March 5, 2021

By Moamar Abdelraham, Staff Writer and Luke Wrin Piper, Managing Editor

The Peralta Community College District (PCCD) Board of Trustees convened for a regular meeting on February 23.

The meeting began an hour early with a presentation by Dr. Lijuan Zhai (associate vice chancellor of educational services and institutional effectiveness at Riverside Community College) titled “The Impact of COVID-19 on Enrollment and Success.” 

Enrollment data from Fall 2020 and Fall 2019 was used for comparison, with Zhai going as far back as Fall 2016 to better grasp enrollment trends at Peralta.

Zhai began by giving context for the data, stating that freshman enrollment in higher education in general for fall 2020 semesters “declined by an unprecedented 13.1%.” She cited a recent survey published by the Institute of International Education stating that “new international student enrollment dropped by 43% and overall international student enrollment is down 16% in Fall 2020.” 

Focusing on PCCD specifically, Zhai assessed that “COVID-19 had a negative impact on student enrollment/FTES at PCCD colleges except Berkeley [City College].”

“Enrollment at PCCD has been declining for the past five years which is concerning as it ties closely with state funding,” Zhai said.

The data shows that the student demographics that declined the most from fall 2019 to  fall 2020 were: 65+ years old (-44.5%), 55-64 years old (-30.7%), Black/African American (-18.9%), male (-17.8%), Hispanic/Latinx (-14.2%), Asian (-14%) and first generation students (-13.9%).

Socioeconomic status was also an area of enrollment decline: Pell grant recipient (-32.6%), Board of Governor (BOG) waiver students (-20.8%) and low income students (-20.5%).

Declines in major special programs included: disabled student Programs and Services (DSPS) students (-37.3%), Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) students (-32.8%), Veterans (-31.7%) and foster youth (-20.2%).

Noticeable enrollment increases between fall 2019 – fall 2020 include: Umoja students (+88.5%), Berkeley City College (+6.4%), under 16 year olds (+6.9%), 16-18 year olds (+5.4%).

Peralta did see increases in student success (+1.32%) and retention (+2.57%) rates.

After laying out the data visuals, Zhai gave trustees a series of preliminary recommendations on how to address enrollment declines moving forward. 

Zhai stated that the number of classes and their distribution throughout the curriculum should be made by the individual colleges by “those in the best position to ascertain likely student demand” through a collaborative process with the district, noting that student academic needs should be the primary consideration when enrollment management decisions are being made.

Zhai suggested the district form a districtwide enrollment management committee (DEMC). Members of this committee, Zhai said, should include “academic senate leaders, faculty members, Deans of instruction, [Vice President of Academic Affairs/Vice President of Instruction], VP of Business, Vice Chancellor (VC) of Business, VC of Academic Affairs/Ed Services, institutional researchers, etc.”

This committee would monitor ongoing enrollment data while setting goals for full-time equivalent student (FTES) numbers and forming plans to meet those goals, particularly through marketing and outreach. FTES at Peralta is a designation given to students “taking a full load of classes for one academic year,” according to the PCCD website.

Zhai recommended that enrollment management proceed in a way that is data driven and focused on student success, student access and the best use of financial resources. 

“Student-centered schedules should be planned, efficient and responsive to the communities served,” Zhai said. Developing programs that target high paying jobs that are in high demand, and expanding distance education, dual enrollment and non-credit/career based programs was also suggested to the board.

During the regular section of the board meeting, trustees voted unanimously to extend Interim Chancellor Carla Walter’s contract from to June 30, 2021. The previous contract was set to expire February 28, 2021. 

The board also approved the timeline set forth by ABG Search for their ongoing chancellor search. The timeline proposed at the meeting set forth a public candidates forum during the week of June 1. Candidates for chancellor will give 15 minute presentations followed by 30-45 minute Q&A sections to different constituency groups throughout Peralta. 

The board approved the timeline with an amendment stating that all efforts should be made to shorten the calendar by one week to ensure the public forum falls within the spring academic semester where faculty and students could attend. It was also noted that the scheduling of the forum should take dates and times of various campus graduation celebrations, which occur during finals week, into consideration.

Acting Vice Chancellor for Human Resources & Employee Relations Dr. Ronald McKinley added that PCCD is looking for a chancellor who will remain in the position for at least five years and that the timeline is structured to determine the best candidate. A 2016 UC Davis School of Education survey noted that the average tenure of community college presidents and district chancellors in the state was 3.5 years. 

The firm conducting the search, ABG Search, had been unanimously selected by the board during a special meeting on January 12. 

In closing statements, Trustee Linda Handy mourned the recent death of former student trustee Yvonne Thompson. Handy described how Thompson had been a passionate member of the Peralta community, helping to organize student trips to Washington DC (a program Handy credits Thompson with helping to institutionalize) and even lending clothing to the students to make them feel more comfortable in the halls of Congress.

Thompson was also a culinary arts student who would often cater for the trustees, carefully making menus based on specific board members’ needs. Handy went on to say “She was a phenomenal woman and she will be greatly missed, but her legacy is stamped all over Peralta. We miss her.”

The next regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting was announced for March 9, 2021. All PCCD Board of Trustees agendas and minutes can be found here, with meetings streamed live and recorded on Peralta’s Youtube channel.