and a lot of people will disagree with me. They don’t have to do it if they don’t want to, but there’s not a lot of alternatives out there for people who do that, and that’s what really has got to happen. What the study says is true; I j
ust want people to understand that they’re measuring us against universities. How are we measuring whether we’re good or not? Whether we transfer, whether we go to the university. I would say, “let’s measure how many students come here, or maybe we should measure the university, how many reverse transfers they have.” But the scale is set, right there it tells you, who is the prize in the system? UC’s and Cal State’s. 2nd graders and us. These are statistics. This is the kid across the street. The 7th grader across the street is getting $3,000 more, they’re paying the school $3,000 more to train him than they are his parents. If his parents came here, we would get $3,000 less to train this student. My whole thing is that we have got to change; our task is the biggest task of all of them. If you were to ask who’s got the biggest challenge; top 4% go to UC, high school graduates. You don’t even have to graduate high school. We’re getting kids sent to us that can’t even read. If you’re going to compare us against UC’s, let’s see how much change we brought to the student, and how much you brought to them, and pay us per se.

Viewpoints: That would be an interesting way of looking at things.

I say use the NBA model; that’s how they let the NBA get the first choice; the team that has the worst record (or the biggest challenge) gets to pick the #1 draft. You said we need to change; you want to talk about radical change, get rid of spring break, summer … I do those because I’m saying we’ve got to figure out another delivery model.

Viewpoints: Do you have any plans, any ideas, anything solid that you’ve come up with or that the board has come up with?

I’ve got a lot of ideas that I think we want to do. One of them is we’ve already implemented short-term classes, 8-week classes; not everybody can live on 16 weeks, that’s the old premise. I’ll give you an example; there’s about 8-10% of kids that aren’t going to private colleges, community colleges, or online classes. Why are they paying $3,000 to take classes? Because they provide them with what they want. A fast, no-nonsense class to get in; you want a class at 3:00 in the morning? They offer a class at 3:00 in the morning. You want to take one class for four weeks in a row and it’s done? A different delivery model. We’re still back at “Well, this is what they do at K-12.” We’re not K-12, folks. Not even the UC’s do it, they’re on quarter system, but even that system has got to be looked at. So one of the things we’ve already done, is we’ve implemented short term classes, 8-week classes. Let’s say tomorrow we start semester; you’re coming to school and something happens and you have to quit. You’ve been in school for 2 weeks. I’m going to tell you “come back in 14 weeks and start again.” You ain’t coming back. You know why? Because you’ve got a job, you’ve probably bought a car; you’re not going to come back. But I can say “you’re going to come back next week, and I’m going to put you in the short-term class. We’re going to keep you here, and at the 8th week, we’ll put you in some more short-term classes.” We’re not going to break this up. You will then have a chance to stay here. Or you’re working, and I say “don’t worry about it, I’ve got classes on Sunday night, come take classes on Sunday night.” That’s very radical, people are going to think that’s nuts. Go to Chaffee College, all their classes on Sunday nights. Say “hey, we need classes at 5:00 in the morning.” “You’re crazy; nobody’s going to come at 5 in the morning.” If I’m on that freeway for 2 hours a day going to L.A. because I have to work, and I have to be on that freeway at 7, and there’s no classes here till 8, just look at the tons of people going back and forth. When they’re coming home, they’re not going to be home at 5:00 to come and take a class here. They’ll be home at 8:00, because they do have to go home and at least eat or do something, right? Take classes from 8-10, or 8-11; “Nobody will ever come to those.” You may not take them, but there’s a whole hell of a lot of people sitting on that freeway everyday, and guess what? If they don’t get something changed, they’re going to be stuck on that freeway for the rest of their lives. Four hours a day on that freeway. And I’m saying there’s got to be a different delivery model. We need to think about all the people we’re not attracting that need the jobs, and offer them some models. So, going back to your question, we’ve implemented the short-term classes, we’ve started working on learning communities, so that learning communities are basically…so if you’re going to take a cosmetology program, you probably should take a math class so that you’ll know how to run a small business, because ultimately, you’ll want to do that. Probably should take an English class that you don’t have to be reading the classics, but you’ll need to understand, and probably a computer class. So you have a learning community, and the interesting thing is, you won’t be reading about Shakespeare, you might be reading about some guy that created the new hair dye. Why? Because you’re keeping the kids interested. They’re willing to read about it because it’s something they’re interested in. “What the hell do I care about Shakespeare? I’m going to be working with hair.” You bring the community together, you build it around students. If I was doing something internal; what do you need to know about math? You may need to know a lot about math, but it has to be something that makes sense in the business you’re going to go into, so the teachers will sit down and say “OK, well we need to teach them math, or we need to teach this problem dealing with something they’re going to be doing.” The computers. What do I need computers for? Well, you know why you’ll need computers. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say “OK, I want you to type your paper on the computer, and you’re going to do this, and you’re going to talk about some writer that did a Pulitzer Prize.” “Wow, yeah, he’s doing the same thing!” You read Shakespeare, and say “oh, write a paper about Shakespeare…” It’s bringing the community together, so the kids’ interest is there. So we’re doing the learning communities; we’re reaching out to unserved populations that we have not in the past…

Viewpoints: How so?

School for the Deaf. We’ll be offering classes out there with them. We’ll be talking to some of the other agencies about going out there, and we’re going out there in the community and saying “what do you need?” “We need ESL classes.” OK, fine; maybe you don’t have the money to pay for that, we’ll do non-credit classes. Non-credit classes, if we can get them to believe that they can do good in school then, the next thing is, they’ll take the credit class. We’re trying to do stuff like that as well. We’re changing a lot of our vocational programs, making them more accessible. There are some programs we would like to do that I would like to see that are bilingual programs. Say you want to be a cosmetologist. Wouldn’t it be great if you take ESL, an English class, and Cosmetology, so at the end of the 1700 hours that you have to put in, you not only walk out of here knowing how to do cosmetology, but you also walk out of here having command of the language enough to go get a job someplace. Right now, the model is, you come learn English for 2 years, and then at the end of that, then you can get into one of these programs. I don’t have four years; I’ve got three kids I’ve got to support. So what am I going to do? Forget this program, I’ll go to ITT or someplace, and I don’t have any credit for it, and I’ve paid a lot of money, and I’m still not guaranteed that I’m going to have any. We need to start being able to offer that to folks.

Viewpoints: My first question here was actually about RCC keeping track of students’ success rates, but then I read this, and it says that the federal student right-to-know policy requires college students to collect that information. Do you know where I could get those statistics on transfer and…

Yeah, the state has put one out. There’s also an interesting situation.
We right now have the stats for the UC’s and the Cal State’s, and this is a new phenomenon, because until recently, you couldn’t do it because of the privacy act. We don’t know whether Cal Baptist and them because they’re not in that system. They can mandate the state system but they can’t mandate a private school. So we’re now gathering that information. Again, we go back to measuring one of the five things that we have to, because most people look at that as the only outcome. How many certificates do we give out? How many people complete programs here? How many people are getting an A.A. degree? A lot of people won’t get an A.A. degree. You’re going to transfer, a lot of people say “what do I need an A.A. degree for? I’ll just transfer.” Say you go to Harvard. How would we know you went to Harvard?

Viewpoints: You probably wouldn’t.

That’s right. Let’s say you went to school overseas, you went to Oxford; we’re having a hell of a time trying to find out what kids are going to school just within the state, just within community colleges, because tomorrow you’ll say “I don’t want to go here tomorrow, I want to go to Chaffee.” How would we know it? Is that looked at as a minus for us? “Well we lost another kid.” They transferred, they went to another school. That counts, they’re still in the system. So that whole tracking thing is now coming to be. I should tell you there’s some controversy with it. A lot of people are saying “hey, you’re infringing on people’s rights.” There’s a federal law right now…Spellings, right now, who is the head of education, that’s one of the primary things she’s trying to do. If she does that; there are people that are very concerned that we have a whole “right to know” issue there. And the other thing is that they’re using financial aid, that’s what they have been using. I don’t need financial aid, so what does that mean, you won’t find out about me? We’re tracking poor people is what we’re doing. Interesting. For every question, you raise another . If I go to school or if I don’t go to school or however I do it, how do you measure this? And I think that’s what’s important, how we’re measuring this, and who we’re being measured against.

Viewpoints: Is there anything else you want to get across?

I think the fact that kids are coming to us and they need remedial, we’re measuring them against what it was in the 60’s. Children today are exposed to so many more things than we were ever exposed to. When I was growing up, I didn’t have the Internet to be able to find out what was going on. I didn’t have…the ability to know what’s going on across the world. Something happens in Iraq today, within 5 minutes, I’ll know about it. That’s all so new. And yet, we’re measuring these kids and saying “they’re coming to us, and they don’t know what’s going on.” They know a hell of a lot more than I did when I was their age. So look at what we’re trying to do. Again, the task of a community college is very broad. My concern is if, in fact, you really, really, believe that we’re not doing that good of a job, then that’s a good reason to start giving us $25,000, let us do what we have to. Then measure us. But right now, we’re being measured and they’re saying “well you’re not transferring students.” UC’s aren’t transferring that many people either. They’ve got the top 4%, we’ve got the bottom 4%…it’s not fair. I’d be happy if they said “you can have the top 4% of the high school graduates in Riverside, we’ll give you $25,000 for each student, let’s see what you can do.” Wouldn’t that be fair?

Viewpoints: That would be an interesting proposition.

So, the report is good because it brings a spotlight to things. The report has got the things it needs to look at; it has been years since the president ever said “community college” in a presidential speech. This governor is doing it, so I’m saying “cool.” We have now become part of the system instead of being the stepchild. If you say “we never were,” baloney, we never were. A 7th grader is getting $3,000 more to train him than we got. Now you tell me: how important are we to this system? The problem that I see is one, what we were asked to do, two, how are we going to do it, and do I believe we’ll get the $25,000? No, I do not. But I sure believe that people have got to measure us on what we can do with limited resources and the population that we have. Again I go back to…to come to this school, you’ve got to be 18 years old and breathe. I didn’t say you have to read, I didn’t say you have to do math, I didn’t say you had to do anything. We can’t refuse anybody, and the door has to stay wide open. You go to a UC, they pick their 3,000 students, and they’re closed. “We’re closed; we don’t need no more students.” Have you ever seen us hang a sign on the door that says “No, we don’t need any more students”?

Viewpoints: No I haven’t.

What the hell are we then? The point I’m trying to make is; we’re a little Volkswagen…quit measuring us against the Maserati out there. Measure us for what we do and we do a hell of a job. Having said that, there’s no reason for us to stop. We will continue chasing that Maserati to prove that we are as capable of doing more magic with limited resources than some of our colleagues. And we can sit here and complain about “we got kids coming to us who can’t read…” Quit complaining. That’s like going to a hospital and there’s a doctor there saying “well this place is full of people that are sick.” That’s right, that’s why they’re at the hospital. If they weren’t sick, they wouldn’t be at the hospital. If they didn’t need some assistance, they wouldn’t be here. So let’s face that fact. We’ve also got to face the fact that how we’re doing today…that report says we’re not doing a good job. That report is really saying “Folks, it’s time to wake up, let’s start to change.” And it’s time to change radically. A lot of people won’t like that. A lot of people don’t want change. People like to get in that comfort zone. So as a student, if you like that comfort zone, you’ll be happy with a C. Right?

Viewpoints: Of course I wouldn’t.

Do you know where I’m going with this analogy? I’m saying we can’t be a “C” school. We’ve got to be an “A+” school. The kids that are coming to us need much, much more. And yes, we have to do things different, because that report is saying “What you’re doing right now, folks, is not cutting it.” And I’m saying “great!” That is the government telling us “we’re looking at you, and we don’t think you’re doing a good job.” And I’m saying “start changing some things, like funding us different, and things like that and we can do a better job.” But, then that goes back to the analogy I was using earlier. A lot of people are sick. “Well that’s not our fault, that’s the high school’s fault.” We’ve got to get over that, and my attitude is “I don’t care how much money they give us, we’re going to do the best we can, and we’re going to start turning kids out of here that are going to go out and reach their full potential.” Whatever it’s going to take…”radical change.” We’re running this school as an agricultural model in an information era. To me, it makes no sense. We’ve joked about it, and I’ve scared a lot of people by saying “I want to be the Home Depot of education.” “What do you mean?” If we have to be open 24 hours a day, we’re open 24 hours a day. “Nobody’s going to want to teach or come to school…” Maybe not you. But I’m sure there was people at Home Depot that said “nobody’s going to want to buy hardware at 2:00 in the morning.” There was a time when you could not get money on Saturday or Sunday because the banks were closed. Folks, those days are over with.

Viewpoints: Well, it is a 24-hour world.

That’s right. It’s a 24-hour world, and we want to teach classes from 8 to what? Right?

Viewpoints: What about night classes?

They’re so sparse. Most people in this community are able to take night classes. Are we teaching 80% of our classes at night? Nope. Are we teaching 80% of our class on the weekends? Nope. Most kids can’t take 17 units
, they’re glad if they can take 6 units. Why? Most students working have either got to come in the morning or come in the afternoon. And we can not make sure that “hey, if you’re going to come, let’s keep you here and try to get you a full load so that you can do it all in one so that you can go to work.” Because we know that you’ve still got to do homework, and you’ve still got to rejuvenate your body whether it’s working out, going to the movies, doing something. We’ve got to keep that, because if not, we’ll burn you out. 8 to 1. That’s all. If we have to offer classes at 5 in the morning so people that are driving that freeway can come take a class before they go, then that’s cool. Very radical. People think I’m nuts when I talk about this. We live in a different world, pal. However we used to do this, it’s not working. When I went to school, it was 8-2. Everything is indicating that we’re doing something wrong, and yet we don’t want to deal with it. So if that means radical change, then I guess I’m one of those wacky people. Because I believe that we’ve got to do something different. What we’re doing right now is not…we are not the greatest. We are a good school. Sure we’re #7, and my question when I looked at this was “#7? Why aren’t we #1?” “Well we could…” No, I don’t want to hear about what we could do. That’s our goal, and we can’t stop until we get to be #1. We can’t stop until we’ve got a remedial program going full-blast, 24 hours a day if that’s what it takes, to get people so they’ve got an opportunity to get an education, get a better job, do something with their family so that they an reach that 8-10%. I don’t care if they don’t get a degree; I just want them to be able to read. Because I know that if they can take one class, we have now broken the cycle, and they’ll probably stay in school, when we, at this point, can’t even get them to finish one class. If I can teach them to read, I’ve got a chance of keeping them. If they can’t read, we don’t offer programs. So what do we do? And we’re going to pay for them one way or another; I don’t care what anybody says. We’re going to pay for them; whether it’s here at the community college, or we’re going to pay for them through some other kind of institution. Because people are not going away. And they all talk about how the situation is getting worse, in terms of kids completing, being able to get jobs. People are not hiring people because they are a nice guy. Can you use a computer? Can you do this test? If not, I don’t need you. Military won’t take them. Military will not take people today if they do not have a high school diploma. There was a time when the military solved a lot of problems. Look at all the schools that are corporate schools. McDonald’s University in Chicago. Why? Because they want their people trained to be managers. How come we’re not doing it? Because you don’t teach people what we want them to buy. Motorola, there’s 1400 of them out there. But schools that are run by their own corporations?

Viewpoints: There’s also Northface University; Salt Lake City, Utah. They have one major, computer science, paid for and run privately by IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Sun Microsystems.

Why aren’t we doing it? That’s what I’m talking about. I’m not happy sitting back watching this thing happen. Because I happen to be privy to sit in a situation where I can either make it happen, or I can just sit back. And I will not sit back. I have to do something. It changed my life, and I’m going to make sure that I change some other peoples’ lives. If that’s not what people want, then that’s a whole different ballgame, but it won’t be because I threw in the towel. It will be because I continue to raise that question. I’m not happy being #7. I want to be #1. I’m not happy that we’ve got so many students here. I want to know how many we get out of here, not how many we’ve got in here. Because it’s not how many cars you start out with, it’s how many you’ve sold. Ford Motor Company did not say “Well we built 17,000 cars,” big deal…you’ve got 17,000 cars and 16,000 are still sitting on the lot. What is the outcome? How do we get people out of here? We’ve got a revolving door, people coming in, and we lose so many kids, and that’s the last thing we need to do. Everybody that comes here, we’ve got to make sure that they stay, and if they leave, they leave with what they came for. If all you want to do is learn how to use a computer, that’s cool, that’s what we’ll do. “I want to transfer to Harvard.” Cool, that’s what we do. We have so many kids that will come to the door, knock, and we’ll let them in, and then a year later, we’re looking for them…where’d those 6,000 students go? We could not hold the number of students if we just kept the number of students we lose every semester. You talk about problems we have, we wouldn’t have enough space for them. So, that’s the other issue. Every student is super important; we’ve got to make sure we keep them. And if they are going to leave, why did they leave and was it our fault? “You didn’t offer the right classes right now.” Well we’ll change that. “You don’t offer any ESL classes.” We’ll change that. It’s better than if I go to Chaffee because they’ve got new computers for their journalism program. We’ve got to change that. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing? People around here will vote with their feet. When they’re going to other schools, when they’re going to the DeVrey’s and they’re going to Phoenix, we’ve got a problem. There was a time when there was no other schools, and that’s the reality we’re faced with right now. There are other alternatives. We still want to act like we’re the only game in town; get over it. We’re not the only game in town, and we’ve got to quit acting like it.

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