One of the most crucial moments in a student’s academic career is the application process. Aside from the personal stress students may face during this experience, they must also navigate through college applications that can often be complex and daunting and may unintentionally discourage them from attending college. This negative situation is often exacerbated for first-generation students who do not have familial support in navigating an application process. Fortunately for community college students, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office has created an online tool that can effectively address many of these issues.
In 2011-2012, in conjunction with the CCC Tech Center, CCCApply was launched. This common online application is intended for use by all of the colleges within the California Community Colleges system and offers potential students the opportunity to apply for admission to any California community college through an online interface that facilities the entire process and encourages the completion of the application. Since the release of CCCApply, adoption by community colleges was “incremental” according to the Chance llor’s Office website (California Community Colleges, n.d.). However, despite this slow adoption, the online tool is now being used to some degree by the majority of colleges in the system and by the 2018 - 2019 academic year, averaged over two million applications from potential students (California Community Colleges, n.d.).
The popularity of this online tool is a testament to its necessity and an indication that CCCApply’s potential for long-term use and benefits is very strong. However, as can be expected with any project of such magnitude, issues with the online application program have appeared since its release that tend to limit its potential and effectiveness in assisting students with navigating through the application process. These issues—some of which were partly addressed through legislation—have led to various changes to the interface and application that have brought about some improvement; however, information from counseling faculty and others at California’s community colleges indicates that even more improvement can occur. Data from the Chancellor’s Office shows that the majority of students who apply through CCCApply ultimately enroll in community colleges. For this reason, this tool must work in a way that encourages completion of the application process.
LENGTH AND COMPLETION OF APPLICATION
The most common concern with CCCApply is the length of time to complete the application. The application takes an average of 45 minutes to complete, and the rate of abandonment is up to 14% in some districts (AB 3101, 2018). The lengthy application has led to several issues with access and completion rates. The first is the period in which students can fill out the application for a particular college for the term they wish to enroll, which can create problems due to a lack of consistent open enrollment dates for the application by district. For example, in one district, students who are interested in beginning in the summer or fall terms can begin the application starting February 1, but for another it can be January 1. This situation could be remedied by colleges aligning with the application windows of the California State University and the University of California. Doing so would allow for a streamlined process in terms of when students complete the applications and when high schools and adult schools can guide incoming students.
ISSUES WITH ACCESS
Access for dual-enrollment students is met with a barrier when the students decide to continue at their respective community colleges after high school. In order for their status to be changed from dual-enrollment to college student, they must complete the CCCApply a second time. Other access issues for returning students arise when a student is not enrolled for more than one semester or quarter. These students’ enrollment status can only be made active when they reapply.
An additional barrier occurs when a student has limited English language ability or when the application is not available in the student’s native language. In 2017-2018, 44.5% of CCC students identified as Hispanic (California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, n.d.), but a Spanish application was not available until May 2020 when the CCCApply added a built-in application in Spanish (Donohue, 2020).
GUIDED PATHWAYS AND META-MAJORS
As campuses move toward implementation of meta-majors or grouped programs of study to fulfill the guided pathways recommendations, CCCApply has limitations in regard to how it is set up by a college and the data it can provide. For example, at some colleges, “meta-majors” is one field in the application, “program of study” is another, and there is an “educational goal” field as well. With three separate fields to complete, students are often confused and unsure of how the different areas are related, which causes data irregularities for the college.
AB 3101 AND CCCAPPLY
In September of 2018, California passed Assembly Bill 3101 (Carrillo), which requires that CCCApply reduce the required questions to those necessary for federal and state mandates to improve the completion time and rate (AB 3101, 2018). The lack of clarity for the questions and required fields causes confusion for students, which has several implications. As all campuses move toward data-driven decision making and streamlining support and services through the guided pathways framework, the data that is used comes from the self-reported CCCApply. If students are struggling to fill out the application, then the data could potentially be incorrect. For example, at Mission College, 51% of students who complete CCCApply do not actually enroll. One common mishap at Mission College is that students mistake it for Los Angeles Mission College, which leads to students having to complete the application twice. Without reducing the completion time, colleges will continue to see students who do not enroll or continue to have challenges beginning their education. In addition, data will have several incongruencies, which can lead to a lack of support in the areas that need it most.
AB 3101 had a target implementation timeline of fall 2019. In June 2019, a noncredit application was launched, which allows for students wanting to take noncredit courses to complete a revised version within CCCApply and only answer questions that are relevant (Donohue, 2019). Also added in this version was the term ‘non-binary’ as an option in the demographics area for gender. In October 2019, CCCApply was launched as a mobile interface for smartphones. In March 2020, the pandemic delayed ongoing changes and improvements. Despite the challenges, improvements were made to the social security number question, providing more options and opportunities for students, particularly those without a social security number. Recently, other improvements made include linking the international student application to MyPath and providing more options in enrollment status for those who have attended adult school.
Despite the various issues that have arisen, CCCApply continues to show great potential in supporting students through the application process. The CCCApply Standing Committee continues its work in addressing and improving the online application and addressing concerns. Other factors such as the passage of AB3101 are clear indications that CCCApply will live up to its potential. However, in order to ensure that this improvement occurs and that the collective concerns of faculty are considered, faculty should stay informed on the developments regarding this important online tool. The CCCApply Public Documentation website developed by the CCC Chancellor’s Office is an excellent resource where the latest information can be accessed (CCCApply Public Documentation, n.d.). This site also provides a wealth of resources and information regarding the continued development of this important online tool.
Staying informed about CCCApply will help faculty to work with students to address the issues they may still be facing. As the CCCApply Steering Committee continues its work of improving the application, it must partner with the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, local academic senates, and other relevant bodies to ensure that counseling and instructional faculty perspectives are included. Research has shown that the application process can be challenging and can serve to drive students away from colleges. With strong faculty input and continued improvement by the CCCApply Steering Committee, CCCApply can be the tool that finally ends that challenge.
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Donohue, P. (2019). Release 6.5.0 Summary Notes. Retrieved from https://cccnext.jira.com/wiki/spaces/PD/pages/909246918/Release+6.5.0+S….
Donohue, P. (2020). Spanish-Language Translation in CCCApply & OpenCCC. Retrieved from https://cccnext.jira.com/wiki/spaces/PD/pages/1077281545/Spanish-Langua….