California community college plan aims to boost degree, transfer rates

Brice Harris, above, is chancellor of California Community Colleges, the nation's largest community college system.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
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California community college officials are launching a new effort to ensure that about 250,000 additional students complete their two-year degrees or transfer by decreasing the amount of time they spend taking remedial courses.

To reach that goal, the state’s two-year colleges would have to increase graduations or transfers nearly 15 percentage points. Currently, a little less than half of community college students get a degree or transfer.

The number of students who finish technical education programs would have to rise 16 percentage points to nearly 70%.


The task “is, frankly, Herculean,” California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris said at a news conference Wednesday. But “we simply have to do a better job. We have to get those numbers up.”

With nearly 2.1 million students, the 112-campus California community college system is the largest in the country.

Officials are not counting on a large increase in state funding to accomplish their goals, Harris said. Instead, more community colleges will begin giving priority registration to students who participate in orientation and educational planning. The system will offer more academic counseling and provide more targeted remedial courses to students to ensure that they only take classes they need to advance.

North Carolina’s two-year schools began offering different assessment tests in 2012 that would more accurately determine which remedial courses students are required to take.

Nearly 75% of California community college students need to take basic math and English courses before they can take classes for credit, according to state statistics.

Students and education officials say it can be difficult to get seats in those classes, which contributes to students failing to finish their educations.


There will be no official sanctions if completion goals aren’t met, Harris said. But, if community colleges don’t begin producing more graduates who can enter the workforce, “California will begin to lose its competitive edge,” Harris said.
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