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Legal Studies
2018-2019 Program Review

1) Unit Profile

1.1) Briefly describe the program-level planning unit. What is the unit's purpose and function?

American River College's Legal Assisting Program (soon to be Paralegal Studies Program) prepares students for an entry-level position as a paralegal. A paralegal has basic substantive and procedural knowledge necessary to assist the supervising attorney in providing legal services to clients.

1.2) How does the unit contribute to achievement of the mission of American River College?

This program contributes to ARC's mission because it develops critical thinking skills, inspires learning, and creates pathways for students to play a role in rehabilitating the community. In the program students not only learn how to read and analyze the law, but they also encouraged to gain practical skills though internship placements and though the program's own criminal record engagement clinic. The program is designed to train practitioners so that upon graduation students are able to enter, and bring value to the workforce.

2) Assessment and Analysis

The program review process asks units to reflect on the progress they've made towards achieving the goals they identified in each of the Annual Unit Plans they submitted since their last Program Review. Follow this link to access your previous EMP submissions. For assistance accessing the EMP system, please contact Mary Goodall at or (916) 484-4535.

2.1) Consider the progress that has been made towards the unit's objectives over the last six years. Based on how the unit intended to measure progress towards achieving these objectives, did the unit's prior planned action steps (last six years of annual unit plans) result in the intended effect or the goal(s) being achieved?

In the 2010 program review two challenges were identified, student preparedness for the program and lack of internship placement opportunities for students which satisfied both the institutional and American Bar Association (ABA) standards. Since the last review, the program now requires students to have passed an English Writing 300 course or the equivalent. This has ensured that students are better prepared as readers and writers for the legal material they will cover. The internship program was revised to meet institutional and ABA standards but we still need to cultivate more placement opportunities. This is not an immediate priority, but it will be moved higher on the priority list in the next 12-18 months.

In the following program-level metrics, a green-yellow-red light icon provides a quick sense of how a particular data set's values relate to an established threshold (click '+' for details).

The following data sets may be useful in promoting and informing departmental dialogue, planning, decision making, and resource allocation.

The two data sets show 5 years of fall or spring duplicated enrollment, disaggregated by gender and ethnicity. Note that ARC's data-on-demand tool will soon provide considerably more sophisticated ways of viewing and analyzing your planning unit's headcount and enrollment trends.

current fall/spring semester enrollment is equal to or exceeds the prior year's fall/spring enrollment.
current fall/spring semester enrollment reflects a decline of less than 10% from the prior year's fall/spring enrollment.
current fall/spring semester enrollment reflects a decline of 10% or more from the prior year's fall/spring enrollment.

The two data sets show 5 years of fall or spring productivity (WSCH per FTEF: the enrollment activity for which we receive funding divided by the cost of instruction). Note that ARC's data-on-demand tool will soon provide considerably more sophisticated ways of viewing and analyzing your planning unit's productivity trends.

current fall/spring semester productivity is equal to or exceeds the prior year's fall/spring productivity.
current fall/spring semester productivity reflects a decline of less than 10% from the prior year's fall/spring productivity.
current fall/spring semester productivity reflects a decline of 10% or more from the prior year's fall/spring productivity.

Shows green-yellow-red indicators for each race/ethnicity to reflect the extent to which any given group's three year average grade metrics are disproportionately impacted, as defined by the State Chancellor's Office (click the report link for details). Note that ARC's data-on-demand tool can provide some additional insights in this area, including representativeness, grades and awards by gender and race/ethnicity.

No measurable DI — All courses’ rates exceed the disproportionate impact threshold for a given racial/ethnic group by at least three percentage points.
Yellow (formerly, “- - “ in previous versions or cycles)
Insufficient data available — Monitoring recommended. DI may or may not or exist for one or more racial/ethnic groups, in one or more courses, but too little data is available to be certain (cell sizes < 10).
Light-Red (formerly yellow in previous versions or cycles)
Potential DI—Monitoring or Action recommended. The rate of one or more racial/ethnic groups, in one or more courses, is near (by less than 3 points) the DI threshold.
Clear DI—Action recommended. The rate of one or more racial/ethnic groups, in one or more courses, is at or below the DI threshold.

Department Set Standards

Shows course success rates (# of A, B, C, Cr, and P grades expressed as a % of total grade notations) compared to lower and upper thresholds. Thresholds are derived using a 95% confidence interval (click the report link for details). The lower threshold is referred to as the Department Set Standard. The upper threshold is referred to as the Stretch Goal.

Most recent academic year exceeds the upper threshold
Most recent academic year falls between the lower and upper threshold
Most recent academic year falls below the lower threshold
Email Standard Data Set link

In addition to reflecting on the metrics shown above, it may prove useful to analyze other program-level data to assess the effectiveness of your unit. For instructional units, ARC’s Data on demand system can be used to provide program and course level information regarding equitable outcomes, such as program access or enrollment, successful course completion, and degree or certificate achievement (up to 30+ demographic or course filters are available).

You might also consider pursuing other lines of inquiry appropriate to your unit type (instructional, student support, institutional/administrative support). Refer to the Program Review Inquiry Guide for specific lines of inquiry.

2.2) What were the findings? Please identify program strengths, opportunities, challenges, equity gaps, influencing factors (e.g., program environment), data limitations, areas for further research, and/or other items of interest.

Program enrollment has declined, but not at a rate that is significant or more dramatic that the school's enrollment trends. From Fall 2016 to Fall 2017 enrollment decreased by 1.6% and from Spring 2016 to Spring 2017 it decreased by 6%. Program productivity has decreased by 0.3% from Fall 2016 to Fall 2017 and by 5.6% from Spring 2016 to Spring 2017. One explanation for the the productivity decrease from semester to semester is that students typically enroll in the program in the fall and generally carry a lighter load. The second semester courses tend to include more substantive law courses and are more challenging for students. African-American students appear to be disproportionately impacted within our program, however, because the actual number of African-American students enrolled in the program is so low, when students do not pass a class, the DI percentage is high even though the number of students not passing the classes are low. The legal profession relies heavily upon critical thinking skills, reading skills, and writing skills. To address achievement gaps and deficits related to students' writing capabilities, the department is partnering with Writing Across the Curriculum to design a writing support program geared specifically towards helping paralegal students with their specific writing needs. Our program has adapted to meet the needs of working professionals in our area. A significant number of our students are employed full time and are taking classes part time. We have also incorporated a Saturday class into the program to assist students in completing the program in a more timely manner. The next task to tackle is expanding the program to create a daytime cohort for students who are full-time students. Most recently we have created more hands-on training opportunities for students right here on campus. We run a monthly criminal record expungement clinic where students assist attorneys in completing paperwork to erase criminal records. This clinic not only gives students practical training experience, but it also allows them to network with attorneys, hone customer services, skills, and perform social justice work benefiting members of the community. Additionally we are partnering with the Attorney General's Office (AGO) to become the preferred legal education provider for the entity's legal support staff. This partnership not only increases enrollment for us, but also creates a relationship with a statewide employer which will benefit students post graduation.

3) Reflection and Dialog

3.1) Discuss how the findings relate to the unit's effectiveness. What did your unit learn from the analysis and how might the relevant findings inform future action?

After reviewing employment data for paralegals in the Greater Sacramento Region, I realize that we need to do a much better job of recruiting, retaining, and graduating students. According to the College of Education Regional Labor Market Assessment: Middle-Skill Jobs findings there are 233 annual openings in the job market for paralegals and legal assistants. According to Cal-PASS' data, in 2016-17, only 19 students earned certificates and 31 students earned Associate of Arts degrees in Legal Assisting. At this rate we are only meeting 20% of the market needs. There is clear room for growth so long as we have institutional support to meet the needs. Our biggest competitor in the region is MTI, a for-profit education institution. We are also looking at expanding our course offerings as well as adjusting our course times. Although we have to stay within the face-to-face contact hours required by the American Bar Association, we do have flexibility to offer more hybrid courses and more online courses. This will allow us to reach populations that may not be able to come to campus 2 or 3 days a week, but can come on the weekends or every other week. Since we are considering offering more online courses, we are going to require that every course offered in the program undergo scrutiny from the Online Educational Institute to ensure that it is up to statewide standards for online courses. We will also train faculty on effective teaching practices for online learners and for students with learning differences or disabilities.

3.2) What is the unit's ideal future and why is it desirable to ARC? How will the unit's aspirations support accomplishment of the mission, improve institutional effectiveness, and/or increase academic quality?

Ideally we will grow the program to be able offer a full daytime program and a full evening program. We will have a number of courses offered online that are innovative and effective in training paralegals. We will continue to train our students and support the community by offering expungement workshops and a legal clinic that runs during the semester. In order to maintain the quality of the program we will continue to meet American Bar Association standards so that we maintain our program approval. We will train to become better online educators and we will work more closely with groups on campus to support our students and move them towards academic success and future employment. Ultimately, we want to be an industry leader in paralegal education and we want to become a school that is recognized statewide for the quality of our education and our commitment to the local community.

4) Strategic Enhancement

4.1) Identify/define one or more program-level objectives which enhance the unit's effectiveness. What does your unit intend to do to work towards its ideal future? How will success be measured?

Program Objectives Create and maintain community partnerships We recently partnered with the Attorney General's Office to launch a pilot partnership for legal education. After we perfect the method we will expand our partnerships to include other state agencies. By the next program review we should have 2 government partners. Run regular legal clinics For the 2018-19 school year we have run a criminal expungement clinic nearly every month that school has been in session. These clinics give students an opportunity practice skills learned in criminal law, interface with "clients," and network. Additionally we have served a handful of ARC and Los Rios students. We also have a clinic class in the works were students were be trained by attorneys and asked to assist in providing legal assistance to "clients" in family law, estate planning, criminal law, and landlord-tenant law. Prepare students for employment post-graduation In addition to encouraging students to participate in the above-mentioned clinics, we will build upon our internship placement opportunities so that students will not struggle to obtain work experience.

4.2) How will the unit's intended enhancements support ARC's commitment to social justice and equity?

Within our program our training opportunities outside the classroom will allow students to develop and showcase skills that not always rewarded in a classroom setting. Students will have an opportunity to develop their skills in a practical setting while also receiving credit for their efforts. Building out the internship program and the clinic offerings also allows students to come to campus to get training experience which may be more practical and feasible for students who are experiencing transportation and/or time challenges. In addition, the clinic classes help develop skills in our students, but they also allow students to make relationships in- and to serve the local community. The school is committed meaningful community engagement and providing legal services to individuals who may not otherwise be able to afford legal assistance supports our social justice mission.