CRP Calls for Fundamental Changes in California's Community Colleges
February 14, 2012 Contact: 310-267-5562; email@example.com
--For Immediate Release--
Civil Rights Project Reports Call for Fundamental Changes in California’s Community Colleges
[NOTE: An audio version of this briefing is available]
--Los Angeles--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. In a state in which half of all high school graduates are Black and Latino, this situation spells economic disaster for the future of the state.
The California Community College system is not oblivious to these problems, but the newest report by the Student Success Task Force, Advancing Student Success in the California Community Colleges, falls far short of making recommendations that can turn the situation around, and fails to address the most urgent problems. Three studies released today by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA shed light on the mechanisms underlying California’s poor record of transfer from community colleges to four-year campuses and suggest what can and must be done to improve the capacity of the community colleges to help students of color gain BA degrees.
“It is time to have an honest conversation with the people of California about making improvements in our higher education system,” stressed Civil Rights Project Co-Director, Patricia Gándara. “Either we make bold changes in the system or we consign the majority of our students of color to a life with few prospects, and we condemn the state to a future in decline.”
The first report, 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, examines practices in five colleges with disproportionately high rates of transfer for students of color from low-performing high schools. The study finds that a core of personnel in these colleges have lived the experiences of these students and dedicated themselves to the goal of transferring them. To a great extent, these staff rely on the college’s outreach efforts to prepare the students even before they arrive on the campus.
Nonetheless, the success of even these higher-transfer colleges is limited because, like most other colleges in the system, they have not fundamentally changed the structural impediments to transfer posed by years of requirements for developmental education or remedial coursework. The Civil Rights Project report calls for increased emphasis on outreach to low-performing high schools to prepare students for success in the community colleges and a radical rethinking of developmental education, reducing the remedial coursework barriers significantly.
Co-Director Gary Orfield notes, “We were shocked to find that in colleges where many students need intensive counseling, counselors have faculty status and less than half of their time is spent on one-to-one counseling. This arrangement makes no sense.”
The second report, Unrealized Promises: Unequal Access, Affordability, and Excellence at Community Colleges in Southern California, by Mary Martinez Wenzl and Rigoberto Marquez, provides a very detailed analysis of all the high schools and community colleges in Southern California and shows overwhelmingly that segregated high schools with weak records feed students into heavily minority community colleges where few students successfully transfer.
The report clarifies that California high schools are extremely segregated by race, ethnicity, poverty, and language background, and those schools offer less adequate curricula, fewer experienced and qualified teachers and much lower graduation rates. If the promise of fair access to higher education is to be realized, the report makes clear, then it has to happen in the community colleges.
“Unfortunately,” says Orfield, “the community colleges tend to repeat the patterns of the low performing high schools, resulting in few transfers—this makes a mockery of the promise of equal opportunity.”
The third report, Beyond the Master Plan: The Case for Restructuring Baccalaureate Education in California, finds that California is one of the nation’s least successful states in terms of college completion. Researchers Saul Geiser and Richard Atkinson, the state’s preeminent analysts of higher education statistics, demonstrate the very powerful relationship between BA completion rates and beginning college at four-year campuses. The Master Plan is a failure, the report concludes, and requires radical change.
Geiser and Atkinson further stress that California remains critically short of four-year public colleges, continually failing to expand them as the population soars. They recommend, among other remedies, that some of the excellent community colleges be given authority to grant B.A. degrees, an important expansion of capacity at a far lower price than building new four-year campuses.
“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.”
Click here to download Building Pathways to Transfer: Community Colleges that Break the Chain of Failure for Students of Color
Click here to download Beyond the Master Plan: The Case for Restructuring Baccalaureate Education in California
CRP held a press briefing on the these reports. To view the agenda for that briefing, including the speakers, and to hear the audio recording, see the attachments above.