Advancing CTE Student Success with Faculty Engagement Project Success

November 15, 2023

The California Community Colleges is on the cusp of a new era. Across the state, community colleges are contributing to developing the new, proposed “Vision 2030:  A Roadmap for California Community Colleges” that will offer a new framework, goals, and opportunities to advance and build innovative initiatives that will support student success. 

The Orange County Regional Consortium (OCRC) wants to ensure that career education is at the forefront of this vision and that community college faculty are engaged in the conversations about how we achieve statewide goals and objectives. Three programs showing extreme promise in assisting career education students to earn certificates, degrees, and employment skills faster include Early College Credit, Credit for Prior Learning, and Competency-Based Education.  

These programs were presented at the CTE Regional Collaborations meeting organized by the OCRC and the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges and held in September at Orange Coast College. The presentations dove into the details of Vision 2030 and the promising programs and initiatives that support its goals of equity in success, access, and support.

“There is a huge role for CTE in this vision,” said Stephanie Curry, Area A Representative for the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, who delivered a presentation on Vision 2030. “They are working on additional strategies, and we want to ensure our CTE faculty are involved in those conversations.”

Just as necessary, this convening highlighted for faculty the resources and funding available through the OCRC for these programs as well as for innovative proposals that support career education student success. 

Early College Credit

One outcome of “Vision 2030” is to increase the percentage of high school students who graduate with at least 12 units of college credit by 15%. 

Early College Credit is the umbrella for three programs: Dual Enrollment, which allows students to take college courses at their schools; Concurrent Enrollment, offered through an instructional services agreement (ISA) between the college and school district; and Articulation, an agreement between faculty members at the high school and college to offer courses that fulfill college academic requirements. 

While Dual Enrollment usually focuses on general education courses, Concurrent Enrollment offers career education courses through a Regional Occupational Program (ROP) ISA. Faculty are encouraged to learn more about K-12 CTE Pathways, including the Orange County Department of Education’s OC Pathways, identify courses for enrollment in Early College Credit Programs, and contact K-12 Pathway Coordinators to begin discussions. 

Credit for Prior Learning

Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) is college credit awarded for college-level skills and knowledge gained outside the classroom, typically through professional credentials, military service, and volunteer or civic experience. This enables students to quickly earn certificates and degrees that lead to career and transfer opportunities. 

CPL has a huge impact on adult learners by saving them time and money. Students reduce the time it takes to complete a degree by between 9 and 14 months, and CPL saves them an estimated $1,500 to $10,200, said Ferdie Santos, a talent development and retention director for OCRC. For veterans, that savings could skyrocket to $68,000 because it includes their living allowance. 

Most importantly, CPL increases the likelihood of adult learners completing a certificate or program by 17%, Santos said. Learn more about CPL.

Competency-Based Education

While CPL is awarded based on past experiences, Competency-Based Education (CBE) is a flexible learning model that allows students to earn credits by demonstrating mastery from past experience through multiple assessment forms, usually at a personalized pace.

Unlike a traditional classroom where the course hours are constant, “in CBE, the time it takes to complete is variable, and the demonstration of competencies is held constant,” said Dr. Shelly Blair, dean of innovative learning at Coastline College, one of eight community colleges piloting a CBE program. Coastline’s CBE pilot program offers a path to an associate’s degree for transfer in management. Other pilot programs offer paths to degrees in culinary arts, technology and logistics, business administration, child development, kinesiology, early childhood education, and automotive technology.

CBE students aren’t on their own. They receive guidance and support from faculty and staff and engage in learning activities and experiences for each required competency before taking an assessment. Students work on two competencies at a time. Coastline College has structured the program to have 10 start dates for subscription-based financial aid and to allow students to join throughout the year. 

“If they could move through a competency in four weeks, great,” said Erin Thomas, CBE coordinator and business faculty at Coastline. “If they need extra time, they don’t get an ‘incomplete’ as they would in a traditional classroom. We continue to work with them so they can get the knowledge they need, and I can be confident they have mastered the content.”

CBE makes our educational system more accessible, particularly to adult learners.  “It’s an additional access point to higher education,” said Blair.

Learn more about CBE. 

Orange County Regional Consortium

These three programs can make an immediate impact on certificate and degree attainment, particularly for career education students entering in-demand careers, which is why they are a priority for OCRC.  

“Each of those practices accelerates the progress of that participating student to get another certificate or degree,” said Dr. Adriene “Alex” Davis, assistant vice chancellor of Economic and Workforce Development in the Educational Services Division at Rancho Santiago Community College District, and the executive director for the OCRC. “While Early College Credit takes care of the traditional age students, Credit for Prior Learning and Competency-Based Education takes care of the non-traditional ages.” 

The joint meeting between OCRC and ASCCC exposed faculty to the resources and funding available through the OCRC, which administers state and federal funding, including the Strong Workforce grant. OCRC is charged with improving the local economy by advancing special projects that better prepare students to meet regional workforce needs and find gainful employment. The OCRC also collects current market data to improve the responsiveness of our educational institutions, and so our programs reflect changing market and technological trends. 

OCRC has embarked on a “Roadshow” that aims to gather information about the specific needs and challenges of each institution in terms of workforce development, student success, and regional alignment. OCRC’s four talent development and retention directors will visit the region’s nine community colleges and one continuing education center this fall and spring 2024. 

ASCCC and OCRC plan to continue convening to ensure faculty have access to the resources that support their work. The next joint meeting is being planned for spring 2024. 

“One of our primary purposes is to implement all of those initiatives around career pathways and scale programs through regional partnerships between colleges and the natural partners in our regions,” Davis said. “An important part of our role is to work in tandem with faculty to accomplish this.”