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Collaboration Series: Folsom Lake College

by Francis Fletcher

As part of our Collaboration Series, Francis Fletcher, Interim Dean at Folsom Lake College, shares how they navigated the challenges they faced as a result of Covid-19. This series is intended to connect the higher education community to colleagues doing similar work to learn from and support each other. If you are interested in sharing a helpful strategy, please contact Lisa Hunter, Vice President of Solutions Architect at Ad Astra. 

Like many California community colleges, Folsom Lake College (FLC) faced a challenging task when considering the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 schedules due to Covid-19. Specifically, FLC was informed that it would need to cut its course offerings by 10% (10% of its FTE), and with Fall 2020 registration looming, FLC didn't have much time to make these decisions. However, FLC knew that it needed to be mindful of student progression and retention, particularly during these uncertain times, and wanted to be very judicious when trimming the schedule.  

FLC turned to Ad Astra to help with this quick schedule pivot. Using insights from FLC’s pathways, Ad Astra was able to advise where FLC could make necessary cuts that would cause minimal damage to student throughput. By combing pathway information with FLC student enrollment data, FLC was able to quickly determine where the college was overscheduling and where FLC could make the most strategic cuts to limit student impact. In its first round of making section cuts, FLC identified overscheduling based on California State University (CSU) requirements. (Ad Astra defines overscheduled as the number of seats available compared to actual historical enrollment.) Instructional deans reviewed their areas using the Ad Astra data and worked with department chairs to determine which classes to cut. For example, Ad Astra data indicated that, for CSU General Education Area A1, FLC overscheduled in Spring 2020 the equivalent of one class, so classes offered in Spring 2021 that meet CSU Area A1 were listed with a recommendation to cut one section of one of those listed classes. In its second round of making section cuts, FLC identified overscheduling based on Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum requirements. FLC’s Faculty Workload Committee reviewed the already completed work.  In addition to full-time instructors’ loads, preferenced adjunct instructors’ loads were checked.   

All told, FLC positioned its schedule cuts to be as minimally impactful as possible. By the end of July, 84% of FLC’s Fall 2020 schedule cuts were strategically made in identified general education areas, or absolute requirements in only 1 or 2 programs. Before August 1, the college was already at about 90% of Fall 2020 enrollment and pleased to have done much of what it could to ensure students would be taking courses productively in Fall 2020. Half of the required reductions for Spring 2021 were made by the end of Spring 2020; the remaining work will be done when faculty return for Fall 2020. Some departments took more than a 10% cut to their Fall 2020 offerings, so other departments with classes in the same GE areas that did not cut as much will be requested to make more cuts to their Spring 2021 offerings.   

About the Author: 
Francis Fletcher is an English Instructor who is currently serving as Interim Dean of Visual and Performing Arts and Language and Literature at Folsom Lake College.