PCC’s Director of Student Equity, Dr. Michaela Mares-Tamayo, unveiled her new three-year plan to improve data for five key metrics in the college experience to the Associated Students (AS) on April 24.
It is named the Student Equity Plan (SEP). This comprehensive document tracks student data through five critical steps (the “lifecycle”) in their time at PCC; enrollment, retention, transfer-level English and math, completion (certificate or degree), and transfer.
The data, lifecycle metrics and student groups were defined and provided by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office in Sacramento.
“We received our data in March of this semester ,” Mares-Tamayo told the Academic Senate. “Admittedly, [it] is a huge assortment of data … having passed it through the Student Success Committee (SSC) and done some work on making sense of it.”
The slick but sobering overview shows the lifecycle and metrics where actual student data falls below baseline data. Each difference represents an equity gap. The plan establishes corrective strategies and projected numbers for each gap by 2022.
Disadvantaged students facing these gaps experience a more difficult time pursuing education.
The report identifies six groups of disadvantaged students. including students of two color ethnicities (African American and Latinx), students with disabilities, foster youth, students self-identified as LGBT, and veterans.
Most notably, transfer-level English and math is troublesome. Actual data fell below baseline data in this metric for all groups.
Math assistant professor Linda Hintzman strongly supports the plan. As a member of the SSC, she has a particular insight into the transfer-level math life cycle metric. Hintzman compared PCC’s data to broader statewide data of community college students.
“Our long pipeline of remedial courses was not, at all, facilitating completion of transfer … It was a death trap for our students,” Hintzman said. “They just weren’t getting through those courses.”
In a recent strategy, PCC removed many of the remedial non-transferable level 400 and 100 courses, in both math and English. It took effect this academic year.
“I truly believe that based on the data that we’re seeing, that we will continue to see increased completion,” Hintzman added. “So I don’t think removing those courses is going to damage our students. I think it’s going to give them access. They come to college, we tell them they’re college ready, and they will believe us.”
Yarenni Reyes, AS Vice President of Cultural Diversity, appreciated Mares-Tamayo’s visit.
“I was actually very impressed by the data that she showed us,” Reyes said. “The LGBTQ students were way down … That’s very shocking to me, and that’s something that I think we should start working on as soon as possible.”
What data cannot effectively capture is the actual human experience. Reyes immediately saw a potential correlation between the LGBTQ data and daily life on campus.
“They don’t feel like they were being welcomed when they register for their classes,” Reyes said. “The Queer Alliance president talked to me, and she was saying that in the WiFi Lounge, there’s been rude comments made to the queer community.”
The lifecycle metrics may show equity gaps, though the data itself may not explain why gaps are happening.
“Some students are scared of speaking up, and I totally understand that,” Reyes said. “And now that we look back into what she [Mares-Tamayo] presented, it totally makes sense.”
PCC’s African American students also faced equity gaps at each metric in the lifecycle in Mares-Tamayo’s slides.
“She mentioned how, for African Americans, it’s because there’s a really small population here at PCC,” Reyes said. “I think maybe that’s why they don’t have enough data … I think that once we get a higher number of students, I think it will look better.”
The plan’s executive summary indicates planned increases by 2022 for African American students. According to the summary, highest increases are anticipated in enrollment, transfer-level English and math, and completion.
The AS did not see the executive summary. It is a document with 16 pages of paragraphs and tables. Mares-Tamayo’s presentation was based on the summary. Both documents were included when Mares-Tamayo presented to the Academic Senate on May 6.
The summary includes a variety of strategies within each metric, designed to improve the current results. Costs for these strategies will be paid through state funds in the Student Equity and Achievement Program. For 2018-2019, SEAP had $475 million available to community colleges statewide.
The SEP has a deadline of June 30, 2019. The Academic Senate’s approval of it at the first reading on May 6 moved the plan forward.
Mares-Tamayo is co-chair of the Student Success Committee, which is overseeing the plan. According to the SSC’s page, no new meetings have been scheduled in May.