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The Philosopher's Stone: How basic skills programs fare in troubled financial times

Thomas P Ray, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This mixed methods study examined the relative position of basic skills programs with transfer and career technical programs in a large suburban community college in California during the three-year period of budget reductions from 2009-2010 through 2011-2012. The budget line dedicated to part-time or non-contract instruction was analyzed along with supporting documents such as planning committee minutes and program review data. Knowledge of the budget data and the reduction strategies employed helped to establish a picture of the state of basic skills and the institution's disposition toward them. The budget data proved to be an inadequate tool to measure investment in the basic skills in that it did not consider resources other than instruction. Four faculty members and administrators integral to the instructional budget decision-making process during the period of reductions were interviewed. An institutional ethnography approach was used for the selection and recruitment of interview participants and the interviews. The combination of the interview and budget findings informed the conclusions of the study. The study revealed that at this one college, the institution's disposition toward the basic skills remained relatively unchanged to that of career technical education and transfer during the three-year period. The study also revealed that a complete picture of the impact of the budget reductions on basic skills programming and outcomes could not be determined without expanding the study beyond instruction. The challenge of finding and interpreting data and the complex interdependence of resources internal and external to the college made data-driven decision-making difficult for this college.

Subject Area

Community college education|Education finance|Higher Education Administration

Recommended Citation

Ray, Thomas P, "The Philosopher's Stone: How basic skills programs fare in troubled financial times" (2012). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3546602.