Reflections and Transitions Part Two

Reflections and Transitions Part Two
by Jonathan Lightman

This is the column that took (nearly) 20 years to write.

Last January, I announced my retirement from FACCC, effective September 7. As much as I have truly loved the last two decades in this role—something I can’t emphasize enough—it’s time for me to step off the twin speeds of frantic and extreme. I’ve got no particular plans for my post-FACCC career other than a four month hiatus. Afterward, I’m open.

In the meantime, I’d like to express my deepest appreciation to all the FACCC leaders who placed their confidence in me, particularly the association presidents under whom I served, Evelyn “Sam” Weiss, Carolyn Russell, Rich Hansen, Dennis Smith, Bill Hewitt, John McDowell, Dean Murakami, Shaaron Vogel, and Adam Wetsman. Just as important were the tens of thousands of faculty and millions of students who entered our institutions each day hoping the political class would provide them with the support needed to engage in the manner of teaching and learning worthy of the nation’s largest system of higher education. Sadly, their lot was too often set aside in favor of the privileged class or the so-called reformers who claimed to know what was better for them.

While it’s hard to encapsulate so many experiences into a single piece, there are some that are particularly prominent. A number of them are organizational, others political, and a few personal. When I put the list together, I came up with 11 big ones (a veritable 10+1) with some runners up. Just as the brain randomizes memories, these are presented in no particular order.

Please enjoy this last lap around track.

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Summer Scholars Transfer Institute Life-Changing Experience


Summer Scholars Transfer Institute Life-Changing Experience

By: Casey Jones

When I first heard the words “Your dean has recommended you for a special program” I wasn’t sure whether that was good or bad news. Such was my plight as I sat in the office of the administrator overseeing the program at Rio Hondo College in Whittier this past spring as he pitched me on the virtues of teaching in the Summer Scholars Transfer Institute (SSTI).

SSTI is a long-established program held in partnership with Santa Ana College and UC Irvine. The program offers students the opportunity to complete a 16-week course in 10 days while living in the dorms. For students with jobs, young children, and family responsibilities this is a golden opportunity to have a true college experience while completing a transferable class in record time.

As an adjunct speech instructor, it sounded like the chance to squeeze in one more summer section, and with words like “transformative” and “game-changing” used to describe the program, what could go wrong? As it happened not a thing.

What an amazing experience!

SSTI did offer something transformative and not just for the students. I lived in the dorms (major flashback!), ate in the cafeteria, spent time in the study room, and was astounded by the progress students made in such a short amount of time. Students morphed into poised, well-prepared, college ready young adults right before my very eyes.

The time I spent at SSTI also gave me the chance to experience what happens to students and how they adapt the learning in context once they leave the classroom. It was one lightbulb moment after another spending time in the nightly study room, sometimes into the early morning hours, working with students on research and writing assignments. The bar in my classes is high, and yet there was room to keep pushing them to reach beyond their own expectations and my own.

On a more personal note, I am the quintessential freeway flyer, teaching at multiple colleges, and making the rounds. What a gift it was to have a cohesive colleague experience for those 10 days. The camaraderie at SSTI with fellow instructors, administrators, teaching assistants, and the amazing counselors, was a reminder that being involved in on-campus activities with other instructors isn’t just good marketing, it’s more fun!

I can’t encourage you enough to take advantage of teaching opportunities like SSTI. Was it intense? Oh, my yes! However, leaving my own life behind for those 10 days allowed me to focus on student outcomes in an entirely new, creative way. That experience has already positively affected my approach to the fall semester. In fact, I might even go as far as to say that teaching at SSTI was a transformative game-changer.

Casey Jones is an adjunct professor who teaches communications & languages at Rio Hondo College.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FACCC or other board members. The FACCC blog is open to FACCC members and invited guests who desire to spark discussion and dialogue on issues critical to community college faculty.

Still Not Making Progress on the 75% Goal for Full-time Faculty Instruction: A Proposal for Student and Faculty Success


Still Not Making Progress on the 75% Goal for Full-time Faculty Instruction: A Proposal for Student and Faculty Success
By Debbie Klein and Mary Ellen Goodwin

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Our system’s inequitable reliance upon part-time faculty is not a bug; it’s a defining feature of teaching in the California Community Colleges. Given this reality, we suggest lifting the 67% workload cap on part-time faculty as a viable means of improving working conditions and promoting student success.

We realize the long-standing practice of limiting the load taught by individual part-time faculty, currently set at 67% of a full-time load, is a sacred cow for many. But we hope you will read and respond to this blog post with an open mind! We’re interested in generating dialogue about how to move the needle on part-time faculty equity while also better serving students.

It’s universally recognized that we need more full-time faculty to serve our students. In 1988, the system’s vision that full-time faculty teach at least 75% credit classroom instruction was memorialized as a goal in the Education Code. However, over almost 30 years since, the funding required to make progress has been sporadic at best.

Over the past 10 years, the percentage of credit instruction by part-time faculty has increased rather than decreased, ranging from about 40% to 47% during this period and currently hovering around 44% (see graph). It is significant that over the same period, the head count of part-time to full-time faculty has averaged 70% to 30%.

In addition to the 30-year failure to reach the 75% full-time faculty goal, the system has also failed to make progress on part-time faculty workplace equity, an issue the Legislature embraced when it initiated, nearly 20 years ago, three community college budget line items funding office hours, health benefits, and compensation parity (equal pay for equal work). These funding sources have been subject to severe reductions whenever state revenues falter, and have been rarely restored when the overall revenue picture improved.

Why would a state so concerned about student success and so reliant on a part-time workforce be so reluctant to provide essential budgetary support for its faculty? It is surprising that system leaders have been willing partners in the state’s exploitation of part-time faculty and unwilling to do all they can to address student needs.

The literature concludes that faculty contact is the most significant factor in determining student success. Full-time faculty are under contract and compensated for maintaining such contact, but part-time faculty, who teach almost half of the courses are not required by state law to be compensated for student access outside the classroom. When part-time faculty do make themselves accessible, they rarely have office space in which to meet. In this era of student success, it should be shocking to see that many colleges have turned their backs on the state funding, however meager, for part-time faculty office hours.

Limited to 67% of a full-time load, frequently paid at a rate much less than the full-time equivalent, and with little or no support for health care, professional development activities, and personal leave allowances, many part-time faculty are forced into a frenetic work life of traveling from one college to another. This leaves only a minimal amount of time and energy for consultation with students, which is key to their success.

How can the system remain complacent under this current two-tier system in which the majority of faculty must function under such stressful conditions? In addition to the negative impact on the faculty, what is the consequence of this daily strain on service to students and the colleges? Are we comfortable with this situation?

Imagine lifting the 67% workload cap. Imagine how your department could improve. Some part-time faculty might teach a few extra courses, while others might keep their same load. In either case, part-time faculty would be more likely to focus their professional careers on a single college, and both the campus and its students would surely benefit. Part-time faculty would have more time to spend with students and participate in shared governance and department work.

Were part-time faculty able to teach a larger load at one college, these could all occur:

  • Increased student success due to more part-time faculty availability;
  • Decreased daily faculty travel (beneficial for the environment);
  • Physically and mentally healthier faculty;
  • More faculty participation in shared governance;
  • Greater faculty integration into the life of the college;
  • Part-time positions would become more appealing and would attract more talent;
  • Part-time positions and faculty would be more stable;
  • Being a part-time faculty member could become a more viable career choice;
  • Increased part-time faculty equity;
  • Part-time faculty would be professionally supported and could support themselves;
  • Fewer part-time faculty would have to share the same office space;
  • Scheduling fewer part-time faculty would save districts time and money;
  • Colleges would have less trouble finding part-time faculty to teach courses;

While we agree that it’s important to continue advocating for movement toward the 75% full-time instruction goal as well as pay parity for part-time faculty (equal pay for equal work), unfortunately, decades of the same advocacy strategy have not moved the needle. We suggest there’s a simple change that would make systemic progress to better serve our students and address the exploitation of part-time faculty. Lifting the 67% Workload Cap would be an achievable goal to add to our advocacy repertoire in our effort to craft a more equitable system for students and faculty alike.
Debbie Klein teaches anthropology at Gavilan College and currently serves on the FACCC Board. Mary Ellen Goodwin teaches ESL at De Anza College is currently FACCC’s Part-time Faculty Officer.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FACCC or other board members. The FACCC blog is open to FACCC members and invited guests who desire to spark discussion and dialogue on issues critical to community college faculty.

Decisions Are Made By Those Who Show Up


Decisions Are Made By Those Who Show Up
By Austin Webster, Faculty Association of California Community Colleges

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“My vote doesn’t matter.”

This phrase is uttered over and over by thousands of people each election year. It is used to justify complacency, ignorance, and outright laziness. It’s a copout used when someone is pressed about being engaged, knowing the issues, and taking a stand.

It’s a lie. Your vote matters.

While it’s technically true that no major election in U.S. history has been won by a single vote, some have come close. In 2015, a Mississippi statehouse race ended in a tie and the winner was selected by drawing straws. During this year’s presidential primaries, Senator Bernie Sanders won a county in Massachusetts by a single vote—a symbolic victory that would help continue the Senator’s momentum through the primary cycle. While ultimately unsuccessful in securing the Democratic nomination for president, Sander’s candidacy pushed the Democratic Party to adopt its most progressive platform in history and brought Secretary Hillary Clinton to the left on a number of important policies.

In one of my favorite clips from The Newsroom, popular national news anchor Will McAvoy (portrayed by Jeff Daniels) pointedly asks: if liberals are so smart, why do they lose so frequently? The answer is simple. Turnout.

Sanders’ campaign was consistently heralded as “unprecedented” due to the high level of engagement and dedication of his supporters. They frequently showed up in the thousands for his rallies and speeches. His grassroots support broke the mold for small dollar donations and many political observers here in California expected a record primary turnout. That didn’t happen.

Of the 24,783,789 eligible voters in California, only 17,915,053 are registered, and of that number, only 8,548,301 participated. In other terms, 34.49% of California’s eligible voters (about 21.91% of California’s total population) made the decisions for everyone else.

I reference the impact of the Sanders campaign on the Democratic platform because it represents a solution to a growing problem in national politics. In 2010, people who felt their vote “didn’t matter” allowed the Tea Party to hijack the Republican Party. This subsequently led to the least productive Congress in history and a rightward gravitational pull for the Democratic Party. Why did Democrats move to the right? Because the left wasn’t turning out in high enough numbers to maintain the momentum created in 2008.

The center is where elections are won or lost, and that’s decided by turnout. If progressives want to continue the work that’s been done over the last eight years, they must vote. Likewise, if true conservatives want their party back, they have to get serious at the ballot box.

Decisions are made by those who show up.

Register to vote. Show up on November 8 and every election thereafter.


Austin Webster is FACCC’s Director of Communications. Contact Austin to submit a future blog post.

The DIY Solution to the Textbook Dilemma


The DIY Solution to the Textbook Dilemma
By Ted Preston, Rio Hondo College

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Like many instructors, I have struggled to balance a variety of interests when it comes to choosing textbooks for my classes. Over the span of my career thus far, I’ve developed numerous complaints about the textbooks that were available for my use:

  • They’re too expensive. As a community college professor, I have to contend with many students facing financial challenges, and simply will not purchase a textbook if it costs $100-$200—a not unusual range, even for philosophy texts.
  • They’re too difficult. Many of my students require remediation in reading comprehension. The often lofty and jargon-laden prose of many textbooks might as well have been Latin for some. When the prose is that intimidating, many just give up.
  • They’re filled with material I don’t use. Standard philosophy anthologies contain a couple dozen chapters, of which I might use ten at most. The unused chapters represent a wasted expense.

Used books partially address the expense problem, but not other concerns. Even used copies of standard anthologies could run upwards of $100, not to mention the chaos of having multiple editions of the text in use in my class with different pagination and content.

I experimented with custom publishing from some of the major companies. While that addressed the “unused material” concern, it didn’t save enough money or ease the difficulty of the prose.

Several years ago, I hit upon a solution that seemed too good to be true: I would write my own textbooks. I partnered with Gnutext ( and began writing an Introduction to Philosophy textbook with the goal of producing a high quality, low cost, accessible text. Seven years later, I am working on the fifth edition of that Intro book, and have written multiple editions of texts for Introduction to Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Ancient Philosophy, and have recently published on Political Philosophy. The process has been enjoyable, wonderful, creative outlet, and I have managed to address each of my concerns:

  • The books are cheap. After the bookstore markup, new copies are roughly $25-$30; used or rental copies cost even less. As a result, nearly 100% of my students purchase the book and bring it with them to class. I am able to control costs by relying solely on public domain primary sources, and, frankly, not profiting much from the sales.
  • The books are accessible. I write with community college students in mind, actively seeking to convey understanding rather than confusion or intimidation.
  • The books are efficient. I write only content that I intend to use, and that I think other instructors would be likely to use.

While it might not be a practical option for every instructor to write his or her own text, options are available that can address our concerns and serve our students. Whether it be open source materials, custom publishing, or pursuing low-cost alternatives, we have choices, and our students depend on us to make good ones on their behalf.

Ted Preston is a professor of philosophy at Rio Hondo College.

Contact Communications Director Austin Webster to contribute to a future blog.

Faculty as Central to Student Success


Faculty as Central to Student Success
Third in a Series
By Adam Wetsman, Rio Hondo College

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Everyone is interested in seeking ways to enhance student success and the faculty at Rio Hondo College participated in a day-long workshop to develop ideas relating to the issue. This was developed by our local Academic Senate after it learned that the administration was moving forward with plans for student success without significantly engaging faculty in discussions.

Unfortunately, the promise by the administration to include meaningful participation by faculty never materialized, and simply meant that the campus constituency groups were supposed to rubber stamp a proposal to upgrade an administrative position to meet the needs of the Student Success Initiative (SSI). Little additional input was sought; in fact, it was generally shunned.

Nonetheless, the Senate-led workshop produced a slew of suggestions to help students succeed, ones that will be described in later entries of this blog. As the Academic Senate president, the challenge was to get help with implementation, and the administration was the gateway for doing so. They were skeptical, however, of faculty input, perhaps believing it was a threat to the plan that had been developed, the one with an enhanced administration position as the centerpiece. Undaunted, I pushed forward to communicate our findings with as many governance groups as possible.

The first stop was at the Board of Trustees where, a month or so earlier, the administrator whose position was eventually upgraded, spent an hour describing the challenges of the SSI and how Rio Hondo College would respond. I had asked the administration if I could give a short presentation on the Senate-led workshop and was told that I could not since the agenda was full (which really was not). Undeterred, I expressed that I would do it during the comments section of the Board meeting where leaders of the constituency groups (Senate, Faculty Association, CSEA, etc.) could inform the Board on relevant events and activities of their respective organizations.

The Board president was prepared for me, however, and before I even started she admonished the trustees against asking questions or making comments since the item was not on the agenda. Nonetheless, the presentation went well with several trustees squirming in their seats, legally precluded from participating in the conversation even though they wanted to.

This was followed a week or so later at our Associated Students’ executive committee where I outlined the challenges facing students and the ways that faculty can provide assistance. Upon completion, there was a strange mood in the room. Evidently, many students interpreted the recommendations as suggesting that students themselves were responsible for low levels of success. This required me to do some repair, explaining it was our responsibility as professors, and Rio Hondo’s responsibility overall, to position each student for success. Once I emphasized that we need to do better for students to do better, their concerns abated.

Later, I presented to faculty at Flex Day, to the Academic Senate, and to our umbrella planning committee. Each was exceptionally well received with even more suggestions elicited on how we can best help our students. All of this achieved two important objectives. First, faculty and other members of the campus community gained an increased awareness of the roles that we play in student success. Second, our work demonstrated that faculty can indeed make significant contributions to help students achieve their educational goals.

The next two blogs will describe the recommendations from our Senate-led success workshop.


Adam Wetsman is an instructor at Rio Hondo College and a FACCC Regional Governor.

Contact Communications Director Austin Webster to contribute to a future blog.


Freedom Of Speech Is Not Freedom From Disagreement


Freedom Of Speech Is Not Freedom From Disagreement
by Morrie Barembaum, Santiago Canyon College

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There was a time in our culture when people espoused the belief that “I disagree with everything you say, but I will defend your right to say it.” I am not sure if that is taught anymore.

About five years ago, the Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, gave a speech at the University of California, Irvine. I was in attendance and I observed students attempting to shout him down.

More recently, the president of California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) tried to disinvite a conservative pundit, Benjamin Shapiro, from giving a talk on diversity. While the CSULA president relented and allowed Mr. Shapiro to speak, students resorted to violence in an effort to block other students and community members from attending. A student was quoted as saying that while she believed in the First Amendment, she did not want Mr. Shapiro to speak because he is a racist.

However, is that how the First Amendment works? Everyone is allowed to speak their mind so long as you agree with their point of view? Of course not. For freedom of speech to mean something, everyone must be allowed to express themselves even if those ideas contradict your own.

We, as educators, must teach our students to respect people whose opinions differ from our own. Not only because of the First Amendment but because that is a hallmark of an academic institution: to engage in civil discourse involving opposing viewpoints. If one truly wants to express one’s displeasure with the speaker, there are non-violent options available.

It’s time we got back to protecting this fundamental belief. If you don’t agree, that’s your right; but let the conversation go forward. At the end of the day, the better speech will prevail. What better lesson to teach our students and to model ourselves.

Morrie Barembaum is an instructor at Santiago Canyon College and a FACCC Governor-at-Large.

Contact Austin Webster at to contribute a blog.

The Student Voice in Student Success


The Student Voice in Student Success
by Ilse Maymes

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There are many issues facing community college students and I only have enough words to address a few. Every step that a community college student takes to achieve their educational goal is critical; any misstep or ill-advisement could end the journey.

At a start, we need well-trained financial officers and better staffed financial aid offices. Many community college students require financial assistance, making it critical for them to have access to someone who can help them through the process.

Assessment tests that do not correctly capture student abilities make things difficult, whether it places them too low and adds to their course load, or too high in classes they can’t pass.

Counselors also play a pivotal role in this journey and are critical to completion. It’s not only that counselors need the time to actually talk to students, but they need continued training to provide students with correct and current information on what classes they need to finish, graduate, or transfer on time.

The next point of contact is classroom faculty. There must be a fundamental understanding that for students, there are answers that only their professors can provide. It creates a high-level of frustration when students cannot reach their professor, which unfortunately happens all too often. The current insufficiency of full-time faculty, and the lack of part-time faculty availability to students, undermines the very concept of student success.

As a Latina student, the improving but still low level of faculty diversity is, at times, disheartening. While there are measures in place to quantify required levels of staff diversity, there is still a lack of clarity on how districts can meet these goals (especially when the available labor pool still significantly lags behind the targeted levels).

At the end of the day, we need to refocus our attention on students. We each come with our own stories and dreams for the future. Whether we land at a four-year school or get a job at the end of our community college experience is not the only measure of success. Our education helps build our families, turn jobs into careers, and helps us to become a successful part of our community. That’s why the support we need for student success, like financial aid, counselors, full-time faculty, part-time faculty office hours, and a diverse workforce, is so critical. Our success is your success. Let’s remember that as we move forward.
Ilse Maymes is a student trustee at the Ventura Community College District and president of the California Community Colleges Association of Student Trustees.

Contact Austin Webster at to contribute a blog.

Genuine Faculty Input on Student Success


Genuine Faculty Input on Student Success
Part Two of a Series
By Adam Wetsman, Rio Hondo College

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Everyone is interested in seeking ways to enhance student success. The challenge at many California Community Colleges is that faculty input is often secondary, superseded by districts’ concerns with legislative mandates in the arena of student services. This was certainly the case at Rio Hondo College where I work, when in 2013, faculty were not even invited to participate in discussions about success until after it was decided that the demands of the Student Success Initiative were best achieved by promoting an administrator. While the SSI generally addressed efficient student advancement, a large missing piece of the puzzle was successful classroom achievement.

Since student success is genuinely reached in classrooms, counseling offices, libraries, and elsewhere on campus, the Academic Senate leadership facilitated a day-long workshop to develop proposals to help students achieve their educational goals. The purpose was to provide suggestions to the administration that could be used to enhance student success beyond the counseling mandates of the SSI.

The Senate leadership was pleased to have a wide ranging attendance during the event that was held in January 2014, during our intersession when very few classes were conducted. There were three dozen attendees representing faculty from all divisions, including a good number of part-timers as well.

The workshop was divided into several sessions, each of which was started with information about a particular area of the college and followed by small group work to elicit suggestions for improving student success.

The first session provided background information on the SSI, described the changes to the funding mechanisms on student contact and preparation, and outlined goals for the workshop. This was followed by a great presentation by one of our counselors who explained what they face when seeing students. Although I had already been teaching for well over a decade, I found this information quite informative because I never knew how challenging it was for counselors to place students into the right classes.

There were several other productive sessions, where the emphasis was placed on faculty input. Engagement levels were so high that the facilitators had to eventually cut off the discussions so that participants could report out in a timely manner. A key focus was determining why students succeed and understanding where pitfalls occur, both in the classroom level and in the attainment of their overall educational goals. A related session narrowed in on helping students in the classroom. The final portion was devoted to sessions on multiple subjects like CTE, online learning, part-time faculty, and basic skills.

The six-hour session was one of the most rewarding of my academic career, largely influenced by faculty convening together to address a central topic to their profession, helping students succeed. What resulted was a score of suggestions, each intending to increase success in the classroom and beyond.

The next step would be reporting our suggestions to the entire campus community, something that will be addressed in the next entry…

Adam Wetsman is an instructor at Rio Hondo College and a FACCC Regional Governor.

Contact Communications Director Austin Webster to contribute a future blog.

Pardon the Silence


Pardon the Silence
January 13, 2016
By Jonathan Lightman

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It’s good to see the response to the initial blog. In less than a week, we have already received interest from faculty members and other system stakeholders to contribute to this effort. I’m hoping over time that the robust discussion of FACCC’s blog posts will inspire greater advocacy and participation throughout our system.

In the meantime, there’s (sadly) little enthusiasm for the Governors’ proposed 2016-17 budget. Lest anyone from the Administration or Legislature be reading this, please do not confuse the limited applause with lack of appreciation. We are all deeply grateful for the continuing commitment to our community college system and look forward to working with policymakers throughout this budget cycle on ways to improve the proposal.

That being said, let’s take a look and what’s included and excluded in the proposal. Growth and COLA are both included—allowing our system to keep pace with ongoing costs—although neither at amount to celebrate (especially the 0.47% COLA, reflecting low inflation on a national level). The Workforce Task Force is funded at $200 million (perhaps the big winner in the budget proposal, although we still await the upcoming trailer bill to tell us what it all means) with another ongoing $48 million for SB 1070 Economic and Workforce Development projects.

Deferred maintenance and mandates are also big additions as one-time expenses. There are a few other proposals, including basic skills, innovation awards, zero-cost textbooks, and select categorical program COLAs.

What didn’t make it into the budget tells a larger story: full-time faculty, part-time faculty support, restoration of CalWORKs, additional base support to help with ongoing STRS and PERS increases, and additional student financial aid. Needless to say, these are not only important, but central to our ability to serve students. In case anyone was wondering, neither Student Success nor Equity was slated for increase.

We knew going into this budget discussion that our proposed augmentation would be less than 2015-16 (current year budget). That has everything to do with the complex Test 1, Test 2, Test 3 formulations of Proposition 98 (we went from Test 1 to Test 3) and the upcoming loss of Proposition 30 sales tax revenue. Nonetheless, even within this more limited framework, aside from those in CTE (who rightfully deserve predictable ongoing state funding—read, not grants) the enthusiasm is generated more from the excluded than the included items.

Our immediate task is reconciling our budget priorities with Governor Brown’s overall goals for community colleges. We know from prior experience how monumental a mistake it was for our system to advance a Student Success initiative that did not prioritize full-time faculty, part-time faculty support, counselors, and student services. We can’t repeat this type of mistake in our current effort to improve workforce education.

Let’s remember that not too long ago, we were looking to pare 500,000 students from our system and some of our institutions were actually contemplated for closure. At that time, we likened any increase in funding to a miracle from heaven (it’s important to keep that in perspective). Today’s discussions may be less earth shattering, but no less important.

Our challenge is to effectively tell our story (early and often) and not lose sight of our goals. We gain nothing from silence and even less from ingratitude. Let’s get to work.


Jonathan Lightman is Executive Director of FACCC.


Follow FACCC’s electronic, social, and print media for information on the budget and ways to get involved. Contact Communications Director Austin Webster to contribute a future blog.