March, 2017

I.   CEOs Unite at the 2017 Symposium
II.  As CalPERS/CalSTRS Rates Continue to Rise – An Approach to Address the Costs
III. CCCT Board Spotlight
IV. CEOCCC Board Spotlight
V.  What’s Better for Degree Completion and Enrollment Increases?  A Base Augmentation or Elimination of Fees?  A New Study Weighs In.

CEOs Unite at the 2017 Symposium

By Superintendent/President Kevin Walthers, Allan Hancock College

The 2017 CEO Symposium found a new venue this year – Solvang, the Danish Capital of America!  Now that you’ve been there, you might have greater appreciation of this little clip from the Simpsons.  A more detailed description can be found below, but the overall theme is that we were able to come together as CEOs for a little bit of learning, a little bit of relaxation and a lot of team building.

The symposium planning committee tried to strike a balance of engaging conversation while holding to a retreat-like setting.  Dr. Matthew Hora kicked off the event with a research-based approach to 

addressing the skills gap

.  Dr. Hora points out that the skill gap is more than just “teaching people to weld.”  We need to ensure our students have diverse competencies and the ability to solve problems.  This is done by resisting a narrowly focused curriculum and investing in teachers and teaching.

Sunday continued with a discussion of dual enrollment opportunities at both rural and largecolleges.  An update on accreditation from the Work Groups One and Two was happily followed by guided tours and networking opportunities.  League staff provided a wonderful reception in the local vineyards – everyone seemed to enjoy that, too!

Monday’s sessions included a look forward from Chancellor Eloy Oakley and an update on the new CEO Leadership Academy being led by Sunny Cooke and Doug Houston.  Even though CEO turnover has slowed since the depths of the recession, we still have more than 30 CEOs with less than five years of experience and nearly a third of our colleges have a leadership change each year.

Lori Bennett and Doug Houston provided insight on streamlining the curriculum approval process.  The key takeaway: we have an overly bureaucratic system that is understaffed and still allows errors to get through.  Before you say “no joke” – take a look at the opportunity we have to address this issue.  Following the curriculum discussion, Former SBCC President Peter MacDougall hugged every CEO who has been around for more than ten years, then joined Ron Gallo, CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation.  They encouraged us to build relationships with our local community foundations and to focus on their goals – rather than submit grant after grant, learn what they want to do and show them how your institution can support the foundation mission.

Larry Galizio provided the group with a League Update on state and federal issues.  It’s a time of uncertainty and we are fortunate to have the League available to help us navigate our political environment.  Terry Hartle of ACE followed with a fascinating discussion on the changing administration – noting that there is little chance that the Higher Education Reauthorization Act will be taken up this year.  He was then joined by LCW attorneys to discuss impacts we might see from the new administration.

Monday ended with the traditional retiree dinner – an inspiring evening that honored most valued leaders.

On behalf of the planning committee, I can offer my sincere thanks to everyone who attended the symposium and to the sponsors and partners that made it happen.  On behalf of Tony Beebe and Gil Stork, I can also thank you for coming to the Central Coast – it was nice for us to be “in the neighborhood” for a change!  Our friends in Solvang were thrilled to host our group and I can assure you that you made a great impression on the community.


As CalPERS/CalSTRS Rates Continue to Rise – An Approach to Address the Costs

A few weeks ago, CalPERS made a decision whose repercussions will be felt by community colleges for years to come. In a meeting in late December, the CalPERS Board lowered its investment rate expectations known as the “discount rate” from 7.5% to 7.0%, thus lowering the amount projected in its portfolio.  To make up for this new “loss” of funds, CalPERS has turned to its contributing sources to fund the difference. Since employee benefits are locked in place by law, CalPERS was left to further increase employer contribution rates. This month, CalPERS released a new employer contribution rate schedule that raises the rates even faster and higher than previously expected.

The previous school employer contribution schedule called for steady increases each year up to 21.1% in the 2020-21 year. This new release projects even further increases hitting 24.9% in 2020-21 and setting a continued climb up to 28.2% by the 2023-24 school year. For community college districts, this projected increase is only part of the story.

These ongoing CalPERS rate increases come on top of established CalSTRS rate increases each year through 2020-2021 that more than double the costs over 7 years. The legislation authorizing these CalSTRS rate hikes also give STRS unprecedented permission to increase rates by 1.0% per year without legislative authority. Just this past week, CalSTRS decided to lower its discount rate from 7.5% to 7.0%, which will increase employer contributions from 19.1% to 20.1% in 2021-2022, and 20.25% in 2022-2023. An additional recommendation from CalSTRS’ actuarial consultant Milliman calls for CalSTRS to change demographic assumptions to account for longer life expectancies. Milliman added that, “changes in actuarial assumptions are expected to increase the unfunded liability and will likely result in the need for higher contributions in the future.”

With this one-two punch of significant pension contribution rate increases, California community college districts should take proactive steps to address their budgets and long-time financial planning.

To help out our member districts, the League decided in 2015, to offer a multiple-employer trust for pension cost prefunding. Similar but slightly different from OPEB trusts that many districts have in place, this approach would set aside funds earmarked for current and future CalSTRS and CalPERS contributions into an irrevocable trust, with funds being sent to systems when needed. While in the trust, funds would remain under a district’s control and could be invested at a risk tolerance level of their choosing depending on the time horizon for use of the funds. In addition, setting up a trust of this type protects funds from diversion to other uses and may favorably impact a district’s accreditation and credit rating.

While in the early stages of developing such a trust the League discovered that PARS had already pioneered a program for pension prefunding with the first multiple-employer trust approved by the IRS for this purpose. The League decided to partner with PARS to offer the PARS-CCLC Pension Rate Stabilization Program (PRSP) to our membership. Several of our member districts are already participating in the program and are finding success in addressing their goals.

As your district evaluates these ongoing new contribution rate increases and strategizes how to absorb the costs, please contact the League for more information.


CCCT Board Spotlight

CCCT Board Member Kenneth Brown

When El Camino College (ECC) Trustee and California Community College Trustee Board member Kenneth (Ken) Brown isn’t enthusiastically advocating for student success and describing the myriad programs and opportunities offered by ECC, he is the Engineering Manager for the Mission Definition Department in the Space Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems Division at the Northrop Grumman Corporation in Redondo Beach.  Trustee Brown is also a part-time faculty member in the Department of Physics at Cal State Dominguez Hills, and he serves on a variety of boards for schools and departments of higher education, including a charter school in the city of Inglewood.

Describing himself as a “full-time husband and father of two teenagers,” when Brown has the opportunity, he pursues his passion for photography, and enjoys cycling explaining, “it would really surprise people how much there is to see on a bike.”

Asked how and why he decided to serve as a trustee, Brown points to Alice Grisby, ECC’s retired Director of the Library Resources Unit, for recommending the ECC Board as an additional avenue for his community advocacy.  Trustee Brown explains, “I had always been a community advocate and part-time educator, but being on the Board now gives me an opportunity to help foster a positive campus learning environment leading to student success.”  Sounding a bit like the proud parent that he is, in discussing ECC Brown highlights El Camino’s consistent listing as among the top 10 community colleges in transferring students to UCs and CSUs, its nationally ranked debate team, extensive scholarship program, 33 CTE programs, and its dynamic student community brimming with arts, athletics, and activities.

Trustee Brown lauds the efforts of the faculty and staff at the Compton Center and ECC in the accreditation progress of the Compton Center.  Brown explains that the EC Compton Center was granted accreditation status by the ACCJC in March 2015, and the accreditor developed a timeline requiring ECC to submit a Comprehensive Institutional Self-Evaluation Report in December 2016 on behalf of the Center.  On March 6-9, 2017, an ACCJC external evaluation team visited the Compton Center with the results to follow the Commission’s June 6-8 meeting.

Trustee Brown cites low per-student funding and “operating on razor-thin margins” as limiting students’ enrollment options especially as it concerns remediation and bridge coursework as some of the most significant challenges confronting our sector.  (And the League’s 2017 Fast Facts document illustrates this fact LINK HERE).

Reading James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and preferring Jazz, Funk, Hip-Hop, and R&B artists including Kamasi Washington, Cameron Graves, Snarky Puppy, The New Mastersounds, and others, helps Brown contextualize the inequality undergirding the inadequate resources challenging California’s most diverse sector of public higher education.

In speaking to Ken Brown, it is clear that he believes passionately about the mission of El Camino College and in its ability to make a positive difference in people’s lives.  Also evident is Trustee Brown’s belief in the importance of education, serving the community, and ensuring that traditionally underserved students are provided the opportunities and support integral to academic and lifelong success. El Camino College, the Compton Center, and California’s Community Colleges are fortunate to have Ken Brown serving in both local and statewide roles.


CEOCCC Board Spotlight

Dr. Byron D. Clift Breland

“We need to continue to work to ‘remediate’ our colleges to be better prepared for the students we serve – rather than placing that burden solely on students."  - President of SJCC, Dr. Byron D. Clift Breland

Successful soccer players possess a keen understanding of the rapidly changing conditions on the field.  They effectively employ collaboration, creativity, and teamwork, and they capitalize on opportunities and devise new ones when they can.  So it is no surprise that Dr. Byron Clift Breland has been – and remains – an avid soccer player for his leadership style as the San Jose City College (SJCC) President demonstrates the aforementioned qualities and approach.

Those same qualities of collaborative leadership: a focus on innovation, and an ability to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and conditions, also describe many a successful entrepreneur in the Silicon Valley where graduates of SJCC and the San Jose-Evergreen District are often employed.

Listening to President Breland enthusiastically describe the programs and work occurring at both the district and on the SJCC Campus, make clear that Dr. Breland is thriving in this challenging and dynamic environment.  Breland explains that SJCC is the largest provider of workforce education in Santa Clara County/Silicon Valley offering programs in Computer Electronics Technology, CNC Machinist, Machine Technology, Entry-Level Machinist, Facilities Maintenance Technology, Laser Technology, Machine Shop Safety, Programmable Logic Controls, Blueprint Reading, and Welding.

Following appointment as interim president at SJCC in 2013, Dr. Breland was selected for the permanent position in 2014.  Asked about his path to the SJCC presidency, Breland volunteers that he had not possessed the expectation that he would be in this particular leadership role, however leadership has been a role and responsibility that he has embraced in a variety of endeavors.  To quote directly, President Breland explains, “I can’t say I had a ‘clear’ path to or an expectation to be the president of a college. I first consider myself a leader, and along my life’s journey have an opportunity, and a privilege, to influence a college and a community.”

Illustrative of his affirmative leadership approach, when asked about the biggest challenge facing California’s Community Colleges, shortly after identifying high rates of attrition and inadequate preparation for college, Dr. Breland shifts to SJCC’s dual-enrollment courses, professional development for faculty, peer leadership program, and a Scholar’s Program that includes comprehensive support services for students.

In addition to the demands of his presidency, Breland is a founding Board Member of A2MEND, an organization comprised of African-American male community college administrators working to advance innovative ways to facilitate and support African-American Male student success.  As we at the League can attest, the recently held 10th Year Anniversary Annual A2MEND Conference boasted over 1,100 attendees from throughout California and beyond.  Additionally, Dr. Breland serves on the statewide League CEO Board, and he is involved in several local and community efforts as well.

If you were to peruse his bookshelf, among the works you are likely to find include: The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch, A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings, by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, by Brene’ Brown.

To help maintain balance, Breland enjoys exercising and challenging himself physically.  He explains, “I believe there is a strong connection to being physically fit and our ability to make good decisions while keeping up with the rigorous pace of being a college president and family life.”

President Breland volunteers that he has “a committed faculty and staff who work to develop our gifted and hard-working students.”  And he continues, “We are open to all innovative and cutting-edge ideas that will improve the teaching and learning experience and improve student success rates.”  Dr. Breland observes that at SJCC they are increasing their partnerships with high-profile companies, and expresses confidence that such collaborative efforts will continue to advance toward their goal of becoming a world leader in the provision of higher education and job training.

It is abundantly clear that President Byron Clift Breland is thriving in his leadership role as president of SJCC.


What’s Better for Degree Completion and Enrollment Increases?  A Base Augmentation or Elimination of Fees?  A New Study Weighs In.

Review of The Impacts of Price and Spending Subsidies on U.S. Postsecondary Attainment
by David J. Deming, Harvard University & Christopher R. Walters, University of California, Berkeley
January 2017

By Larry Galizio, President and CEO, Community College League of California

Whether it is 2016 Democratic Presidential Primary candidate Bernie Sanders’ proposal to eliminate tuition at public colleges and universities, the Tennessee Promise, or New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to make state universities tuition-free for residents from families earning $125,000 or less annually, proposals to reduce and/or eliminate postsecondary tuition are pervasive.  In Sacramento, Assembly Democrats released a $1.6 billion “Degrees Not Debt” budget proposal offering grants for CSU and UC students from families earning up to $145,000 per year, and approximately $100 million to eliminate fees for community college students in their first year, and to encourage full-time enrollment.

Supporters and opponents of the myriad student aid proposals nationally typically focus on the cost-benefit analysis of the particular programs, the criteria for student eligibility, and the scope and funding source(s) for the program.

In contrast, David Deming of Harvard University and Christopher Walters of the University of California, Berkeley, examine the relevant public policy issues by focusing on the outcomes of degree attainment (completion), and enrollment.  The primary question in their new research paper is: what has the most significant impact on completion and enrollment?  Is it reducing tuition and fees – the price of attending college – or increasing institutional investments that enhance instruction and student services?         

In their January 2017 paper: The Impacts of Price and Spending Subsidies on U.S. Postsecondary Attainment, Deming and Walters compare two approaches to increasing postsecondary enrollment and certificate/degree attainment at public community colleges and universities in the U.S.  With enrollment and completion significant concerns throughout higher education, the question of whether a significant state investment in financial aid (to reduce the cost of attendance for students), or investing in colleges to strengthen institutional capacity (with faculty hiring, counseling, etc.), has important implications for advocacy and public policy.

Deming and Walters' analysis found that reducing tuition (fees in our sector) has no statistically significant effect on either completion or enrollment.  In contrast, their findings identify a three percent increase in completion and enrollment correlated with a 10 percent increase in institutional per-student expenditures.  Deming and Walters cite related studies including one by (Bound et al., 2012) illustrating that improving quality with increased advising, tutoring, and mentoring, and reducing obstacles such as course waitlists, are correlated with increased persistence and degree completion.  In another study, Bound and Turner, (2007) found that larger state cohorts have lower degree attainment rates and conclude that lower per-student funding is the primary causal factor.

Deming and Walter's 2017 study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association and is available here.

The author’s use Integrated Postsecondary Education Data (IPEDS) and supplement it with state legislative appropriations data from Grapevine – which collects data on state appropriations – data from the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) Association, and data from the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University.  They also match IPEDS data with Bureau of Labor Statistics’ state and county unemployment rates, and county-level data from the Census and the American Community Survey.

The research demonstrates that in 1990, state and local appropriations for community colleges in the US represented approximately 62 percent of total spending for the sector (Deming & Walters, 2017, p.6).  This compares with 44 percent for the most selective four-year institutions, and 51 percent for less-selective colleges and universities (Ibid).  Thus, state budgets have greater relative impact on community colleges.  And between 1990 and 2013, all public postsecondary institutions received less public support and were more dependent on tuition and fees (Ibid).  Deming and Walters observe that in California, real per-capita state appropriations for higher education increased from $5,000 to $6,000 from 1990 to the early 2000s, however it decreased dramatically to less than $4,000 in 2013 (Deming & Walters, 2017, p. 7).

In addition to their introduction and contextualization of the issues involved, the authors provide a comprehensive description and justification for their methodology (available in the aforementioned link to the paper).  In brief, they focus on budget shocks and tuition caps.  Budget shocks are shifts in overall state funding combined with the dependence of institutions on state support.  Adjusting tuition and fees or expenditures per-student are two responses to budget shocks.  Deming and Walters consider institutions’ ability to increase tuition (which varies by state and higher education system), and recognize per-student expenditure reductions as a likely response when tuition and fees are capped.

In their discussion concerning certificate and degree attainment, the author’s evidence demonstrates that increases in per-student spending have substantial positive impacts.  To quote, “…a 10 percent increase in spending…boosts the number of certificates completed by about 23.2 percent and the number of associate’s degrees completed by about 10.6 percent” (Deming & Walters, 2017, p. 17).

In the Discussion Section of the paper, Deming and Walters posit that the recent decline in state support for community colleges and public higher education overall, may provide an explanation for the increases in time-to-degree and rates of completion.  And in their concluding paragraph, the authors suggest that their findings imply that “government programs aimed at reducing college costs will not increase degree attainment if cost reduction is achieved by reducing per-student spending. [O]ur results suggest that spending cuts affect core instruction and academic support, generating large downstream impacts on educational attainment” (Deming & Walters, 2017, p. 23).

In sum, while few stories concerning higher education garner headlines and grab attention as much as “free tuition,” state policymakers and public postsecondary institutions seeking enrollment gains and certificate and degree completion should consider this important and timely noteworthy research.