EAC - Ad Hoc 4-Credit Conversion Committee

Response to EAC Regarding 4-Credit Conversion
September 2004

 

After last June’s EAC discussion and recommendation on the 3 to 4 credit conversion, the President authorized moving forward to gather the information requested in the EAC report.  Dr. Pulliams also directed his staff to review the concerns that were expressed by the ad hoc EAC committee to determine if there were any residual issues that needed to be addressed.

The first section contains the responses the President received from his staff regarding the concerns the ad hoc committee found. Even though the committee had addressed these concerns and felt the benefits of the move outweighed any issue below, the President asked for further analysis.

 

Section I

The concerns and the responses are: (Committee list in italics)

1. Faculty load: faculty underscored our committee’s insistence that course load be configured in a manner favorable to faculty.

2. Class size: faculty wanted to be certain class size did not rise with any conversion.

Faculty load and class size: The possibility of moving our general education courses has been discussed for some time among administrators and representatives of the faculty federation.  There is general agreement that faculty who are teaching five 3-credit courses as a full load will move to a four 4-credit full load equivalent. Also, the move from three to four credits should have no impact on class size given the reduced demand for sections.

3. Four-hour block courses:  faculty expressed a strong desire that there be alternatives to the 4-hour block class (night courses in particular).  Other colleges are offering their 4-hour classes in a number of different configurations.

Scheduling: The administration is still in the process of running scheduling models making multiple assumptions about how classes might be divided up. This is not anticipated to be a problem.  There will be enough classrooms to accommodate this move.  The first step in this process must be a SAC’s recommendation on the weekly schedule for each course.  Some SACs may find it desirable to offer a course in a four-hour block, others may want two 2-hour sessions, and some may want four one hour sessions.  Each SAC should consider the split based on what they believe to be the best leaning environment for students and what works for student access. This is no different than the current scheduling process.

5. Part-time faculty: while there would be fewer courses overall for part-time faculty, the committee (and faculty in general) wanted the union to be aware of any potential inequities in part-time work and compensation. Some committee members, as well as faculty in the SACs and forums, felt that this issue needed further study.

Part time faculty:  Our analysis shows that this change will result in the need for fewer sections taught, thus a need for fewer part time faculty. (See the Vergun report). This will slightly change our full-time/part-time faculty ratio slightly in favor of full timers, a goal the college has had for some time.  Compensation for part-time faculty for teaching the additional credit is set by the Faculty Contract.  In general, it is the administration’s opinion that being paid more to teach one course, even with the extra credit, will be received favorably by part-time faculty and may advantage PCC in competing for part-time faculty.

6. Professional/Technical programs:  There was universal concern from faculty in the professional-technical programs that a conversion of the transfer courses would affect their programs due to the limited number of courses their students can take. The committee is in the process of learning how other community colleges avoided any negative impact on these programs.

This summer the Degrees and Certificates Committee has met to discuss changes to the general education requirements for all of our degrees, both transfer and professional technical.  The charge from the EAC was that the PTE programs specifically not be harmed by this conversion.  There was a specific concern for those programs that had national accreditation standards to meet and had little or no room to change their gen ed requirements. The Degrees and Certificates committee will have recommendations to the EAC this September for changes in requirements which, in general, should not disadvantage PTE programs.

7. Reduction in course offerings: faculty on each campus, and in our committee, voiced concern that students would take fewer classes to meet their Gen Ed transfer requirements if we converted to 4-credits, and would therefore be exposed to fewer courses-particularly upper-level electives that faculty believe are essential to PCC’s mission to provide a liberal arts foundation for our students. Even though the counter argument can be offered that students would experience greater breadth and depth in those new 4-credit courses, this is one of the most significant drawbacks cited by faculty.

It is recognized that the educational argument about whether more courses/less depth is better than fewer courses/more depth is one that may never be answered.  It is a concern among some advisors and faculty that our students have more difficulty with multiple preps and that having fewer courses in any one term might be helpful. This change is at best not a negative and may be a positive.

8. Student cost:  Faculty wanted to be certain that a switch to 4-credits did not mean increased costs to students. Although not conclusive, the committee determined the vast majority of our students would not have any cost increase.  The students who might be negatively impacted would be the casual students taking one or two classes without accumulating credits for a degree or certificate. The committee decided that this issue needed further study to determine the extent of the negative impact on casual students.

Student cost and financial aid:   The impact of this move on students has been our primary concern.  Besides the curriculum changes, we examined the potential financial impact of this move on students.  For degree and certificate seeking students there will be no increase in total cost.  This is because the total credits needed will not change.  For non-degree students, there will be the increased cost of one credit per course.  In addition, the move to 4-credit courses will not affect a student’s financial aid, again because the total number of credits does not change and because at PCC we prorate student aid on the number of credits taken, not the number of courses.  For some students who are limited to one, two, or three courses per term, their aid may increase given the additional credits they earn.

Degree and certificate students will also be taking fewer courses to graduate, thus needing fewer textbooks.  This will result in a huge savings for students.  Also, given that most texts are written for semester-based courses and that with this conversion our courses will be more in line with those courses, our students will be getting more value out of the books they do buy.

9. Summer courses:  Some faculty were uncomfortable with the notion of 4-credit courses offered over 8 weeks, but others pointed out that courses can be offered over 11 weeks, and that we currently have 4- and 5-credit math and science courses offered over 8 weeks.

SACs should not feel pressure to offer any course over a time period they believe students will not accomplish the intended outcomes.

10. Students in a sequence:  Faculty and students were concerned about what would happen to those students who were in sequences during a conversion.  The committee decided to investigate this scenario and see what has happened at other colleges.

We may need to offer “trailers” of 3-credit courses if the need is there for students who are caught in the process of taking a sequence when the conversion takes place. If we let students know well enough in advance, we should be able to minimize the problem.  Plus, for students transferring to PSU, there is no need to complete a sequence

11. Mandatory conversion:  Faculty were concerned that if the EAC embraced a 4-credit switch it would mean that SACs would be forced to change their courses from 3- to 4-credits.

There might be cases where a PCC 3-credit course does match PSU or most OUS schools and the SAC may wish to not change the course.  In such cases the SAC will bring a request not to change to the Curriculum Committee for review and recommendation to the Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs.

12. Scheduling and facilities: There was some worry about whether PCC would have the space to accommodate 4-hour courses, and the committee determined that this wouldn’t be an issue due to 1)fewer courses being offered, 2)more classrooms available with the construction expansion, 3)others colleges not experiencing problems with this issue.

The administration agrees with the findings of the committee.  It is also important that each campus develop a class time schedule that has as few overlapping courses as possible.

13. Faculty involvement in 4-credit conversion: In the 4-credit committee, the EAC deliberations, as well as the broader faculty discussions, there was very clear consensus that faculty must remain actively involved in the continued process of investigating and implementing a 4-credit conversion.

The conversion process will start with the SACs. They will bring their requests and revisions to a committee of faculty, drawn from the EAC Curriculum Committee, for review and final recommendation.  It is also expected that SACs discuss and make recommendations to their deans on what scheduling model would best fit each course. (3½-hour block, two 2-hour classes, four 1-hour classes, etc).

 

Section II

The EAC also requested that the administration respond to several recommendations before a final recommendation could be made.  The questions (in Italics) and the responses follow:

1a. To determine the financial impact of conversion on the college.

Cost of the conversion: It appears from a budget model prepared by Institutional Research that there will no additional cost to the college as a result of this conversion.  (See the Vergun report)

2a. To determine the impact on student enrollment and student access (including financial aid), particularly regarding the following student populations: ENL, DE, high-school completion, marginally prepared, evening, part-time degree-seeking, and casual students.

Enrollment: The projection from IR is that there will be a loss of part-time casual students, but the increase in revenue from those who stay will make up for the loss of their tuition. Enrollment for credit students is dependent on the same forces no matter what the course credit may be.

In general the pre college programs are not affected by this move. (ABE/GED, DE, ESL, some ENNL).  The transfer courses in ENNL are not three credits.  For our high school completion programs, there will be a need to evaluate the new outcomes and content of each course that has been converted and do a cross-walk with the high school equivalents to determine how many high school units each course is worth.  This may lead to our courses being more attractive to high school students, thus increasing the enrollment from this group.

3a. To determine the impact on part-time faculty.   (See 5 above)

4a. To determine the impact on facilities.   (See 12 above)

5a. To begin discussions within the EAC to determine general education and distribution requirements. The 4-credit committee recommends that this process be completed by fall of 2004.   (See 6 above)

6a. To begin discussions within the EAC to create an expedited recommendation process for courses affected by this conversion.

The Curriculum Committee has met to discuss such a process and will be bringing a recommendation to the EAC at the September meeting.  As part of this recommendation all course changes will be reviewed by the Curriculum Committee.  It will be important for the SAC to show what additional content, outcomes, or additional material will be covered in the course to justify the fourth credit hour and how the course now matches with the OUS offerings.  Requests not to change a course will also come before the Committee.  All final approvals will be made by the Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs.

7a. To begin dialogue with professional-technical programs to ensure that the 4-credit conversion has a minimum negative impact on their programs.  (See 6 above)

8a. To retain the 4-Credit Committee to continue its exploration and fact-finding regarding conversion particulars (continuing discussions with PSU, Lane, and Clackamas, for example) to help ease the transition.

The implementation process PCC follows will likely need special direction, but it is yet to be determined what form that may take.

9a. To include the chairs of the EAC and 4-credit committee in the administrative deliberations regarding the possible conversion.

The EAC chair and the chair of the 4-credit committee have been very involved throughout the summer and this fall, working with the president and the Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs in reviewing the EAC recommendation.

10a. To investigate the concern regarding how fewer courses will impact our degrees.  (See 7 above)

11a. To determine fair and equitable compensation for faculty who are reconfiguring courses targeted for conversion in the fall of 2005.

It is hoped that most SACs will be able to accomplish this conversion using the two SAC days and combined non-instructional days of their faculty.  For those exceptional cases where that is not possible, the SAC may request to implement the changes after the Fall of ’05.

12. To receive a strong commitment from the administration that, upon agreement between the EAC and the administration to implement a 4-credit conversion, there will not be a reversal of our decision to move forward. This will help alleviate faculty worries that work begun on converting courses could be scuttled (as occurred a decade ago with semester conversion work).

The administration believes that this conversion is in the best interest of our students and assures the EAC, the faculty and staff, that if recommended, it will be fully implemented as soon as possible.

 

Section III 

Other Concerns on Four Credit Conversion:

Timeline for change:  The administration accepts the implementation date of fall of ’05 recommended by the EAC.  Implementing this change as soon as possible, and on the same date, is in the best interest of our students.  It is expected that the process for converting courses will be in place beginning this fall and SACs will be ready to begin work on the change by their inservice day this October.  Provision should be made to request an extension for SACs who do not think they can meet this timeline.

Writing: The conversion of our writing 121/122/123 sequence might be a special case. First, given the uniqueness of PSU’s lower division writing requirements, it is not possible for PCC to align its program with PSU without a total revamping of our general education requirements.  It also will be important for the Comp/Lit SAC to work with other key stakeholders, such as the PTE and DE SACs, as they make their changes.  Writing 115 and the connections with Writing 90 are also important in this change.  For these reasons alone PCC may want a more in depth review of the complete writing sequence.

Course outcomes and content:  In the move to 4-credits, SACs will be asked to ensure there is a good match between PSU and/or other OUS school’s course content and learning outcomes and those of our converted courses.  Since a primary reason for this move is to facilitate transferability between PCC and the OUS schools, it is imperative that we make this change with the OUS curriculum in mind.  It is also important to remember that Oregon Administrative Rules restrict community college transfer course offerings to only those that are offered at a minimum of four OUS universities.

Courses to be changed: Enrollment Services has produced a list of all courses that would need to change to match the OUS catalogs.

Catalog and schedule changes: For converted courses to make the fall schedule, they must have the times submitted by the middle of April.  Catalog changes can be submitted by the end of the summer. 

More on Sequences: The EAC most likely will examine the sequence requirement for the AAOT this year.  The 3 to 4 credit discussion is not dependent on that decision.  The conversion will, however, make the sequence requirement more manageable for students, given that most of PSU’s sequences are now two, 4-credit courses. If our SACs decide to continue offering a three course sequence, they must make sure there is a corresponding OUS course for that third course.  If there is, it might be advantageous for those students who know the discipline they wish to major in.

Committee Chair 2005-2006: Porter Raper

Historical Information