In Educating Julio, California Competes looks at where the state’s community colleges should grow to meet student demand and promote equity.
The report looks at two students: Julio is interested in the building trades, but doesn’t know how he can find a training program. Pablo has been admitted to University of California at Merced, but is thinking about enrolling at Santa Monica College with hopes of transferring to UCLA.
Pablo and his middle-class parents will search for the best educational choices. The “squeaky wheel gets the seat.”
Julio “won’t even realize there is a welding program at his nearby college unless someone finds him and talks to him.” His unmet demand for job training will be invisible.
The current system favors the status quo, concludes California Competes. Under the state’s governance system, community college boards can’t approve new programs or change the curriculum without approval from the faculty senate. That lets incumbent instructors protect their turf. “Even if launching a welding program is the right move to attract and retain Julio as a student, it may not happen if key interest groups have other priorities in mind.”
Funding rewards colleges that play it safe. Opening a new campus in a high-need neighborhood or starting classes in new fields is risky. If the students don’t enroll, the college could miss targets. It’s safer to offer classes in “the subjects and locations where enrollment is most certain.”
Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget, California’s community colleges finally will be able to increase enrollment. Growth should be funded by regions rather than districts, the report argues.
Formal district boundaries have become increasingly obsolete. In the wake of Proposition 13, the colleges became primarily state-funded. While colleges used to impose barriers or costs on out-of-district students, colleges now enroll any California resident on equal terms.
Statewide, nearly a third of all students cross the invisible district lines to enroll at what may or may not be the nearest community college. At the extreme, nearly nine out of ten students at Santa Monica College live outside of the district.
Most California high school students are not eligible for state universities: Only 38 percent of graduates complete college-prep courses with a C or better. Factoring in students who don’t graduate on time, only 30 percent of students — 20 percent of Latinos and 18 percent of blacks — can enroll directly in a state university.
The Latino college completion gap is narrowing for full-time students, reports Excelencia in Education in a new report. The gap fell from 14 percent in 2012 to 9 percent in 2014: 41 percent of Latinos graduate in 150 percent of the normal time compared to 50 percent of all first-time, full-time college students.
However, almost half of Latino college students are enrolled part-time. Their completion rates remain very low.
Miami Dade College, South Texas College, El Paso Community College, East Los Angeles College and Florida International College enroll the most Latino students. “Four of the top five are predominantly community colleges,” said Deborah Santiago, chief operating officer and vice president of policy at Excelencia.
Miami Dade, El Paso and South Texas also rank in the top five for awarding associate degrees to Latinos, along with Valencia College and University of Phoenix Online. “We are seeing the closure in the achievement gaps in some states, but not all,” said Santiago.
ASSOCIATE DEGREES: Top 5 Institutions Awarding to Hispanics, 2011-12
|Rank||Institution||State||Sector||Grand Total||Hispanic Total||% Hispanic|
|1||Miami Dade College||FL||4yr Public||11,959||7,958||67|
|2||El Paso Community College||TX||2yr Public||3,790||3,244||86|
|3||University of Phoenix – Online||–||4yr Private For-Profit||39,341||2,424||6|
|4||South Texas College||TX||4yr Public||2,292||2,138||93|
|5||Valencia College||FL||4yr Public||7,974||2,129||27|
California, which has the highest numbers of Latino students, lags in graduating them: Only 15 percent of the state’s Latino students completed a degree or certificate in 2010-11. “Why does California, the state with the largest Latino population in the nation, not have a single college break into the top five nationally for awarding degrees to Latinos?” asked Santiago.
Latinos make up 22 percent of K-12 students and 17 percent of the population, reports Excelencia. The median age for Latinos is 27, compared to 42 for non-Hispanic whites.
Twenty percent of Latino adults have earned an associate degree or higher compared to 36 percent of all adults.
Twenty-three Florida community colleges now offer four-year degrees in high-demand vocational fields, but a bill in the Legislature would prevent colleges from adding bachelor’s degrees without legislative approval. Currently, the state education board authorizes new four-year degrees at two-year colleges.
With tuition two-thirds cheaper at a community college compared to a state university, the lawmakers behind the bill warn that it’s unfair competition. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), said many community colleges are offering more than just specialized bachelor’s degrees, such as nursing and public safety, and are competing with state universities to offer more general degrees, like history, at less cost.
Gov. Rick Scott thinks competition will help students. He’s challenged community colleges to offer four-year degrees with a price tag of $10,000. Daytona State College will be the first with a $10,000 bachelor’s in education.
Students are enthusiastic about the four-year option, writes Jon Marcus for the Hechinger Report. At Florida community colleges — now called state colleges — more than 30,000 students are pursuing bachelor’s degrees.
It’s cheaper and more convenient than attending a four-year university, especially for working parents and part-time students, who make up a large proportion of community college attendees.
The cost of a baccalaureate course at St. Petersburg College is $118.70 per credit hour, compared to $211.19 at the nearby University of South Florida. . . .
Universities are resisting the trend in many states. Community colleges typically are limited to degrees in vocational fields.
Colorado legislators approved letting community colleges offer four-year degrees only after satisfying Colorado State University and the University of Colorado — whose lobbying was blamed for killing a previous version of a proposal — that they would be limited to career and technical fields such as culinary arts and dental hygiene.
In Michigan, similar legislation was passed over the concerted, years-long opposition of that state’s public universities, which said letting community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees was mission creep, blurs the distinction between different branches of higher education and raises quality concerns. In the end, the community colleges were limited to baccalaureate programs in maritime studies, culinary arts, energy production and concrete technology.
California legislators have rejected four-year degrees at community college three times since 2009, but a new proposal has a good chance of success.
Worried about a shortage of skilled workers, some states are considering free community college tuition, reports NPR.
In Tennessee, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam wants to use lottery money to create a free community college program for high school graduates. The state wants 55 percent of Tennesseans to have a college degree by 2025, up from 32 percent now.
In Oregon, a state commission will look at whether free tuition is feasible.
However, Oregon and Tennessee legislators aren’t sure that middle-class students should pay nothing. A Mississippi bill passed the state House, but then failed in the Senate.
“I think everybody agrees that with a high school education by itself, there is no path to the middle class,” said State Sen. Mark Hass, who is leading the no-tuition effort in Oregon. “There is only one path, and it leads to poverty. And poverty is very expensive.”
Hass said free community college and increasing the number of students who earn college credit while in high school are keys to addressing a “crisis” in education debt. Taxpayers will ultimately benefit, he said, because it’s cheaper to send someone to community college than to have him or her in the social safety net.
Nationwide, the average annual cost of community college tuition is about $3,300, not counting books and fees.
California’s community colleges were free until the mid-1980s. (Even now, students don’t pay “tuition.” They pay “fees.”)
“What is exciting to us about the idea is that it signals that the state understands there needs to be significant reinvestment in community colleges in some way, shape or form,” said Mary Spilde, the president of Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore., where in-state students pay $93 per credit hour. Back in 1969-70, baby boomers paid $6 per credit hour — about $37 in today’s money, adjusted for inflation.
Tennessee and Oregon may adopt the “last-dollar in” model: The state would fund tuition not covered by other forms of aid, such as Pell Grants. That means state money would pay primarily for middle-class families, said Kay McClenney, director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas. “And is that your best use of dollars within the public interest?”
Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, said students are more likely to be successful if they have “skin in the game” and pay something toward their education.
California’s associate degree for transfer is clarifying pathways from community college to state universities, reports the Public Policy Institute of California.
The transfer degrees, first offered in 2011–2012, were designed to improve low rates of transfer to state universities. Fifty-four of the state’s 112 community colleges now offer 10 or more transfer degrees out of the 25 possible degrees approved by the California Community Colleges and California State University system.
CSU must admit a student with a transfer degree to one of its campuses as a junior and grant the student priority in admission to an academic major that is “similar” to the program completed at community college. CSU campuses determine which programs are similar to CCC areas of study. The CSU campus must also guarantee that these transfer students will need to complete no more than 60 additional units of coursework to earn a bachelor’s degree and will not be required to repeat a course successfully completed at community college.
While CSU campuses are identifying more “similar” majors, some campuses limit options for transfer students.
Among the implementation challenges:
The guarantee of admission to a CSU somewhere in the system may not be compelling for students who want to transfer to a campus close to home, and capacity constraints at the CSU may limit the value of the promise of admission.
The lack of participation by the University of California means that the new transfer degrees are not really the “statewide” pathway envisioned by the legislation, posing a challenge for students who want to keep open the option of transfer to either a CSU or UC campus.
A survey of CCC student leaders suggests that awareness of the new degree is limited and efforts to inform students have been insufficient.
A one-size-fits-all approach may not be appropriate for all majors. In science or technical fields, for example, 120 units may not be enough for a student to acquire necessary knowledge.
The transfer pathway will work only for students who quickly choose a major and stick to it, the study’s authors stress. Many community college students aren’t sure what they want to study.
Cal State Long Beach is a leader in expanding opportunity thanks to its culture of “saying yes” to transfer students, says The Campaign for College Opportunity. The CSU school created 25 new degree pathways into top majors for transfer-degree students, then opened nearly all of the concentrations within those majors.
Starting at a community college will cut the cost of a bachelor’s degree, but students have to be savvy to make it work, writes Lisa Ward in the Wall Street Journal.
Transferring credits can be be “complicated and confusing,” she writes. Students and parents should research whether their state has coordinated community college and state university credits.
For example, California, Louisiana and Texas guarantee admission to a four-year state university to any student who earns an associate degree at an in-state community college. Florida has the same guarantee for an associate of arts, but transfers will need high grades and prerequisites to get into popular majors at prestigious schools.
Some states, including Texas and Florida, use the same numbering system for community college and state university courses. Psych 101 is the same at every school, making it easier for students to know which credits will transfer.
Hybrid degree programs also help transfers earn low-cost bachelor’s degrees.
Houston Community College and University of Texas at Tyler designed a program where students can earn an associate’s degree in engineering from HCC and then enroll at UT Tyler, as long as their grade-point average is 2.5 or higher. The program sets the student up for a bachelor’s degree in mechanical, electrical or civil engineering.
“It costs $19,000, for all four years, if you live in-state,” says David Le, who is enrolled in the program. “No one ever believes me when I tell them how cheap it is,” says Mr. Le, who lives at home because the program is taught entirely at HCC’s campus.
Earning college credit in high school also cuts the cost of a degree. Most schools offer Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses that enable students to earn college credit. Increasingly, students can earn credits through “dual enrollment” or “early college” classes, which often are taught by community college instructors.
“In many cases, dual enrollment and early college are the absolutely cheapest way to earn college credit because it’s free,” says Dilip Das, assistant vice provost at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
California may let community colleges offer low-cost bachelor’s degrees, reports the San Jose Mercury News.
It would “save us money in the long run,” said State Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, who’s introduced a bill to authorize one bachelor’s program per campus for a few college districts.
It’s getting harder for graduates to find jobs in fields such as nursing and respiratory therapy with just an associate degree, but it’s also harder to transfer into state university programs.
Ruby Guzman waited three years to get into the Contra Costa College nursing program, and now, about to earn an associate degree, she’s on the wait list at Cal State East Bay. ”It just feels like roadblock after roadblock,” Guzman said.
Community colleges in 21 states offer four-year degree programs. “I’d just like to see California catch up with the rest of the nation,” said Linda Thor, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District.
Both critics and advocates worry the state won’t adequately fund the programs, notes the Mercury News. “That’s always the million-dollar question, like are you going to pay for it?” said Aaron Bielenberg, president of the college system’s student senate.
Now that the state budget outlook has improved, momentum is building, said Barry Russell, president of Las Positas College in Livermore. ”I think it’s an inevitable move that needs to be made,” said Russell.
Each year, De Anza College‘s automotive technology program graduates about 140 students. With a certificate or associate degree, they will get good jobs as technicians, but their career options are limited, said Randy Bryant, the department head.
Moving up at a dealership or opening their own shop now requires a bachelor’s degree or higher, but Bryant says his students often fear transferring to a four-year business program — and he wants them to be able to “finish what they start here.”
Bryant is designing a four-year automotive management degree, which combines technical skills with “courses in ethics, entrepreneurship, management, sales and marketing, and inventory control.”
If the bill passes, there will be pressure to offer more than one four-year degree at each campus. At Foothill College, the dental hygiene and the respiratory therapy programs already want to offer bachelor’s degrees.
Leaders of California’s three state higher education systems met this week with Gov. Jerry Brown to pledge cooperation, especially in helping community college students transfer to state universities, reports the Los Angeles Times.
In a rare gathering, University of California President Janet Napolitano, California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White and California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris said they want to break through some of the walls set up by the state’s 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, which established different roles and student enrollment criteria for each sector. Yet they also said they want to maintain the plan’s basic tenets.
“Transfer should be as streamlined as possible and as transparent as possible,” said Napolitano, as the three leaders appeared together at the UC regents meeting in San Francisco.
The challenge for the three systems, White said, is to strengthen the master plan “for the new economy for the next 50 years.”
The master plan, among other things, gave UC control over doctoral degrees and professional schools, allowed open access to community colleges and set higher admissions standards at Cal State and UC. Although many educators speak of it reverently, Brown described it as the result of a political deal in need of updating.
Napolitano pledged at the White House summit to improve diversity at the University of California by admitting more transfers from community colleges that “enroll large numbers of underrepresented and low-income students but send relatively few on to UC.”
Currently, only 20 percent of transfers are Latino or black compared to 24 percent of first-year students, points out Robert Shireman, director of California Competes. Latinos and African Americans make up 42 of the state’s population. CSU campuses are developing transfer pathways with the community colleges. UC has not participated.
California needs a new higher education plan and a statewide coordinating agency, concludes California Competes in Charting a Course for California’s Colleges. The California Postsecondary Education Commission was defunded in 2011. Since then, the state has no system of coordinated higher education leadership.
“For California’s continued economic growth, we must graduate 5.5 million degree and technical certificate holders who can succeed in the high-skilled labor market by 2025,” said Shireman. The state will fall short by 2.3 million, including one million four-year college graduates, without “consistent and coordinated leadership for our colleges and universities.”
The report recommends creating an autonomous coordinating agency “independent from political influence, informed by data, focused on outcomes and effective in articulating its goals, and able to work with policymakers.”
“We can’t just transplant” a higher education governance model from another state, said Lande Ajose, author of the report and a deputy director of California Competes. But California could learn from Ohio, Washington, Illinois, Texas, Florida and other states, the report suggests.
Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown called for the University of California and California State University systems to begin reporting performance outcomes, but it wasn’t clear who would collect and analyze the data, notes California Competes. The governor signed a bill calling for the state to develop postsecondary education goals, “but there was no guidance on who would monitor progress toward those goals.”
Speaker John A. Pérez, who serves as a UC Regent and a CSU Trustee, has introduced a bill establishing a new state oversight and coordinating body for higher education. AB 1348 passed the Assembly last year and will be considered by the Senate this year.
California’s higher education system is just average, concludes the Campaign for College Opportunity in Average Won’t Do.
Tuition (known as fees) at community colleges and state universities is relatively low: Community college fees are only 42 percent of the national average and many students pay nothing. Student loan debt averages a relatively low $20,269 per borrower. But fees and student loan amounts are rising rapidly.
California is below average on college readiness, according to the report. Only 68 percent of high school students earn a diploma in four years. Thirty-eight percent have passed college-prep courses that qualify them for state universities.
The college-going rate is relatively high, but the completion rate is average at state universities and well below average for community colleges.
By 2016, California community college students will need to meet academic performance standards to receive tuition waivers, reports Inside Higher Ed.
The fee waivers eliminate the relatively affordable tuition of $46 per credit that the system’s 112 colleges charge. But to remain eligible under the change, students will be required to maintain a 2.0 GPA for two consecutive terms. They will also lose access to the state subsidy if they fail to complete half of the credits they attempt in a semester.
Colleges plan to increase counseling services as part a series of changes designed to improve graduation and transfer rates. In addition to raising standards for waivers, incoming students will receive priority enrollment if they attend orientation sessions and develop education plans.
Tuition is waived for about 40 percent of the state’s 2.6 million community college students, reports the Los Angeles Times.
“We will do everything in our power to help students on financial aid succeed,” said community colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris, “but students need to know that they have a responsibility to keep up their end of the bargain.”
Restricting fee waivers will hurt low-income students who face many challenges, said Rich Copenhagen, a College of Alameda student and past president of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges. “If you cut our fee waivers, they’re probably going to be gone from community colleges forever.”
Forty-six percent of Latinos who graduated from high-scoring public high schools enrolled in a community college, according to a USC study. That compares to 23 percent of their black classmates, 19 percent of Asians and 27 percent of white students. White and Asian students are much more likely to enroll at a four-year university.
Graduation rates are much lower for students who start at community colleges.
Table 1. College-Attendance Rates of California High School Graduates by Public Higher Education System and Race/Ethnicity, 2010
Community College Attendance Rate
CSU Attendance Rate
UC Attendance Rate
South Pasadena is known for excellent public schools. Of South Pasadena High’s 2010 Latino graduates, 71 percent went straight to community college, reports KPCC. Only about a third of the school’s white and Asian graduates that year attended community college.
“Perhaps certain kinds of college pathways are promoted for different types of students,” said George Washington University education researcher Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux, who authored the study. “We know that tracking is real. We know that differential expectations for academic performance based on things like race and class are real.”
Lower-income students are more likely to choose to a low-cost community college, especially if their parents don’t understand financial aid options.
From Colorado: For low-income students, getting into college is only half the battle. Graduating is a challenge.