Study: Most California community college students never finish

Pasadena Community College, Pasadena, CA
Pasadena Community College, Pasadena, CA

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SAN FRANCISCO — A new study finds that most students seeking degrees at California's community colleges never get them.

The report says 70 percent of degree-seeking students who entered community college in the 2003-2004 school year didn't graduate or transfer to four-year universities within six years.

Only 26 percent of black students and 22 percent of Latinos completed a degree or certificate program or transferred to a four-year school. The rate was 37 percent for white students.

The report titled "Divided We Fail" was released by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy at California State University, Sacramento and 15 other organizations.

The authors call for a better system to track student progress that could help campuses boost completion and transfer rates.

Nancy Shulock, executive director of the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy, at CSU Sacramento, and co-author of the study told AirTalk's Larry Mantle today that the report is supposed to help the state's community colleges track students' enrollment patterns and identify where the students are running into trouble.

Students who had taken math and English classes upon enrolling and attended summer sessions showed higher graduation rates, she said.

"What we do is identify those patterns that are really successful. We show much higher completion rates for students who are able to follow certain patterns," Shulock said.

Jack Scott, California Community Colleges chancellor, said one legislative reform is in progress that would make transferring from a community college to a CSU campus after 60 units of study a "seamless" experience. Another Senate bill would also form a taskforce to evaluate student success.

"We've been a great institution in guaranteeing access, but we want to work real hard on making sure these students succeed," Scott said on today's AirTalk.

KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez contributed audio to this report.