NOTEWORTHY NEWS; California Puts off Audit of Community Colleges' Physical-Education Programs

By Jo, Marla | Black Issues in Higher Education, May 22, 2003 | Go to article overview

NOTEWORTHY NEWS; California Puts off Audit of Community Colleges' Physical-Education Programs


Jo, Marla, Black Issues in Higher Education


California officials are shifting gears on their previous plans to investigate physical-education programs for high-school students operated by the state's 108 community colleges, some of which were operating illegally.

California's Department of Finance initially said it would audit the courses, called bridge programs, to determine how many were violating state law. The department hasn't yet launched an investigation, however, saying the earliest one could begin this fall, after the state budget is signed. State Director of Finance Steve Peace said his office intends to conduct a full, independent audit of the community colleges' programs.

In the meantime, aside from a few planned spot checks, the nation's largest higher-education system will be free on its own recognizance.

In December, the Orange County Register reported that over the past decade, high-school students, sometimes pressured by their high-school coaches, signed up for college physical-education classes that were nothing more than regular practices or off-season workouts at high-school campuses. The colleges received millions of dollars in state funds for the enrollment boost the students provided; the students earned college credit; and the coaches received extra pay, all under the guise of concurrent-enrollment bridge programs.

By law, community colleges can't collect state funds for courses that aren't open and advertised to the general public. All courses must have rigorous college content, and colleges must also obtain permission from parents and principals before enrolling any high-school students.

Gov. Gray Davis has proposed slashing $80 million from next year's statewide budget -- the amount it costs to operate the bridge programs -- pending an audit.

Some community-college advocates have argued that the state's community colleges did not receive enough funding overall to pay for their enrollment growth last year, so they shouldn't have to pay back any money for classes they offered that might now be considered illegal.

Meanwhile, the California Legislature will soon receive the results of the state chancellor's survey, which was designed to determine how many colleges were illegally operating bridge programs.

Districts that operated the programs had until April 7 to complete the self-reporting survey, which focused on about 8,500 course sections statewide in which at least half of those enrolled were high-school students.

"We will be doing some spot auditing and going down to selected districts to look at validation," state Chancellor Thomas Nussbaum says. "We are looking at the results now, and then (the state Department of) Finance will be over here looking at them."

In the survey, college administrators were asked to state, under penalty of perjury, whether they enrolled high-school students in the classes legally. …

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