Honest conversations necessary for improvement

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While the new MyDelta system shoulders some blame, there needs to be honest conversations about student needs and success between staff, faculty and students. Students need to be leading that conversation. 

I have been a student at Delta College for two non-consecutive semesters and a student of the University of California system for five years. I have seen Delta College struggling at a different level than UC’s or CSU’s. 

In my time at a UC, I had access to a financial aid specialist. I was able to set an appointment and meet with my specialist to help me fill out the FAFSA and I could return to that same specialist when I had questions. 

At Delta, I asked students if they have ever sat down with a financial aid specialist one-on-one. The students asked expressed that they had not. Others expressed never receiving callbacks or messages.

When students line up to speak to a student worker at the admissions or financial aid window, the lines are extremely long. There aren’t enough workers in comparison to the number of students needing services. 

 Many students work and go to school at the same time and what isn’t taken into consideration is the fact that those same students need to take time off to complete registration tasks, which creates stress because the process is rarely smooth. 

Putting blame on the specialist or the student workers aren’t solutions. I can say the same for counselors and other staff on campus that seem overworked. 

POSITIVES NOTED‭, ‬BUT MORE TO BE DONE

 Delta College needs to do better to support students and to better support staff that support students. Hiring more counselors and student workers is a first step.

 Reading this may cause gasps or head nods in agreement, but whatever your opinion is, we as a campus, cannot deny that there are student needs that are not being met, especially needs that affect retention rates.  

If you look on the Facebook group of Delta students, there are constant grievances posted, with students asking questions to each other because their question went unanswered in an email with staff. 

 “But San Joaquin Delta College was ranked the best community college in California and fourth in the United States!” You may say and I completely agree. Delta College offers quality education and has an amazing staff. It is also more affordable than a UC or CSU, but that doesn’t mean the institution as a whole is not struggling to support students and staff. 

 There needs to be an honest conversation with students to identify solutions to institutional challenges and a way for students to hold campus faculty and staff accountable for promised action items. 

 I am not saying Delta College is NOT doing anything. I also do know that there are staff that truly care about student success. What I am saying is that students truly need to be a part of this conversation so that the solutions have long-term positive affects. 

GUIDED PATHWAYS‭ ‬STRUCTURE MOVES‭ ‬INTO PLACE

One solution the institution is adopting as a way to address issues such as retention rates, graduation rates and support services is Guided Pathways. 

 Diane Feneck, a counselor in the Counseling and Special Services Division, answered questions about Guided Pathways, a framework that was adopted by 20 community colleges.

 “What we were finding was that students were not being successful in completing their goals,” she said. 

Feneck identified reasons students may not be completing goals:

Students apply but never start

Students struggle to complete English and math classes

Students are unable to take full course loads (12-15) units per semester because they need to work

Students took the wrong classes

Students took more units than needed

The Guided Pathways framework was adopted to address these issues and “to streamline or structure pathways to help students get on the path and stay on the path so they can achieve their goals in a timely manner,” said Feneck.

At Delta College, the framework consists of Transfer and Career Pathways (TrACs) with various disciplines per track and different programs housed under each discipline. 

Each TrAC will have a success team consisting of a counselor, financial aid specialist, resource specialist and dean to provide wrap-around services and ensure success. Guided Pathways has four pillars.

1.     Clarify the path

2.     Help entering the path

3.     Help staying on the path

4.     Ensure that learning is happening 

 As a student who has seen different models used by different institutions to address student success, I believe that this model is a step in the right direction. 

After learning about the four pillars, I could not help but wonder about the current model used. I would think that if a student met with a counselor or another staff, they would be given all the information needed to understand their major, the classes needed for their major, including General Education requirements and what courses need to taken to transfer. 

COMMUNICATION GAPS NEED ADDRESSING

Delta College has a responsibility to help students navigate higher education successfully. Without acknowledging there is a communication gap between faculty, staff, and students, we will have challenges. 

How can the institution come up with solutions to problems without speaking to those directly affected? 

Feneck said that student input was sought.  

 “We have had student input and students have been invited to some of the campus wide forums that we have hosted because we really do want the student feedback,” she said.

 She also said campus-wide forums were held to talk about a new welcome center, an initiative that is a part of the Guided Pathways conversation.

“We’ve had student forums where we have gotten feedback on the TrACstracs for example like there were forums where students, we got input about the names of the tracs, you know like cause we wanted that to be something that meaningful to students.” 

Discussions of the Welcome Center and names of the TrACS, to me, is different than the conversation of how Guided Pathways will be implemented.

 “The one thing that we are always putting out there is what is best for students? When we are talking about Guided Pathways, it’s not about what’s best for us as employees of the college; it’s like what’s going to be best for our students. So students are the focus and we need their voice,” Feneck said. 

 Guided Pathways is in its third year of planning with implementation to occur in phases. The first phase will with the introduction of TrAcs. 

Honest conversations between faculty, staff, and students will be key to the success of Guided Pathways. When students provide input on what is NOT working, it is important for Delta to take a step back and instead of feeling attacked, see input as opportunity for improvement and growth, something that Delta cannot achieve without the voice of students.