CATALYST v24n1 - ERIC Review: Noncredit Courses in the Community Colleges

Volume XXIV, Number 1
Winter 1994

David Deckelbaum
User Services Coordinator

A wide range of noncredit courses is available to community college students including remedial and developmental offerings, occupational skills and knowledge classes, and avocational and recreational courses. Marketing techniques, insuring appropriate funding levels, and measuring student outcomes in noncredit courses are all current concerns of community colleges.

The following citations reflect some of the current ERIC literature on noncredit courses in the community colleges. ERIC documents can be viewed on microfiche at approximately 900 libraries worldwide. In addition, most may be ordered on microfiche or in paper copy from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service by calling 800/443-ERIC. For an EDRS order form, or for more information on our products and services, please contact the ERIC Clearinghouse for Junior Colleges at 310/825-3931, or via the Internet at

Barchi, Patricia H. "Development of a Placement Guide for Noncredit Remedial Courses Offered at Mercer County Community College." Ed.D. Practicum, Nova University, 1992. 50 pp. (ED 348 083)

In 1992, a study was conducted at the James Kernel Campus (JKC) of Mercer County Community College in New Jersey to develop a placement guide for noncredit remedial courses. Although the majority of students attending JKC required academic skill remediation before enrolling in regular college courses, a placement guide for non-credit remediation had not yet been developed. Course schedules and descriptions, teaching methodologies, and skill tests and cutoff scores for all noncredit remedial programs and courses offered at JKC were collected. These data, along with the results of a literature review, were used to create the placement guide. An ad hoc committee, composed of five counselors and seven remediation instructors, met four times to provide input on the guide's content and design, and to review both the first draft and the final version. The resulting noncredit remedial placement guide included the following components: (1) college mission statement; (2) introduction/statement of purpose; (3) overview/benefits; (4) English as a Second Language, Basic Literacy, and Adult Basic Education/High School Equivalency Preparation (ABE/GED) program descriptions (including placement tests used, initial placement options based on test scores, course titles and schedules, maximum enrollments, teaching methodologies, and advising recommendations); and (5) a list of college and community support services. Appendixes provide Mercer's credit remedial placement chart; the procedures manual for noncredit offerings, for college catalog development, and for counseling services; and the noncredit remedial placement guide.

Boughan, Karl. A Cluster Analysis of the 1985-1989 Non-Credit Student Body: Implementing GAO-Demographic Marketing at P.G.C.C., Part II. Market Analysis MA91-5. Largo, MD: Prince George's Community College, Office of Institutional Research and Analysis, 1991. 29 pp. (ED 330 384)

In an effort to better market the college's programs and services, Prince George's Community College (PGCC), Maryland, utilizes U.S. Census data to group neighborhoods into natural socioeconomic, cultural, and lifestyle "clusters" for which special marketing strategies can be developed. In 1990, a GAO-demographic cluster analysis was conducted of county resident students who attempted at least one noncredit course at PGCC during the 5-year period from 1990. Twenty-three socioeconomic classifications were developed for the 36,725 students (56% of the original pool) analyzed. The 23 clusters were subsequently collapsed into 8 larger groups referred to as "super-clusters." To better assess which students were attracted to which types of courses, the 2,000 noncredit courses offered during the period under study were classified by subject matter interest area, and grouped into seven "product themes" (PTs). Study results revealed the following: (1) the upper middle-class, professional cluster showed preference for lifestyle and entrepreneurial PTs; (2) the wealthy, hyper-educated cluster was drawn toward the creative and high-tech PTs; (3) the lower middle-class, inner-suburban cluster showed preference for trades and crafts courses, with a small interest in career exploration PTs; and (4) the largely black, inner-suburban, and near-to-middle class cluster tended to prefer entrepreneurial, high-tech, and home and office PTs. Data tables are appended.

Cepeda, Rita, and Others. Noncredit Adult Education. A Report. Sacramento, CA: California Community Colleges, Board of Governors, 1992. 16 pp. (ED 351 063)

In the California Community Colleges (CCC), noncredit adult education courses provide remedial, developmental, occupational, and other educational opportunities for students who do not need to obtain unit credit at the time of enrollment. Of California's 107 community colleges, 95 offer noncredit instruction. Community colleges, together with high schools and unified school districts with adult schools, serve approximately 2 million students each year. It is estimated that in 1991-92, the CCCs will enroll almost 230,000 students in noncredit courses. As a result of numerous studies citing the lack of consistent and coordinated delivery of educational services to California's adult population, and in light of the growing population of students requiring English as a Second Language (ESL) and literacy instruction, the Chancellor's Office for the CCC and the State Department of Education appointed the Adult Education Interim Steering Committee, which includes representatives of all noncredit adult education providers in the state. During the last two years, the Steering Committee has focused on three major issues: accountability, quality, and funding and access. To date, the Steering Committee has helped field test quality standards and performance measures for ESL, established local planning consortia to develop data elements for a statewide information management system, and developed a prototype tracking system to cover all providers of adult instruction. A review of future planned activities of the Steering Committee is included. A history of legislative efforts in California, which have led to existing policies for adult education, and an outline of recommendations for improving the adult education system statewide are appended.

Ernest, Richard J., and Others. Report of the Task Force on Continuing Education and Non-Credit Instruction. Richmond, VA: Virginia State Department of Community Colleges, 1989. 49 pp. (ED 312 017)

The Task Force on Continuing Education and Non-Credit Instruction was appointed to develop specific strategies for expanding lifelong learning and noncredit instruction in the Virginia community colleges. The task force reviewed a report on the state funding on noncredit instruction, wrote to the community college coordinating offices in 17 states to obtain information on lifelong learning and noncredit instruction, and conducted on-site visits to institutions and statewide coordinating offices in seven states. The task force found Virginia nearly alone in its lack of funding support for continuing education noncredit instruction and the only state requiring that noncredit course fees pay for general overhead costs in addition to all direct costs. The following guidelines were proposed to ensure appropriate state funding for noncredit instruction: (1) noncredit continuing education courses that are designed to provide occupational skills/knowledge or otherwise contribute to economic development, courses addressing the problems of state and local governments, and courses designed to meet the needs of disadvantaged populations should be eligible for state funding; (2) state-supported noncredit courses shall meet specific quality standards; and (3) avocational and recreational courses shall be specifically excluded from state funding support. Criteria proposed as the basis for determining the amount of state support included the following: 15 contact hours in a noncredit course shall equal one semester credit in computing an equated annual full-time equivalent student (FTES); FTES generated from qualified non-credit courses shall be funded at the same rate as FTES generated by credit courses; and there shall be a common fee structure for the system. Reports on site visits are appended.

McConochie, Daniel D., and Clagett, Craig A. Measuring Continuing Education Outcomes: Accountability and Noncredit Postsecondary Programs. Annapolis, MD: Maryland State Board for Community Colleges, Largo, MD: Prince George's Community College, Office of Institutional Research and Analysis, 1991. 24 pp. (ED 327 232)

Growing institutional concern for excellence coupled with legislative mandates calling for accountability have prompted many colleges to emphasize student outcomes when evaluating and designing courses and programs. A careful review of the accountability literature, however, suggests that continuing education courses and students, in spite of their increasing numbers, have been largely ignored. Collecting student outcomes data for noncredit courses can help an institution (1) improve an area of college operations that has been expanding significantly in recent years; (2) establish or enhance routine data collection concerning continuing education; (3) document the contribution of continuing education to economic development; (4) enhance the public image of continuing education; (5) respond fully to accountability mandates; and (6) preserve tax-revenue support for continuing education. Among the obstacles to assessing student outcomes in continuing education courses are that such courses may not be integrated into the college's routine research function, or that program administrators may be used to considerable autonomy and therefore resist outside efforts at assessment or change. Indicators that can be used to measure learning outcomes include student attendance and course completion rates, subsequent student employment, student and employer satisfaction, and student pursuit of further education. Information systems containing data on course content, student evaluation of courses, follow-up surveys, and employment records can serve as useful assessment tools. A literature review and a 19-item bibliography are included.

Non-Credit Instructional Activities July 1, l991, through December 31, l991, with Trend Information from 1983. Albany, NY: State University of New York, Central Staff Office of Institutional Research, 1992. 522 pp. (ED 349 920)

This report provides a statistical summary (most of the volume) of the responses of the State University of New York (SUNY) constituent institutions to the biannual survey of noncredit instructional activities. The report is composed of three parts. Part I includes information on noncredit activities and registrations from a SUNY-wide perspective, from July 1, l991 through December 31, l991. Part II provides noncredit trend data from 1983 through 1991; and Part III includes a listing of all noncredit activities reported by SUNY colleges and universities from July 1, l991, through December 31, l991, by subject areas. Results show a substantial decline in the number of noncredit instructional activities and registrations at SUNY institutions in the fall 1991 period, particularly at the community college level. In general, the reports show a 15% decline in the number of noncredit activities and a 17.5% drop in the number of registrations across the SUNY system, compared to those reported in the preceding 6-month period. The appendix includes a map of the locations of SUNY institutions and a chronological listing of when the institutions were established. Also provided is a publications list.

Non-Credit Instructional Activities January 1, l992 through June 30, l992 with Trend Information from 1983. Report No. 20-93. Albany, NY: State University of New York, Central Staff Office of Institutional Research, and Office of Institutional Research, State 1993. 530 pp. (ED 354 830)

This report consists largely of statistical data that summarizes the responses of the State University of New York (SUNY) to the biannual survey of Non-Credit Instructional Activities for January 1, l992, through June 30, l992. The report consists of five parts. Part 1 includes information on noncredit activities and registrations from a SUNY-wide perspective. Part II provides noncredit trend data from 1983 through June 30, l992. Part III includes a listing of all noncredit activities offered at SUNY colleges and universities from January 1, l992, through June 30, l992 by subject areas, title, and campus. For each noncredit instructional activity reported in the survey, the following information is provided: contact hours, continuing education value, course location, instruction type, instructor type, number of registrations, organizing unit, revenue source, subject areas, and target clientele. A summary chart of the available noncredit reports and the detail provided in each report is also provided. Part IV, an appendix, includes a map of the locations of SUNY institutions and a chronological listing of when the institutions were established. Also provided (Part V) is a publications list of reports by the SUNY Central Staff Office of Institutional Research.

Winter, Gene M., and Fadale, LaVerna M. An Assessment of State Aidable Noncredit Courses at SUNY Community Colleges. Albany, NY: State University of New York, Two Year College Development Center, 1989. 48 pp. (ED 310 813)

During the winter of 1988-89, a study was undertaken of state-aidable noncredit course offerings at the State University of New York (SUNY) community colleges. This type of offering, produced by allowing certain noncredit enrollments to generate aidable full-time equivalent students, has provided a wide variety of educational opportunities and has been credited by some as keeping "community" in the college. In New York, these courses include remedial instruction, vocational preparation, and community service classes. The purpose of the study was to gather information on these courses and to assess their outcomes and effectiveness as perceived by enrolled students. Data were collected from two questionnaires: one distributed to noncredit course enrollees at the 30 SUNY community colleges, and the other to local directors and coordinators of these courses. Returns were received from administrators at 27 SUNY community colleges (a college response rate of 90%); and a total of 3,411 usable responses were received from students enrolled in spring 1989, from which a representative sample of 1,663 responses was drawn. Major findings included the following: (1) the total cost to the state for the state-aidable courses in 1988-89 was $9,512,880; (2) of the over 2,000 courses reported for the spring 1989 semester, 71.5% were vocational, 19.5% were community service, and 9% remedial; (3) nearly three fourths of the course enrollees were employed full time or part time; (4) the major reasons for enrollment included self-enrichment or self-improvement, a desire to update job skills, fulfill licensure or certification requirements, or increase academic skills; (5) 93.5% of the responding students rated their noncredit courses as "good" or "very good," with 5% rating them as "fair" and 1.5% as "poor"; (6) three out of four respondents indicated that an increase in fees by 50% would prevent them from enrolling; and (7) suggestions provided by respondents included offering more courses at more convenient times and providing something tangible, such as a certificate, to be awarded at the conclusion of a course. Appendixes include detailed student responses and the survey instruments.

Tracy Gilmore