Noncredit Instruction: Opportunity and Challenge

Noncredit, Pre-Transfer, & Continuing Education Committee

This paper considers noncredit instruction in the California Community College System. Noncredit students pay no enrollment fees and normally receive no college credit or official course grades. State apportionment funding is provided for noncredit instruction in specified areas (see Appendix A). The paper identifies three related concepts: a state need for increased levels of education that noncredit instruction is well placed to supply, several changes that begin to facilitate that response, and additional changes that are needed to ensure success. The landscape for noncredit instruction has evolved dramatically since 2006 when the Academic Senate adopted The Role of Noncredit in the California Community Colleges and the Chancellor’s Office Noncredit Alignment Project produced A Learner-Centered Curriculum for All Students. In passing SB361 in Fall 2006, the California Legislature opened the door to the potential of equitable funding for noncredit instruction. Curriculum regulations in Title 5 changed to permit local certificate programs in noncredit. The systemwide Basic Skills Initiative has recognized the important role noncredit programs can play in introducing more students to the wide range of programs and certificates available in California Community Colleges. But the promise of these efforts will remain unfulfilled until noncredit students, faculty, and programs receive equitable resources and levels of instruction and support comparable to their credit counterparts. Education is the American promise that we can do better; for noncredit instruction, the promise of doing better is more tangible than it has been in a long time; but much remains to be done. This paper establishes a roadmap to fulfill that promise to our most vulnerable students—those who receive the fewest resources and often need the most help in their educational journey.

The increasing interest in noncredit programs shown by the Academic Senate, the Chancellor’s Office, the Legislature, and other professionals is not a coincidence. Several recent studies have focused on the rapid demographic changes and declining educational levels that are affecting California society and its economy. In response to these studies, noncredit programs join the renewed interest in basic skills success and adult learners as one way to provide the workers that the state requires. This paper will describe several legislative and policy developments to explain the link between noncredit history and current hopes for improved student success through enhanced funding, staffing, and academic integrity of programs.

The Academic Senate has long highlighted the research showing that there is an integral connection between an institutional commitment to providing quality instruction and the educational outcomes that students achieve. Among its statewide recommendations, the 2006 paper urged that attention be given to the equitable funding of noncredit programs, the number of full-time faculty who teach in them, and the conditions of employment that require higher faculty workloads with a direct consequence of reduced preparation and office time. The very structure of many programs guarantees that while noncredit students are often the most in need of individual help and support, they receive fewer interactions with faculty and support services than do their credit counterparts. While very modest progress has been made on this front, this paper will provide an agenda for continuing change and improvement that will enhance the overall academic integrity of noncredit programs. Without these additional changes the promise of the current developments cannot be fully realized.


The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges makes the following new recommendations to ensure that the noncredit changes of the last two years achieve their full potential. They will secure momentum towards equity for noncredit students and implement the solutions described in this paper. Their implementation will require concerted state and local action. The recommendations of the 2006 paper, The Role of Noncredit in the California Community Colleges remain relevant today and are contained in Appendix B.

On a statewide level:

  1. The Academic Senate should work with the Chancellor’s Office to seek continued enhancement to FTES funding in noncredit programs to remedy the inequitable disparity between noncredit and credit funding, without taking away from the current level of credit funding.
  2. The Academic Senate should work with the Chancellor’s Office to expand the range of attendance accounting options available to noncredit programs.
  3. The Academic Senate should work with the Chancellor’s Office to establish regulations or guidelines to ensure that noncredit CDCP funds are expended in areas that will improve instruction and support services to noncredit students and will allow full participation of noncredit faculty in governance and program development.
  4. The Academic Senate should work with the Chancellor’s Office to establish both interim and final goals for a noncredit full-time to part-time faculty ratio—perhaps by amending regulations to mandate that a portion of any additional noncredit funds be used to hire additional full-time noncredit faculty.
  5. The Academic Senate should work with statewide collective bargaining representatives to promote changes in faculty working conditions that would provide equitable instruction and support services to noncredit students and equitable compensation to faculty.
  6. The Academic Senate should work with noncredit faculty and local senates to develop guidelines to facilitate the consistent development of SB361 compliant certificate patterns.
  7. The Academic Senate should work with noncredit faculty in ESL and basic skills and credit faculty who teach developmental or ESL courses to better align noncredit basic skills instruction and student support services.
  8. The Academic Senate should work with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to ensure that noncredit programs are appropriately evaluated as an integrated part of their institution.

On a local level:

  1. Local senates should rely on their Title 5 authority in budget processes to ensure that noncredit CDCP funding is allocated in ways that support equitable instruction and support services for noncredit students, faculty and programs.
  2. Local senates should support and encourage the hiring of additional full-time noncredit faculty.
  3. Local senates should collaborate with their local bargaining agents to ensure that working conditions for noncredit faculty are comparable to those for credit faculty and provide opportunities for preparation, feedback to students and participation in institutional governance activities that will result in equitable services for noncredit students and equitable compensation for noncredit faculty.
  4. Local senates should facilitate college-wide participation in governance and program development by noncredit faculty.
  5. Local senates and curriculum committees should carefully review the patterns of courses developed to comply with the new “sequence” and “certificate” requirements in SB361.
  6. Local senates should ensure that noncredit program review, planning and budget processes and standards are comparable to those for credit instruction and student services, and that they promote integration with the college as a whole.
  7. Local senates should seek to include noncredit programs, as appropriate, in self studies prepared for ACCJC or WASC visiting teams.