We are Ray and Kelli, counselors at City. Mark Cuban's money tips. Best cell phone plans. 28 things to stop buying. 50 best big companies to work for. 25 highest and lowest paying jobs. 15 odd jobs that pay great. 1st grader asks for food and blanket from Santa. Homeless to Billionaire. Which debt to pay off first. Money in the bank. Wonder. Funeral for a neighbor.

The veterans page: Veterans Day. A surprised 8-year-old. Honoring heroic dog. Honorably discharged veterans shop tax-free. Forever GI Bill. Father takes care of 4 children. Integrate Marine Training? Robotic legs. Costs of war. Saluting a fallen soldier. 300K Lotto winner. Vets and painkillers. Vet resources. Grandmother of veteran's family deported. Housing the homeless. Veteran finds healing through adopting a cat. Wounded Marines help others.

Empowering students to fulfill their dreams through education.


I’m living proof that with the right mix of intelligence, motivation, time and money, even a welfare kid from Los Angeles can achieve her dream.  I grew up in a neighborhood in LA County that turned into gang turf soon after I left.  I flew across the country to Nashville, TN (talk about culture shock!) to attend Vanderbilt University on scholarship.  When I finished, three major changes (Special Ed, Secondary Education English and English Literature) and four years later, I moved to San Diego to work on my masters in Rehabilitation Counseling at SDSU.  While attending SDSU, I worked full-time at an insurance company.  I cold-called all of the community colleges at the end of my degree program to find an internship and ended up working at Cuyamaca College in multiple positions, including teaching and counseling, until 2004.  That internship connected me with City College, where I started counseling in Summer 2000.  Somewhere in there, I got married, moved my mom into my house, got a dog and a cat (instead of kids), and earned another masters degree (in Literature & Writing Studies from CSU San Marcos.  If you’re interested in vampires, my thesis is in the library at CSUSM – wait, does that mean I’m actually a published author?). 
Outside of work, I hang out with my husband, which usually includes discussions about money, history, computers, or politics, among other things <grin>, I’m working on a novel (or two), I read (a lot) of fiction (mostly fantasy), I watch way too much TV (because that’s how my mom forces me to pay attention to her), and I spend one Saturday a month pretending to be a paladin in a role playing game (Pathfinder, for the curious) with a bunch of friends.
Contact Kelli 

Science and Technology (Posted May 8, 2017)
by Kelli Turpin

I’m a fairly private person.  Google my name and the first thing that pops up is my RateMyProfessors.com profile from over a decade ago, then a few things that aren’t about me, then my profile at City’s Counseling website, followed by a bunch of other stuff that also isn’t about me.  (Some of the images connect back to the blog posts I wrote a few years ago.  I didn’t click through all of the images, but the first couple of screens?  Not me.)  A friend from high school found me through the blog a while ago (about three years or so, I think).  Then a few months ago, I got an e-mail from a stranger that rocked my world.

I need to go back to the science part.  (Google is the “technology” part, if you must know. <grin>)

At some point last summer, after many requests from my mother, we ordered two DNA kits from Ancestry.com*.   We duly spit into the little cups and sent them away for processing.  Sometime in September, the results got posted on-line in my account^.  We oohed and aahed and promptly forgot about it.  (For anyone who’s interested: my “ethnicity estimate” is 48% Great Britain, 19% Ireland, and 33% Other Regions, which includes 16% Italy/Greece – that will be important in a minute).

In February, I got an e-mail at work entitled “Ancestry DNA.”  It was a busy time, so I actually didn’t read it until later that day.  I kind of shrugged and thought: Hmm.  Maybe I have a relative at City College!  When I finally read it, I learned that I had a younger sister.  Wrap your mind around that.  This wasn’t like the pages of 4th or 5th cousins that Ancestry’s test had spat out before.  This was an actual sibling.  (Technically, we would share the same amount of DNA if we were first cousins as well, but since we both knew our bio-father’s name and it was the same name, it was siblings.)

Now, I’ve always been the baby in my family.  My brothers are significantly older than me (they were 14 & 15 when I was born).  I’m the only grand-daughter.  My entire identity as a member of my family was intertwined between those two things. 

Understand that I’ve always known that my Dad wasn’t my biological father.  Dad died when I was very young, so I have no idea why he “adopted” me as his own or why the rest of his family just accepted me as one of them without so much as hiccup.  I just know that I have his name even if I don’t share any of his DNA. 

It honestly never occurred to me to care about my biological father.  Thom pretty much waltzed into my mother’s life, hung out for a while, donated some sperm, then left, never to be seen or heard from again.  I knew his name.  I knew he was Italian, but everyone warned me to take that with a grain of salt, because “Thom lied a lot.”

So, I have a sister.  She’s eight years younger than me, give or take, and she’s always been the older sister.  Our bio-father spent about a year with her and her mother before he left to go back to his wife(!), so she actually has pictures#.  When he died, not long after she attempted to reconnect with him, as his only living relative, she was the executor of his estate (not a job I envy, after doing it for my aunt), so she went through his stuff.  There was no mention of me or my mother, though there was rumor that he was “married” to someone with my mom’s name before he married his wife.

Science told me that I actually was Italian (Thom’s mother was Brooklyn Italian, third generation American) and matched my DNA to my sister’s.  Technology made it possible for us to reach out and connect.  We talked on the phone for about an hour, though we haven’t yet met face-to-face. 

I can’t say that my life has changed significantly.  I’m still the younger sister to my brothers, even though I’m now an older sister, too.  I’m still me, with all of my own peculiarities (or eccentricities).  But, now I know why I talk with my hands and why I love driving fast+.  I’ve been able to fill in some of the missing pieces that, while I never noticed their lack, make me who I am.

*Around the Fourth of July, I think, because Ancestry.com has sales on the big holidays and we had results in September.

^While I can’t claim that no one will ever see the results, everyone who doesn’t own the account is completely anonymous to everyone other than the account owner.  I know who belongs to which test, but the DNA testing company only has a number. 

#She divorced him.  Go figure!

+Because my grandfather was a race-car driver.

Open Registration (or: How to Crash Classes) by Kelli Turpin (Kelli wrote the following article for fall 2014 registration.)

pic by Jefferson Liffey

Open Registration in the San Diego Community College District has begun.  That means that all of the continuing students have enrolled (or should have enrolled), the new students who applied before the July 1st deadline have enrolled and it’s now time for the new students who applied late to attempt to enroll.

If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know that I think that English is a foundational skill for college – if you don’t at least read at a college level before you go into other college-level courses, you may have to spend more time reading your textbook than you would like.

At this point in the registration process, there are very few (if any) English courses still available at City.  Those that are still available (as of 2:30 on 8/4) are a) college level or higher; b) part of learning communities that are actually closed; or c) designed for ESOL students.  If you’re ready for college-level English, go for it.  If you’re not, consider seriously waiting until next semester to start anything more strenuous that an Exercise Science (formerly Physical Education) or a Basic Computer Skills class (usually in the Computer Business Technology department) class.  Why?

1)   For Spring 2015 registration, you’ve met the application deadline.  That means that you’ll be registering at least a week earlier (possibly more if you complete the matriculation requirements below before the deadline).  In turn, that means that you have a significantly better chance of getting an English class.
2)   You have time to get your Matriculation done: Orientation, Assessment, and Initial Ed Plan, at least; possibly even a Comprehensive Ed Plan during a 1-hour appointment during Fall semester (assuming you know exactly what your major will be, where you want to transfer to, and how much time you really have).  This will improve your registration date.
3)   You have time to get all of your Financial Aid stuff ready to go.  (My assumption: if you applied for the college after July 1st, you probably didn’t apply for FAFSA until after July 1st.  That means your file might not be complete yet.  In turn, that means that you may be starting Fall semester without money for books, thus starting off with a second deficit.

pic by NazWeb

After all of that, if you’re still determined to start classes in Fall, here are some tips:
1)   Choose classes you’re already interested in – that way you won’t resent the extra time you have to spend reading and writing because your English skills aren’t up to par.
2)   Use the waitlists – and check your status on them at least twice a week on Reg-e.  Once you’re able to register, do so.  Then pay your fees.
3)   If you make it into a class, show up on the first day.  Because…
4)    …If you don’t make it into a class, show up on the first day.  If you’re #2 on the waiting list and 2 people don’t show up for class, the instructor may give you their spot.  (They are not required to do so.)
5)   If you don’t get on a waiting list, show up for the class anyway.  Some instructors are willing to take extra students above and beyond the waiting list.  (This is highly unlikely for classes that include labs or English writing classes).
6)   Don’t stress about getting to full-time for Financial Aid purposes.  As long as you’re enrolled in at least 6 units (half-time), you’ll still receive half of your Pell Grant award – enough for books and supplies for the classes you’re enrolled in – and you’ll be a continuing student next semester.  There’s a limit to how much money you can receive from the Pell Grant over your lifetime.  Don’t waste it on classes you’re taking just to get your foot in the door.
7)   Once you’re in a class, use the add code promptly and pay your fees immediately.  Then, go buy your books.

Lessons From Orientation by Kelli Turpin

picture by Tomwsulcer
I spent last summer doing an orientation or two every day. I noticed that I hit on certain things regularly, even though they weren’t in the presentation. Call them lessons learned; call them nuggets of wisdom. Here are the things I’ve noticed students need to know to be successful.

The big question I get asked over and over again by first-time students is “What do I take?” The answer is almost always, “It depends.”  But here’s my formula: in an ideal world (a world where you can get any class you actually want to take), you should take one or more English classes and/or Math, plus at least one course you want to show up for. Why?

pic by carmichaellibrary
English is the basis for every other class. The better you read, the easier it is for you to get information via the written word, the easier every other class will be. This is key if you’re not yet eligible for college-level reading. It’s not impossible to do well without the appropriate English level, but it’s difficult. Instructors assume a certain level of reading competence and measure the amount of reading based on that. If you’re not there yet, you’ll be spending more time reading than the other students who have better skills. Chances are, if you’re not reading at college level, reading probably isn’t your favorite thing, anyway – do you really want to do any more of it than you have to?

If you’re ready for college reading, but you still need another class or two for writing, I’d suggest getting started. It’s not as imperative, but you will be writing papers and the more practice you have, the easier it will be – and the less time you’ll have to spend doing it.

If you tested at college level English (Both R5 and W5 on the assessment), it would still be worthwhile to get that first composition course out of the way.


Lessons from Orientation Continued (Math) by Kelli Turpin

picture by Galaksiafervojo

Lessons from orientation continued: 

Math is one of those subjects that most people either love or hate. If you love it, definitely take it your first semester. Consider majoring in something that requires lots of math – engineering, economics, computer science, physical sciences – because those are majors that are connected with jobs that tend to grow.

If you hate math, you have a couple of choices:

a.  Take it your first semester and plow through until you’re done – once you’ve started, don’t stop. Math builds on itself, so keep building.

b.   Wait a semester. There’ll be flak for this one. Here’s my logic. If you think that you’re going to struggle in math and this is going to be your first semester in college, waiting for a semester to start math will give you the opportunity to succeed in college courses. Once you’ve succeeded, you know you have the study skills and ability to do well in college. At that point, you know that any issues you have with math are with math specifically and not with collegegenerally. Waiting also gives you the opportunity to figure out how much time classes will take without math, so you have a better idea of how much time to budget for math – or how many other classes you can take with math.

Keep in mind that you can’t earn an associate degree without finishing Math 96 (or its equivalent) and you can’t transfer without a class that has Math 96 as a prerequisite. So don’t put it off too long.

Also know that all the baggage you carry around in regards to math is probably from some moment or series of moments in elementary school. You’re not 10 years old anymore – chances are, with the right professor (useratemyprofessors.com), you’ll actually get it now.

If you need help in math, there is free tutoring available in our tutorial center (room L-205), and you can always arrange to meet with your math instructor during office hours to make sure you are on track.  

Lessons From Orientation continued by Kelli Turpin

pic by Tulane Public Relations

Lessons from Orientation (continued):

The Computer is Stupid (or: Look at Your Schedule, Silly)
Computers do exactly what you tell them to do and nothing else. Therefore, it’s up to you to make sure you know what you’re telling it.

During Registration/Before the Semester Starts
After you’ve registered for all of your classes, click on the “View Schedule” button.  This is your moment to make sure that you didn’t accidently transpose a number within the CRN (Course Reference Number) and register for Ceramics at Mesa when you really meant to enroll for Beginning Stagecraft at City.

This is also the moment to make sure that the classes you scheduled back-to-back are really at the same campus. The computer requires that you have at least 10 minutes between classes. It will let you register for a class at City that ends at 11:00 a.m. and a class at Miramar that starts at 11:10 a.m. Because the computer doesn’t drive, it doesn’t care that you cannot physically get from City to Miramar in 10 minutes.

While you’re paying attention to details on Reg-E, click on “View/Pay Fees.” Most people have to pay the $19 health fee – even if you have Financial Aid. If you don’t pay your fees, you will be dropped from your classes. Even if you’ve already paid the health fee, click on the Fees button just to make sure (see above “The Computer is Stupid”). I don’t think you’ll be dropped, but better safe than sorry.

If you’re on a wait list for a class, you need to check your e-mail and/or Reg-E at least a couple of times a week. Once you get the notification that you’re able to add from the wait list, you only have a few days to do it. After that, the next person gets the class and you get dropped from the wait list. For some classes, that’s not much of an issue. For others (like English or Biology), it could be critical.

After the Semester Starts
The most important thing to do at the beginning of the semester is to look at your schedule on Reg-E. If you look at your schedule on the second Monday of the semester and find that you’re actually not enrolled in that Art class you love so much, you have plenty of time to make that happen (the deadline is the second Friday -- February 7th for spring 14). If you wait until the third Monday, you’re out of luck. You will not be able to register for any class after the add date.

Make sure that you drop any class you’re not actually attending.Professors are supposed to drop students from their roster who are inactive, or did not show up for class. Usually, they’re pretty good at it. Sometimes, they overlook someone.

pic by Arthur Grigoryan
Pop Quiz: To whom is your life more important? You or the professor?

Answer: You, Silly. Therefore, it is your responsibility to make sure you’re enrolled in classes that you’re attending and that you’re not enrolled in classes you are not attending. 

GPA Questions Answered
by Kelli Turpin

             picture by Mando vzl

This blog post is in response to an anonymous comment on the blog a few days ago regarding GPA.  I’ve edited the questions a bit and answered them a little more fully than the commenter probably thought I would. 
Let’s start at the beginning.  GPA stands for Grade Point Average.   Your GPA tells anyone looking at your transcript how good your grades are.  (You’ll notice I didn’t say “how good a student/person/employee you are.  Your grades are a direct reflection of how well you absorb and remember specific information, not necessarily how much you know and definitely not how smart you are.) 
How to Calculate GPA
Each grade is worth points (Grade Point Average).  You know this:
Each course is associated with a certain number of units, usually three.  To get your grade points for each class, multiply the number of units times the value of the grade:
A Spanish 101 (5 units) with an earned grade of A would be worth 20 grade points (5 units x 4 points)
To get your GPA, divide grade points by units: (20/5 = 4.0)
You’re right, that was too easy.  How about this:
Grade (Points)
Grade Points
Span 101
A (4)
Engl 101
B (3)
Math 096
B (3)
(Grade Points/Units)
44/13 = 3.38 GPA

picture by Sbcaphil

Looking for a way to calculate GPA that doesn’t require doing math?  Check out the GPA calculator on the Transfer Center’s website.  Click on GPA Calculator on the right hand side of the page.  It’s a MS Excel file, so you need Excel to open it.
Now, on to the questions!
Question 1:  Is the general education certification GPA computed along with the major requirements GPA to arrive at a cumulative GPA for the Associates?
Answer:  All grades are used to calculate cumulative GPA.  Cumulative means “everything up to now.” 
Types of GPA you might run across:
Cumulative GPA is everything, including courses from other colleges and courses that don’t count toward a degree or transfer.
College (or District) GPA only includes those course you’ve completed within our District.  This is the GPA you see on E-Grades.
Associate-degree applicable GPA includes all courses except remedial courses.  Remedial courses are those courses in English and Math which serve to get you ready for the level you need to graduate (essentially, the pre-requisites to English 101/105 and Math 096).
Transfer GPA includes all courses which transfer, either to the CSU system or the UC system.  If a course is numbered 100 or higher, it generally transfers to the CSU, but may or may not transfer to the UC.  (Why the difference?  Essentially, the UC system is slightly pickier than the CSU system.)
Education plans for certificates (or GE Certifications) use only the courses required for that certificate in calculating GPA.  To earn a Certificate (of Achievement or Performance), your GPA in the major courses must be above a 2.0.  The college doesn’t care what your cumulative GPA is in that case.  However, if you want to graduate “with distinction,” we look at your cumulative associate-degree-applicable GPA.
All the GPA on GE certifications does is tell you how well you did in the GE courses on the list.  It doesn’t calculate anything in your major or anything other than those few courses. 
There are a few things that are never calculated in GPA:
            The first or second grades of courses that you repeated.
            Courses Academically Renewed Without Course Repetition.
            Courses that have “W” or “P” or “NP” or “I” as the grade.
Question 2)  […] would those credits remain on my transcripts or be removed once the certification is completed and my Associate's Degree awarded?
                 picture by David Maiolo

Answer: Your transcript is forever.  Courses you completed right after you graduated from high school 40 years ago are still valid.  No grade is ever pulled from your record except by Academic Renewal (either by repeating a course or by petition).  In addition, even if the grade is no longer calculated, it still shows up.  Your transcript is a legal document where nothing is ever deleted, only annotated.

Question 3) Also, are the District Requirements for Graduation computed at all in my GPA or just checked off as having been completed?
Answer: All courses are calculated toward your GPA.
Other questions?

Choosing a Major -- by Kelli Turpin

When I was publishing my last post (the one about Catalog Rights), I realized that we hadn’t yet talked about how to choose a major.  Since I brought it up, I get to talk about the process of choosing a major.  The things I get myself into!

Before you start thinking about a major, think about your career.  You’re in college for a reason, right?  Many times, career choice dictates major choice: you can’t be an engineer without an engineering degree.  Even for those careers that don’t have connected majors, knowing your end goal will help you maintain your motivation, which will in turn keep your grades up, which will improve your chances of getting into the university of your choice, which should lead to graduation and a real job. 
Career-Based Majors
If your career has a connected major, then choosing a major is easy. 
Major (at SDSU for example)
Social Worker
Social Work
Aerospace, Chemical, Civil, Computer, Electrical, Mechanical Engineering (to name a few)
Accountancy, Finance, Financial Systems, Management, Management Information Systems, Marketing, Real Estate
Registered Nurse
Nursing (BSN)

These are just examples, but you get the idea. 
I would highly recommend taking major preparation classes as early as possible to make sure you’re actually interested in the path you’ve chosen.  If you want to major in Business, but find out that you hate Economics, then that could indicate a change of major.  Changing your major during your second semester is not a bad thing – chances are, most of your first semester classes were general education anyway.  Later?  That could get complicated.
Then, there are the careers that don’t have connected majors:
Requirements for Professional School
Medical Doctor
A Bachelor’s degree.  A year of Biology, two years of Chemistry, a year of Physics, a year of Calculus. 
A Bachelor’s degree.  The ability to read, write, and do research
A Bachelor’s degree.  A teaching credential (Multiple Subject for Elementary Education; Single Subject for Secondary Education).

Again, these are examples.  If you’re choosing one of these careers, you have three options. 
  1. Choose based on pre-requisites.  Those specific pre-reqs for medical school (and vet school, dental school, pharmacy school, optometry school) are essentially the same courses that you need as preparation for a Biology major or a Chemistry major.  If you’re good at science and math and you feel confident in your ability to do well in more advanced science and math courses, majoring in one of the sciences might work.  If you’re not that interested in majoring in science, med schools don’t penalize you for majoring in something else – in fact, they like the diversity of thought that humanities and social science majors bring to the field. 
  2. Choose based on specialty.  If you’re going to practice corporate law, major in something related to business.  If you’re going to be a marine animal veterinarian, you could major in zoology or marine biology or oceanography. 
  3. Choose based on what you’re interested in.  You already know where your career’s going, so you should know what’s involved in getting there.  If grades matter, then taking classes that you actually want to take will result in higher grades.
Interest-Based Majors
Note: this works for Associate degrees only to the extent that you’re going to transfer for a Bachelor degree – or when your job wants a degree, any degree, for promotion purposes.  Reality check: an Associate degree in English isn’t going to open the door to many career paths without a higher degree.  An Associate degree in Nursing, however, will get you a job.
When the career you’ve chosen doesn’t dictate your choice of major, or if you’re hoping that studying what you love will lead you to the perfect career, you’ve broadened your choices considerably.  Suddenly, you’ve gone from one choice – Accounting – to an entire bookshelf full of catalogs.  This may be overwhelming.  How do you choose?
  1. Pick a University (or three)

Univ of Hamburg by Merlin Senger
This could be based on proximity – you live down the street from University X.  Or prestige – you’ve always wanted a degree from University Y.  It could be based on teaching/learning style – you take one class at a time instead of four.  It could be based on schedule – they offer classes that work around your life.  You could choose because a certain scholar teaches at that university.

  1. Read through the catalog.
No, I’m not telling you to start at page 1 and work your way through 500 pages of dense text, reading every word.  Look at the upper division courses (usually courses numbered 300 or 400) and note the courses that pique your interest.  A department that has more than 10 courses that make you go “ooh, that sounds fun,” should make your list.

If there’s only one major on that list, you’re good to go.  If more than one major fascinates you, with 10 courses or more, consider a double major, realizing that those extra ten classes are going to take you an extra year to complete, or an advanced degree, which will usually take you another two to five years (or more).  If you’ve found a few majors with four or five courses, some colleges allow an “Interdisciplinary” or do-it-yourself major, where you mix and match.  If one major pulls you (10 courses) and one kind of interests you (5 courses), you’ve got a major and a minor.
  1. Follow the money
If you’re fascinated by more than one major and you don’t want to take the extra year to finish it, follow the money.  The Wall Street Journal’s “From College Major to Career” database lists unemployment numbers for each major listed, earnings at the 25th, median, and 75th percentiles (translation: early career, mid career, late career salaries), and popularity of that major.  Click on your chosen majors and see which one will let you a) become and remain employed and b) earn the most money.

Catalog Rights - by Kelli Turpin

Many of the terms that you hear from City's faculty and staff are unfamiliar.  In order to be sure that you've completed all the requirements for an associate degree, you need to know a) what your major is, and b) what your catalog year is.  This post aims to help you understand your catalog rights and how to determine catalog year.  (What if you don't know what your major is?  Stay tuned.  I have a feeling that we're going to cover that at some point in the near future.)

First, some background:

An associate degree requires 60 units, or 20 classes.  A well-prepared full-time student usually takes 12 (or more) units (4 classes) each semester and finishes in 5 (or fewer) semesters (approximately 2 ½ years).  If a student cannot take 12 units a semester, then the same degree will take longer to finish.  (For those of you who like numbers: If our hypothetical student takes one class a semester, then that student will take 20 semesters to finish a degree.  Given the lack of summer school in our district, that translates into 10 years.  Two classes a semester = 10 semesters = 5 years.)
The requirements for each degree program are published in the College Catalog each academic year.  The catalog is the official document that establishes each program’s requirements.  Each department has the responsibility to update and revise its section of the catalog each year.  When technology, employment needs, or transfer requirements change, the affected departments change their programs accordingly.
graphic design work by Emmanuel Cloix
Consider for a moment the field of Graphic Design.  What are the chances that the technology involved in the graphic design industry will change in the next ten years?  Pretty good, right?  And the curriculum at the community college needs to change with technology, or it risks becoming obsolete. 
Here’s the problem with that: if a student starts a degree program now, takes a single class a semester and plans to finish in 10 years, then the degree program changes, s/he may not be able to finish in good time.  This student would be required to take extra classes to complete new requirements. 
In order to keep this from happening, the District has established a practice called “Catalog Rights.”  This practice guarantees that a student will be able to graduate under the degree requirements established in the catalog in force at the time they began their studies within the District (this is the student’s “Catalog Year”).  The one requirement is that the student maintain “continuous enrollment,” which is defined as “attendance in one semester (or two quarters) within a calendar year in either the CSU, UC, or California Community College System” (2012-2013 San Diego City College Catalog, p. 85).
Consider the following as an example:
Fall 2008 – English 48
Summer 2009 – English 49
Fall 2010 – English 101
Spring 2011 – Psychology 101

Spring 2012 – Biology 107
Because the student took at least one class per calendar year, s/he would be held to the requirements for the 2008/2009 catalog year. 
What if a student wants to follow the most current program requirements?  Students may opt to graduate with the requirements in force either the year they started or the year they finished.

Student Success – An Introduction by Kelli Turpin

A successful student balances on a stool with three legs.  Leg #1 is motivation.  If you don’t want to be in college, it’s going to be extremely hard to make the time and spend the money to do it well.  Leg #2 is time.  A student must come to class prepared to learn in order to get the most out of class time.  All classes require reading and some kind of exams; most also require papers and other types of homework, all of which (with the exception of the actual exams) occur outside of class.  Leg #3 is money.  Class fees for California residents are relatively inexpensive – once the rates go up to $46 per unit, students in New Mexico, the state with the next cheapest fees, still pay an extra $2.50 per unit – but the expensive part of college is books.  The average college book is $100-$150 and some classes require multiple books at that price.  We’ll talk about each of the legs in separate posts, but first, we need to define what we mean by “success.”

Who defines student success?  Ideally, the student.  Student A wants to learn about history.  He takes some history classes and walks away.  As far as he’s concerned, pass or fail, whatever grade he earned (or didn’t earn), he has successfully done what he wanted to do: he learned some history.  Student Z, however, wants to become a pediatrician.  She wants to transfer to UC Berkeley, double major in Biology and Development Studies, then go to medical school at UC San Francisco.  For her, grades matter – both Berkeley and medical schools demand great grades.  Completion matters – it takes a long time to get a medical degree and she wants to get done, so she can do what she loves.  Both students came to college for a reason – they had motivation – but their definition of success differed markedly.

Realistically speaking, success has to be defined at an institutional or legislative level and falls somewhere in between the two extremes.  According to the San Diego Community College District, a student maintains “good standing” (which is predictive of some form of success), when s/he maintains at least a 2.0 GPA and completes at least 61% of the units s/he attempts.  According to the State of California, “success” is measured by 6-year graduation and/or transfer rates.  Neither of these measures is perfect.  A 2.0 GPA in San Diego won’t get you into most majors at most of the local universities.  Some people take longer than 6 years to graduate and/or transfer.  Each measure gives the institution the ability to see what we’re doing well and what we need to work on.

For the purposes of this discussion, “success” refers to a student completing classes that work toward a goal.  The student may be required to earn a certain GPA to achieve that goal, but must maintain at least a 2.0 for an associate degree.

Homework {cue groans}: Before our next installment, your homework is this: Spend some time imagining what “success” looks like to you.  What is your long-term goal?  What will your life look like ten years from now?  Will you have a specific job, live in a specific place, love a specific person?  Who will you be in a decade? 

Leg #1: Motivation
Leg #2: Time
Leg #3: Money

1 comment:

  1. Kelli,

    I am in the process of evaluating my general education requirements for several associates degrees and would like to know:

    a. Is the general education certification GPA computed along with the major requirements GPA to arrive at a cummulative GPA for the Associates?

    For example, I have a 4.0 in Communication (major) but a 3.0 in the SDCC Associate Degree Requirements.

    b. What would my GPA be computed as and would those credits remain on my transcripts or be removed once the certification is completed and my Associate's Degree awarded?

    Also, are the District Requirements for Graduation computed at all in my GPA or just checked off as having been completed?