Ketchup, 57 Varieties or AB 1705 - Your Choice or NO Choice

AB 1705 is bad policy and will cause a significant set-back to both equity and education for California’s most-underserved students.

Imagine yourself in a restaurant. You know what you want to eat and you know what condiments you want to add.  But the menu says you can only do that after you’ve consumed ten servings of ketchup.  That was the basic skills scenario ten years ago when students were often required to take a long sequence of remedial courses that resulted in poor success rates and low transition into college transfer courses.

In 2018, AB 705 addressed that problem by requiring that students be given a choice:  direct entry into transfer level courses (with support if necessary) or appropriate basic skills courses if that was what they chose or what their career/educational goals required.  That’s the normal American restaurant where you can choose whatever meal you feel you can eat and you can add whatever condiments you desire.  While the data is complicated AB 705 seems to have had a mainly positive effect, especially given the parallel impact of COVID.

Now AB 1705 proposes the opposite extreme.  In this restaurant you would be told you must eat this one entrée of the day. No, you cannot choose anything else and you cannot add any of our 57 condiments to improve it. AB 1705 removes the element of student choice.  You must take transfer courses even if you have an associate degree or vocational goal that has no need for them.  In particular the effect will be that no matter how much preparation you feel you need, you cannot take any (remedial) basic skills courses because the college is not allowed to offer them.

This does an enormous dis-service to students with inadequate educational backgrounds.  It denies the college opportunity to students who have historically used the community college as a second (or 3rd, 4th,..) chance after prior failed educational experiences.  And in addition it violates the Education Code mandate that one of the primary missions of the community colleges is “the provision of remedial instruction for those in need of it.”  And worst of all, the large number of students who will be discarded in favor of the transfer students so loved by the student loan industry, will be largely from under-represented minorities.

AB 1705 will reduce enrollment and eliminate exactly the students that California’s community colleges were built to serve.

(The author of this article, Ian Walton, is a retired mathematics faculty member who served as President of the statewide Academic Senate and as Chair of the Accrediting Commission.)


FACCC blog posts are written independently by FACCC members and encompass their experiences and recommendations. FACCC neither condemns nor endorses the recommendations herein.

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