After learning that more than 70 percent of Southern California community college students fail to transfer to a four-year university within six years, the Civil Rights Project at UCLA has researched ways to improve these numbers.
The project came up with several ways minority students can improve their progress towards a degree, and released them in three reports on Feb. 14.
Founded in 1996, the Civil Rights Project was created to inspire a new generation of research in social sciences, as well as evaluate issues facing ethnic communities in the United States, according to its website.
“I met other students who have gone to community colleges for four years,” said Elizabeth Geber, a senior psychology major at CSUN. “Classes are being crammed, the budget cut every single semester and most of the students have full-time jobs. Don’t get me started on the counselors.”
The proposals range from turning community colleges into satellite schools for larger universities to rewarding schools with a high transfer rates and increased funding for better guidance counselors.
Titled “Building Pathways to Transfer: Community Colleges that Break the Chain of Failure for Students of Color,” authors Patricia Gándara, Elizabeth Alvarado, Anne Driscoll and Gary Orfield report on their conducted study of students transferring from community colleges from 1996 to 1998.
They report that minority students are often unprepared for college due to low-resource schools, and that they often face time-consuming remedial courses, unavailable academic advisers and dwindling funds that can result in a high wash-out rate.
The authors suggest that there should be better outreach for high schools with low resources due to weak counseling. Furthermore, it is mentioned that rewarding campuses that have a high transfer rate among minorities should be discussed.
“Unrealized Promises: Unequal Access, Affordability and Excellence at the Community Colleges in Southern California,” written by Mary Martinez-Wenzl and Rigoberto Marquez, discusses how community colleges have played a role in California’s education system since the 1960s Master Plan for Higher Education.
The authors discuss how the plan was created during a rise in university enrollment in California, setting up a system for post-secondary education.
Among its rules was that community colleges would accept all applicants and guarantee transfer to a CSU or UC in order to obtain four-year degrees.
The Martinez-Wenzl and Marquez report examined the Southern California community college system as well as high schools, concluding that community colleges with the highest transfer rates are majority Caucasian or Asian.
Schools with poor transfer rates tend to have a African-American or Latino majority, according to their research.
The authors propose a solution: to recognize and reward high transfer rate schools through financial and academic means.
By informing students and parents of community colleges with high transfer rates, the authors mention that young individuals will recognize that they have a right to successful college campuses.
They conclude that rather than cutting funding, which they report at being nearly $800 million by next year, they want the state to recognize that the current financial climate isn’t sufficiently funding the master plan for California.
“Beyond the Master Plan: The Case of Restructuring Baccalaureate Education in California,” by Saul Geiser and Richard C. Atkinson, proposes that community colleges should be offered the chance to become branch schools for universities.
The authors say that by altering the two-year to four-year transfer process, students would attend community colleges for their upper division classes and potentially help alleviate the surge of students attending universities.
It is a proposal that David Moguel, a professor at the department of secondary education in CSUN, finds conceivable, yet costly.
“Reducing enrollment and improving community colleges to be able to teach higher courses would take a tremendous amount of the school’s resources,” Moguel said. “An alternative could be to take a few existing community colleges that are performing well and elevate them, much like what happened to CSUN.”
Detailed on the CSUN website, Moguel refers to 1958 when CSUN was granted independece from CSULA.
Having heard of these reports, Juana Mora, a Chicana/o studies professor at CSUN offers advice to students who aspire in obtaining a bachelor’s degree.
“Find a mentor in your community who has received a bachelor’s and don’t give up,” she said.