Report: Only 3-in-10 students earn diplomas
Mediha Fejzagic DiMartino, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/16/2011 10:12:09 PM PDT

Getting a degree is a far-fetched dream for many in the Inland Empire – just 3-in-10 students attending community colleges walk out with diplomas.

The figures for transfer students are even bleaker – only 2-in-10 make it to a four-year university, according to “Divided We Fail: Inland Empire Regional Profile,” a report released last week by The Campaign for College Opportunity and the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy at Sacramento State University.

The report is a part of a comprehensive study that tracked more than 250,000 students who entered a California community college in 2003-04 and analyzed their progress over the next six years.

“The results of this report show that we have a long way to go to achieve the levels of student success needed to create 1 million additional college graduates for California’s work force needs by 2025,” said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of Campaign for College Opportunity.

“In the Inland Empire, community colleges are a critical gateway for students to participate in the local economy. The region’s growing economy will require more education than a high school diploma,” said Siqueiros.

Statistics for community colleges in Los Angeles County, which will be released on May2, are similar to Inland Empire figures, according to Audrey Dow, a community affairs director for the campaign.

Statewide numbers mirror those of the Inland Empire as well. Six years after enrolling, 70 percent of degree-seeking students had not completed a certificate or degree and had not transferred to a university.

For Latino and black students, the numbers were even higher – 75 percent to 80 percent.

Only 23 percent of students transferred to a university – 11percent with an associate degree, and 5 percent after earning a vocational certificate.

Chaffey College President Henry Shannon said the findings of the report did not surprise him.

Part of the problem his school faces is academic readiness – many of his students have to take remedial classes in core subjects such as math or English before they can even start chipping away on their college class load.

“For them it takes longer to get through the maze,” Shannon said.

Students’ extra-curricular obligations can get in the way, too. More than two-thirds of Chaffey students have families. School is just one part of their lives, he said.

Andrea Myers of Pomona is working her way through a nursing program at Mt. San Antonio College. For the single mom, balancing motherhood and course work can be tough at times, Myers said.

“It impacts your family life,” she said. “When your kid starts acting up because she is spending too much time in day care, it makes a person rethink their career.”

For those who do make it to campus, getting into a class they need is becoming more difficult.

“I’ve seen kids sitting on the floor in class taking notes,” said Anthony Hile of Upland, who transferred from Chaffey College to Mt. SAC. “Some don’t want to do that. They give up and stop coming.”

About 60 percent of San Bernardino Valley College students take fewer than six units per semester, said Craig Petinak, the school’s spokesman.

“At this pace, it takes students much longer to get through a certificate or degree program or to become transfer-ready,” Petinak said. “For many, the demands of having to hold down part- or full-time work limits their ability to be successful in rapidly meeting their goals.”

The report showed that students who are able to pass college-level English and math within two years have much better success rates.

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