Transfer rates are low at California community colleges with high black and Latino enrollments, concludes the Civil Rights Project at UCLA in three new reports.
Almost 75% of all Latino and two-thirds of all Black students who go on to higher education in California go to a community college, yet in 2010 only 20% of all transfers to four-year institutions were Latino or African American. Pathways to the baccalaureate are segregated; students attending low-performing high schools usually go directly into community colleges that transfer few students to 4-year colleges. Conversely, a handful of community colleges serving high percentages of white, Asian and middle class students are responsible for the majority of all transfers in the state. California ranks last among the states in the proportion of its college students who attend a 4-year institution, which is a key factor in the state’s abysmal record on BA attainment.
Dedicated staffers can make a difference, concudes Building Pathways to Transfer: Community Colleges that Break the Chain of Failure for Students of Color, by Patricia Gándara, Elizabeth Alvarado, Anne Driscoll and Gary Orfield. The report analyzes five community colleges with relatively high transfer rates for students of color from low-performing high schools.
However, poorly prepared students are much less likely to transfer. The report calls for outreach to low-performing high schools to prepare students for community college challenges and “a radical rethinking of developmental education.”
Unrealized Promises: Unequal Access, Affordability, and Excellence at Community Colleges in Southern California, by Mary Martinez Wenzl and Rigoberto Marquez, shows that heavily minority, low-performing high schools in Southern California feed students into heavily minority community colleges where few students successfully transfer.
Because most California students start at community colleges, college graduation rates are low, concludes Beyond the Master Plan: The Case for Restructuring Baccalaureate Education in California. Saul Geiser and Richard Atkinson recommend letting high-performing community colleges grant bachelor’s degrees to expand capacity.
“No state has bet its future so heavily on community colleges,” Gándara notes, “but these schools need resources and major reforms. Unless we make the colleges work for all Californians, we gamble with our future.”
California’s black high school graduates are less likely to enroll in state colleges and universities than in the past and much less likely than other groups to complete a degree, concludes Blacks in Higher Education, a state profile by the Campaign for College Opportunity.
. . . just over half of black students graduate from high school, few are prepared to attend a four-year university, and fewer still actually enroll in a California college. . . . Of blacks who go to a public college in California, two thirds choose to start in the California Community College (CCC) system. Once there, only 1 in 4 earns a certificate, associate degree, or transfers after six years.
Black transfer students are more likely to choose for-profit colleges, which typically have lower graduation rates than state universities.
Community colleges are trying to boost the number of minority students who complete STEM degrees, reports Community College Week.
In Michigan, nine community colleges — Grand Rapids Community College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Kellogg Community College, Lake Michigan College, Lansing Community College, Macomb Community College, Muskegon Community College, Washtenaw Community College and Wayne County Community College District — are working with four state universities to double the number of black and Hispanic graduates in science, technology, engineering and math by 2015. A $700,000, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation is funding the initiative.
According to the College Board, community colleges enroll 55 percent of undergraduate Hispanic students, 47 percent of African Americans, 47 percent of Asians and 57 percent of all Native Americans.
The NSF reports that 50 percent of African Americans, 55 percent of Latinos and 64 percent of American Indians who hold bachelor’s or master’s degrees in science or engineering had attended a community college.
“We are the people’s college,” said LCC President Brent Knight, who’s made STEM education a priority at his college.
There are jobs for graduates with STEM degrees.
Though battered by the decline of the auto industry, the state is rich in engineering talent and is showing signs of revival and attracting high tech industries.
The state’s advanced battery industry, for example, is growing fast and has the potential to create thousands of new jobs. But job seekers will need engineering degrees and experience for more technical jobs or a manufacturing or skilled trades background for production work, according to the Detroit Free Press. Growth in the industry is nearly assured with higher fuel economy requirements and higher gas prices.
According to a 2010 report by the National Academies of Science, underrepresented minorities “embody a vastly underused resource and a lost opportunity for meeting our nation’s technology needs.”
Even as the STEM field workforce grows rapidly — with more than 5 million jobs and many more anticipated in coming decades — minority participation is lagging.
African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans account for 34 percent of the nation’s population aged 18 to 34, yet earn only 12 percent of undergraduate degrees in engineering. The share of engineering degrees among these ethnic groups declines as the degree level increases: they earn 12 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 7 percent of master’s degrees and 3 percent of doctorates, according to the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering.
. . . “In 2007, underrepresented minorities made up 38.8 percent of K-12 enrollment, 26.2 percent of undergraduate enrollment, and 17.7 percent of those earning science and engineering bachelor’s degrees. In graduate school, underrepresented minorities compromise 17.7 percent of overall enrollment, but are awarded just 14.6 percent of S&E degrees and a minuscule 5.4 percent of S&E doctorates,” the report said.
Most STEM graduates became interested in science and technology when they were young. They did well in math, building a foundation for higher-level learning. With so many community college students starting in remedial math courses, it’s a challenge to boost the numbers who can earn an associate degree or certificate in a technical field, much less transfer to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Seventy percent of California’s degree-seeking community college students failed to earn a credential or degree — or to transfer to four-year universities — within six years, concludes Divided We Fail, a study by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy at Cal State Sacramento for the Campaign for College Opportunity. Most students drop out quickly, the Los Angeles Times notes.
. . . only about 40% of the 250,000 students the researchers tracked between 2003 and 2009 had earned at least 30 college credits, the minimum needed to provide an economic boost in jobs that require some college experience.
Blacks and Latinos did worse: Only 26% of black students and 22% of Latino students had completed a degree or certificate or transferred after six years, compared to 37% of whites and 35% of Asian Pacific Islanders.
“It’s not an understatement to say that the future of California is at stake,” said study coauthor Nancy Shulock, executive director of the higher education institute.
“Unlike other developing countries with which California and other states have to compete, each generation is getting less educated and attaining fewer higher degrees. The gaps are large and critical and when you look at the future face of California, they are the ones for whom we’re not delivering much success.”
The report calls for improving data collection and changing funding, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Colleges that help underprepared students complete English and math” should attract more funding, said Shulock. “Currently, it’s by how many students are enrolled in the third week of school.”
A new task force will study how to improve success rates.
Community colleges are encouraging black and Hispanic students to consider K-12 teaching, reports Community College Times. Many school districts want to hire more teachers who can serve as role models for minority students. Elementary schools especially want more male teachers, says Ray Ostos, executive director of the National Association of Community College Teacher Education Programs.
“Some believe that good teachers can reach any student,” Ostos said. “But if teachers can identify with, relate and connect with their students, it makes learning that much stronger.”
Community colleges are partnering with universities to recruit mid-career professionals and offer scholarships to future teachers.
Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) recruits minority men who commit to teaching elementary school for at least four years. The program operates at five community colleges in Florida.
Scholarships for students in the program are funded by the state. Participating students who transfer to a four-year institution are eligible for tuition assistance through the Florida Fund for Minority Teachers, a private scholarship program.
Low pay keeps many men out of teaching, Ostos says. In addition, some see teaching as a female profession. But others see it as a way to serve their communities.
In Illinois, the Minority Teacher Recruitment Project (MTRP) is a cooperative effort by high schools in the Bloomington and Normal area, Heartland Community College, Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan University. Students must agree to teach in the community for two years. But it’s proved difficult to recruit many male teachers.