Expanded college enrollment policy mired in controversy



Juliana Castro, C.K McClatchy High School

The Sacramento City Unified School District’s expanded college enrollment policy has created a controversy for students who wish to take college classes during their senior year. 

Officials sent out a message to families sharing the news that beginning in the Fall 2023 semester, the district will allow students who are eligible and who enroll in college courses to shorten their high school day to five periods in the fall semester and four periods in spring semester. 

This proposal is getting some backlash from students, who say they have been able to take as few as four classes in both semesters as long as they were enrolled in two college courses.

District officials, however, say that the policy since 2016 has been to require seniors to attend a minimum of six periods in the fall and four periods in the spring. They say they established the policy to ensure compliance with state law.. 

The policy has not always been robustly enforced, district officials acknowledge, and school site leaders have been encouraged to make sure their students remain in compliance moving forward. 

District communications manager Alexander Goldberg said, “First, the District has actually expanded this opportunity for our eligible high school students. Following our return to schools last year, it was discovered that scheduling practices at some schools were not adhering to our policy. 

“So, in addition to creating a fall college course enrollment option for seniors, we are encouraging school site leaders to make sure all students remain in compliance with (the) state education code.”

Goldberg added, “The second thing I would like to emphasize is that the District fully supports students enrolling in community college courses as one of many ways in which students can prepare themselves for the next chapter of life and learn beyond the walls of our school.”

Under the new policy, students would have to take five high school courses their first semester and they have the option to shorten it to four courses in the second semester, as long as they are enrolled in two college courses during that second semester.

Some of the student backlash can be attributed to a feeling among juniors that, when they were choosing their classes for senior year, counselors were not as encouraging about enrolling in college courses. 

C.K. McClatchy junior Jaida Cohen said, “I wanted to take Sac City College classes because I have all the credits I need and it’s more interesting to do college-level classes. When I went to the counselors office I had to bring it up myself and they weren’t advertising taking college classes. I had to be demanding, and they were helpful but not giving me enough information due to the point I had to ask for everything.” 

Counselors, in line with district policy, did shift from prioritizing college classes to encouraging students to complete general education requirements on campus.

C.K. McClatchy counselor Andrea Montgomery said, “I think a lot of students are upset about it. I do feel for students it is their senior year, so I think it would be nice if they were here. But I see both sides of that, of being either detrimental or good for students. 

“On the plus side of being here there is more involvement, experience, really getting a high school experience before you leave, which some students will really miss out on if they are only here for four periods.”

Montgomery said it was important for counselors to be fully transparent with students and provide them correct information about the policy change.

Schools’ funding from the state is based on how many students attend on a daily basis. So encouraging students to attend class on campus as opposed to a college could be seen as a way to maximize state funding.

Montgomery said money was not the motivation behind the change, noting schools get full state funding even when kids attend classes at a college. “So the school isn’t losing any money by (students taking college courses). But if I start speculating why the district did it, I wouldn’t know. But it had nothing to do with attendance money.”

Montgomery expressed confidence the McClatchy community will adjust in a positive way to the new policy.

“I have faith in CKM as a community that we are going to make this a positive thing,” she said. “Students can still take college classes at the college, they are encouraged to do so and to explore their options. We as counselors are going to be as supportive as possible helping kids to do what is right for them. I know that even though it does seem like a lot is being taken away we’ll find something new that we can all appreciate out of all of it hopefully.”