Economic Recovery and California’s ‘Vision for Success’

Pam Sornson, JD

Pam Sornson, JD

California state law charges its California Community College Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) with implementing its higher education and workforce development goals. To do so, the CCCCO works in conjunction with state, local, and regional governments and businesses to pursue policies and connect its community college resources to the economic needs of all of its constituents. Its Strong Workforce Program is one element of that process.

At the same time, however, the CCCCO is also laser-beam focused on the needs of its California Community College (CCC) students, all 2.1+ million of them, who access its services across 116 colleges and attend their choice of its 380,000+ courses. Coordinating the efforts of all those resources to achieve the nebulous goal of ‘student success’ is a daunting task, one that requires attention to innumerable details while pursuing a singular vision. In the case of the CCCCO, that ‘vision’ is titled the “Vision for Success” (Vision), and it sits as the guiding star of all the work done both at the CCCCO administrative office and across all those schools.


The Vision for Success

For California’s community colleges, ‘success’ is now defined as a well-educated graduate who finds personal and career fulfillment in whatever realm they choose, whether that’s a career-trajectory job, the launch of their own new business, or just the accomplishment of skills that bring them joy. To meet these diverse needs, the CCCCO launched its Vision project several years ago by clarifying its seven core commitments and four strategic goals.


CCC Vision for Success Commitments

The strategic pursuit of each goal is imbued with seven fundamental commitments that hone its focus even more tightly to ‘student success’:

Prioritize the student’s end goal – every student, every time.

Maintain ‘student success’ as the guide for course design and program decisions.

Match high success expectations with equally high support services.

Use information to inform decision-making as well as reveal outputs and outcomes.

Be a role model for transparency and fluidity, demonstrating the ability to flex to meet needs as demands change.

Encourage innovation and creative action through all educational levels, academic activities, and administrative processes.

Lead the way to success for the student, the school, the business, and the community.

These commitments guide the Vision development process.


CCC Vision for Success Goals

Each of the four CCC Vision goals builds on the commitments to pursue a specific objective:

Closing the achievement gap that unnecessarily impedes the progress of too many students of color and varying abilities. Inherent biases built into the system a century ago continue on as barriers to today’s learners, inhibiting their growth and their capacity to contribute fully to their community.

Streamlining the student experience by simplifying the education process. Early data revealed that many CCC students accumulated excess and unnecessary credits that did nothing to improve their enjoyment of life, their capacity to work, or their employment prospects. By eliminating the courses that don’t serve student needs, the CCC’s now direct student attention and resources toward programs that will help them accomplish their personal goals in a reasonable timeframe.

Streamlining student success by easing the completion, graduation, and next-step process. The CCCs worked diligently to increase their student body’s degree and certification attainment numbers, develop programs that matched industry certification requirements, and assist learners in completing those programs in a timely and economically feasible way. They also enhanced their connections with California’s 33 four-year universities, easing the transfer process so that their learners could achieve their prerequisites at a CCC cost while also moving forward to attain the more expensive four-year degree.

Connecting with local businesses and industries to facilitate job placement of graduates. They developed a two-way sharing arrangement that benefits both the school and the company:

companies share their expertise to enhance training programs (work-based learning) and develop their own worker training programs (workforce training) while

the schools would modify/add courses and programs that respond to current and future labor force needs.

Pursuit of these four goals, colored as they are by the seven commitments, assures the community, the school, and the student that a CCC education is now a reliable and high-quality path to a better job and an improved economy.


Vision for Success Optimal Outcomes

Reliance on data to direct attention works in other areas as well as informing program decision-making. The CCCCO also uses it to track its own performance metrics, and it’s now approaching the end of its first five-year metric-tracking cycle. The Vision launched in 2017 and gave itself five years to establish both processes and baselines for its goals. It also layered desired metrics over those goals, creating a firm foundation upon which to measure success. To track the efforts that calculate these metrics, the CCCCO also had to overhaul its data tracking system, which previously stopped gathering student information when they completed their programs. Those systems didn’t include data revealing subsequent student success metrics such as job attainment, career placement, or transfer successes.

Using the upgraded data gathering process and in correlation with industry and labor force data, the CCCCO set for itself six metrics that, if accomplished, would demonstrate its success and truly connecting its colleges to the needs of the State’s industries. By 2022:

    1. increase by 20% the number of students achieving job and career accreditation for known and identified in-demand jobs.
    2. increase the number of CCC-four-year university transfer students by 35%.
    3. reduce the number of unnecessary credits earned by students to reduce their cost and their time to completion.
    4. increase Career and Technical Education (CTE) student attainment of ‘field of study’ jobs by 15+%.
    5. reduce by 40% the equity gaps between white and non-white/differently-abled students to ensure they receive their full share of the CCC promise. This metrics includes full closure of the gap by 2027.
    6. improve success rates across all measures in regions where adult educational achievement levels are low. Not all of California’s nine economic regions are equally adept at serving the educational needs of all of their diverse populations. This metric compels the State to look at those regions where gaps exist and find resources and solutions to reduce those gaps.


California’s Vision for Success for its many community college students is also its vision for the success of its communities and economies. The State’s dedicated focus and investment in assisting its diverse learner populations in attaining their goals also further the State’s goal of improving its economics, currently and in the future. The Vision for Success foundation provides all involved in those processes the parameters and guidance they need to follow through with its mandate while also following through with personal, social, and community goals.


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