Traditionally, students have chosen courses with little or no guidance, which critics say has led to a high dropout rate and low transfer rate, particularly for students with language difficulties or learning deficiencies. It includes $21 million to pay for a computer network to help track students' progress, expand counseling staffs and develop other diagnostic tools.
The bill also would restore $34 million vetoed by Gov. George Deukmejian in June to assist college districts with declining enrollments. Included in that amount is $11.6 million for the Los Angeles community colleges.
In an interview, Chancellor Smith said a statewide assessment program would be "a very key first step" in improving students' chances of succeeding in a community college, but he said the Campbell-Seymour bill did not provide anywhere near the $50 million a year he estimated a counseling and placement system would cost.
Smith also said that many districts that have experienced sudden enrollment losses "desperately need" the $34 million that the bill also would provide. Twelve of the state's 70 community college districts had been expecting to receive amounts ranging from $350,000 to more than $11 million, and had included the money in their budgets for the coming school year before Deukmejian's veto.
Question of Money
A Deukmejian spokesman said Thursday that the governor intended all along to provide the $34 million, but the question remains over where the money would come from. Deukmejian's plan, which is meeting resistance in the Legislature, is to take the money from a surplus in the state employees' pension fund.
Without those funds, Smith said, the districts will have to cut back services next year. That, Smith said, will result in a further loss of students. "If there are no services, students will vote with their feet," he said, "and go to a neighboring district that doesn't have that problem or to CSU or UC."