Pushing minority kids to 4-year colleges

Latino and black students are as likely as whites to start college, but much less likely to earn a degree, writes Janell Ross in The Atlantic. Most Latino and black students start at two-year colleges with open admissions and low graduation rates. In Los Angeles, there’s a move to help disadvantaged students start at state universities.

Students at gang- and poverty-ridden East Los Angeles’s Garfield High School who meet minimum requirements will now enjoy guaranteed admission to California State University (Los Angeles). The same initiative will also guarantee that students at East L.A. College, a nearby community college, can transfer to Cal State L.A., and the community college will expand its course offerings available to Garfield students.

The partnership between the Los Angeles Board of Education, Cal State Los Angeles, and East Los Angeles College includes mentors and internships.

“Even minority students with high GPAs and standardized-test scores are far more likely to attend two-year schools than their white peers and are subsequently far less likely to graduate,” according to Separate and Unequal, a 2013 report by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “More than 30 percent of African-Americans and Hispanics with a high school grade point average (GPA) higher than 3.5 go to community colleges compared with 22 percent of whites with the same GPA.”

“Selective colleges spend anywhere from two to almost five times as much on instruction per student as the open-access colleges” and offer far more counseling, tutoring and other support services to help students earn a degree, the report observed.

Latinos narrow graduation gap

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.

Florida does much better in enrolling — and graduating — Latinos.

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.

College museums draw donors

Community college museums can “raise the college’s profile, help attract donors, strengthen ties to the community and enhance educational programs,” writes Community College Times.

A museum at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Kansas focuses on contemporary and Native American art.

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York has a collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories, some of them hundreds of years old.

Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art + Design presents exhibitions of notable artists and complements the college’s art galleries.

The Dinosaur Museum at Mesalands Community College in New Mexico combines fossils with artwork.

JCCC’s art museum has “brought extraordinary national and international visibility to this campus,” said Bruce Hartman, director of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. “An enormous number of people have come to campus that otherwise wouldn’t have set foot here,” Hartman said. “Some of those people have become donors or we’ve been able to otherwise engage them.”

Actor Vincent Price, known for his roles in horror films such as “The Fly,” donated 2,000 works of art to what’s now known as the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College (ELAC). Now part of ELAC’s Performing and Fine Arts Complex, VPAM’s inaugural show in the new building featured eight ELAC alumni who have become well-known artists.

California CCs: 470,000 wait for classes

California’s community colleges are offering fewer classes and enrolling fewer students, according to a survey of the state’s two-year public colleges. “More than 470,000 community college students are beginning the fall semester on waiting lists, unable to get into the courses they need,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

The system has been hit by $809 million in state funding cuts since 2008 and could lose another $338-million in the middle of the academic year, if voters reject a tax hike on the November ballot. The measure, backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, is ahead in the polls, but not by much, said Democratic pollster Ben Tulchin. “Its prospects are partly cloudy with a chance of rain.”

College leaders are planning for the worst, reports the Times. Some are negotiating union contracts that allow pay cuts and furloughs if funding is cut further. Others warn they’ll cut more classes and lay off ful-time faculty if the tax measure fails.

“There is no question that the system is shrinking in terms of the number of students we’re serving but not shrinking in terms of demand,” Chancellor Jack Scott said in an interview Tuesday. “The real problem is we don’t have the financial resources to offer the courses that we could fill. In the long run, it’s going to be hurtful to the economy. These are the individuals who are going to make up the future workforce of California.”

Under the Student Success Act, which Gov. Brown is expected to sign, community colleges will give enrollment priority to students who develop an academic plan and show progress toward reaching their goals. “Requiring education plans and orientation” will help students earn the credits they need, but no more, freeing up spaces for others, says Michelle Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity.

However, students will have trouble developing education plans if they can’t talk to advisors.  Seventy percent of colleges surveyed have reduced hours for support services, such as advising and tutoring, and 87 percent have cut support staff.

California’s community colleges have been struggling for several years, the Times notes.

Overall enrollment dropped about 17%, from about 2.9 million in the 2008-09 academic year to 2.4 million in 2011-12, and officials have estimated a further decline this year. The number of class sections decreased 24% from 522,727 in 2008-09 to 399,540 in 2011-12.

The colleges say they are being forced to cut into vital services that for many students can mean the difference between success and failure. Nearly 67% of colleges reported that students have had to wait longer for financial aid, counseling and other appointments since 2009-10, with an average wait time of 12 days. West Los Angeles College reported that it had eliminated tutoring and field trips to four-year universities and stopped publishing a student handbook.

El Camino College in Torrance is offering about 1,922 class sections this fall, down from 2,027 last year. Nearly every class has a waiting list, said spokeswoman Ann Garten.

“We have all of these students who want to take courses — high school graduates, then a whole group who had planned to go to the University of California or Cal State but can’t afford to, and with the economy, all of these people coming back to college because they need skills,” Garten said. But, she said, “we’re all being forced by the state to offer fewer courses for students.”

At East Los Angeles College, Rogelio Cervantes Jr., 20, saw more than 40 students lined up trying to add a math class that was already full. Unable to get the schedule he wanted, he takes classes from 8:20 a.m. to 10 p.m. “He plans to remain on campus and nap in his car so he doesn’t lose his parking space.”