SMITH: Policy damages appeal of Academic Enrichment

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mugshot_smithBY ANDREW SMITH
[email protected]

The changes made to the academic enrichment program attempt to fix a problem that isn’t there.

This policy was approved by the district on October 13, 2015, and will be in effect starting June 16, 2016. This will take away the grade bump from introductory courses, aiming to get rid of the incentives around classes with AP counterparts and promote students to take higher level courses which build on content from introductory/AP courses.

While the district will succeed in lessening the appeal of introductory courses, this filter could jeopardize significant enrollment in academic enrichment – a missed opportunity for the district.

Competitive students with over a 4.0 wouldn’t take classes which would needlessly lessen their GPA with weighted equivalents at high school.
However, while students likely won’t take the classes because of the negative effect on their GPA, the bump was only one reason students used the program.

For one, the classes are a smart investment for college-bound students. Academic enrichment offers the same transferable credits as those from AP tests and cheaper alternatives to general education counterparts at four-year universities.

A typical GE course at a UC or community college provides three units. At Sierra College units are $46 – $225 less than the same at a UC. This opportunity for savings is something the district should be promoting.

Last summer, I took the equivalent of AP US History at Sierra College. Along with the discounted credits, completion allowed me to maintain a strong academic record while guaranteeing two terms of journalism to write this article.

Many other students enrolled in community college classes had similar motives. They were involved in electives at their high school and taking them to free up space for an elective. A student shouldn’t fall behind their classmates for their involvement on campus, and this program previously allowed them to keep up.

This policy comes off like a slap on the wrist for students pursuing opportunities for growth.

While students can still, and a few will, take next level versions of courses, these classes fill no graduation requirements. I wouldn’t expect similar enrollment numbers this year.

The district is misreading the motives for using this program and missing an opportunity for worthwhile expansion, held back by the unaddressed and long-standing lack of adequate financial aid.

There is a form of aid for academic enrichment students, but qualifying students can only receive the Board of Governors Fee Waiver (BOG) which waives the enrollment fee and provides a discount to the parking pass. College students in the same need of financial aid can qualify for a book voucher and receive other tax exemptions that all require a high school diploma or recognized equivalent.

The district should shift their focus and look to open up the program, make it accessible to all students and address the cost deterrent.