Non-credit students face delays

Certificates are not being awarded


Dr. Paula Gunder

“Certificate or no certificate, students are still learning and still advancing through the program and onto their major.”

Ray Kopf, Staff Writer

Non-credit courses and certificates have been offered at Los Medanos College for almost four years, but they seem to have hit a roadblock. A technical glitch in the Contra Costa Community College District’s software is preventing students from receiving the non-credit certificates they have earned.

This problem is most apparent in the English as a Second Language Department where more than two dozen applications for completed certificates still have not been awarded to students.

ESL Department Chair Paula Gunder said the glitch is affecting many of her students, and as a result she has been fighting an ongoing battle to fix the problem since the inception of non-credit courses.

“Our population of ESL and non-credit students are mainly immigrant and there are a number of those students who are refugee,” Gunder said.

Some of them are in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, she said, and others are “receiving social services from the state.”

In the face of the district software problem, many students are left unable to claim a certificate that could change their lives. 

“These certificates and having their courses transcripted are the way they show these agencies they are in school, that they are making progress,” Gunder said. “And  they don’t have anything to show.” 

Without the certificates, some students’ futures are uncertain. These programs are key ways in which immigrant students are able to create pathways to citizenship and new opportunities. 

One such student, Javier Murillo, said he has completed enough ESL courses to be awarded five certificates. Aside from the certificate issue, he describes his time in the ESL program as positive.

For me the experience has been great,” he said, describing it as a wonderful “opportunity to learn the English language that LMC offers our community.”

Throughout his time in the ESL program, however, he has not received a single one of his five certificates, and he has applications that date as far back as 2020.

“It is still a bit frustrating, especially in this country where having a certification is important to be able to ‘open many doors’ to new opportunities for improvement,” he said. 

Certificates are often required to remain in the United States. Without these certificates to show their progress, Gunder said that some students are at risk for being sent home. 

Rikki Hall, director of Admissions and Records, has been helping Gunder in her efforts to find a solution. But she said fixing the problem is complex. 

It has to do with the functionality of our student information system and configuration with varying information surrounding non-credit,” she said. “The information has many components and is very detailed and regulatory.” 

While the student information system awaits configuration, dozens of students may await proof of their accomplishments.

“We have a total of 30 pending applications for ESL Certificate of Competency,” said Hall. “But we could also have additional applications on paper submitted prior to the conversion of our electronic forms.” 

With this number of pending applications in Admissions and Records, it might seem safe to guess that some non-credit certificates have actually been processed. But that is not the case. 

“LMC has not yet awarded non-credit certificates of completion or certificates of competency,” said Hall. 

Despite the technical issues, non-credit courses are still being taught to those who need them, and Gunder is still refusing to give up the cause for which she has pushed the last few years. 

“Well, I’m not going to give up advocating and fighting,” Gunder said.

And whether the certificates are available or not, she said the ESL Department will move forward with its curriculum. 

“Certificate or no certificate, students are still learning and still advancing through the program and onto their major.”