Report Finds Challenges And Solutions For California Community Colleges
The report, entitled Divided We Fail: Improving Completion and Closing Racial Gaps in California’s Community Colleges, by The California Campaign For College Opportunity and Sacramento State University , Institute For Higher Education Leadership&Policy can be accessed at http://www.csus.edu/ihelp/PDFs/R_Div_We_Fail_1010.pdf . The report tracks over six years more than a quarter of a million students who entered a California community college during 2003-04 and analyzes their progress and outcomes by major racial/ethnic populations, finding that:
- After six years, 70% of degree-seeking students had not completed a certificate or degree, and had not transferred to a university, with most of the non-completers having dropped out.
- There were significant disparities across racial/ethnic groups in rates of progress and completion, with 26% of black students and 22% of Latino students completing a certificate, degree or transfer within six years compared to 37% of white students.
- Less than 25% of degree seekers had transferred to a university, with only 14% of Latino students transferring, a rate half as likely as white students (29%).
- An increasing share of transfer students enrolling in the for-profit sector, with black students especially likely to transfer to for-profit institutions (19%) and to leave the CCC system with far fewer credits completed than are required to transfer to one of the state’s public universities.
- Completion rates vary across the state and the completion gap between underrepresented students and their white peers ranging from a low of 2% to a high of 24% across colleges, with some colleges finding ways to be more effective at helping students of all backgrounds make progress.
“There is a strong and encouraging commitment to student success emerging across the community college system,” said Nancy Shulock, executive director of IHELP. “What we hope to do with this report is emphasize that these efforts must be focused heavily on closing racial/ethnic performance gaps and we have suggested ways to do so through detailed data analysis of key dimensions of student progress.”
“Closing the college completion gap – particularly for immigrant students and persons of color – is of paramount importance to the state’s well-being,” said Ruben Lizardo, Associate Director of PolicyLink. “We know that colleges across the state are hard at work fashioning solutions to close this gap and think it is incumbent upon the governor and legislature to provide resources to help them achieve this goal.”
In addition to tracking the cohort’s progress over six years, Divided We Fail also contains recommendations for improving student success in the state. These include:
- Coordinate a systemwide, and systematic, effort by which cohort data for student progress through milestones and key enrollment patterns are analyzed for every college, and ensure that the colleges use the results of these analyses to guide changes to campus practices.
- Adopt a new funding model that rewards colleges for helping student progress through college milestones, including completing college-level English and math, and for helping under-prepared students meet key college milestones.
- Take steps to ensure that all degree-seeking students are assessed for college readiness and are directed appropriately into courses that will expedite their transition to and success in college-level instruction.
- Guard against erosion of the historic transfer function of community colleges by investigating recruiting practices and completion rates at for-profit colleges, enacting policies that encourage students to earn associate degrees prior to transfer, and ensuring sufficient capacity at UC and CSU for transfer students.
- Set goals across all three segments for college participation and degree completion, identify the policies and investments needed to reach these goals, and monitor progress toward them.
“Budget problems and students’ lack of preparation are very real challenges facing every college,” said Camille Esch, Director – California Education Program for New America Foundation. “But this report shows that given the same constraints, some colleges are doing a comparatively better job of serving high-need student populations—and that’s encouragi