Limited community college capacity could keep 2.5 million Californians out of the system over the next 10 years. The seat shortage is expected to fall hardest on Latino students, squeezing 840,000 out of the schools.
Since 2007, San Diego Community Colleges have cut more than 2,600 class sections, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Colleges lost 1,600 classes and Palomar College halved its summer offerings.
A new report commissioned by Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit company that runs private colleges, projects the lack of access to community college programs could cost California Latinos $17.8 billion in potential earnings by 2022.
Deborah Santiago heads research for Excelencia in Education, which studies Latinos and higher education. She said not only are California Latinos younger on average than the rest of the population, but they are more likely to attend community colleges than any other group for simple reasons.
“Community colleges are, from a sticker price perspective, more affordable and, because they are in the communities where these students live, therefore accessible,” she said.
But Patricia Gandara, co-director of UCLA’s Civil Right Project, which has also studied Latinos in the state’s community colleges, said the real crisis is that relatively few Latinos ever make it to a four-year degree track. The vast majority of Latinos who also attend high schools in low-income areas are not college-ready, she said.
“They spend all this time doing remedial work until they kind of run out of time and run out of money and don’t even get credit for transfer," she said. "So, it’s a huge problem, the sort of stagnation of the group in the two-year colleges.”
Gandara said a handful of the state's community colleges are doing a good job of supporting Latino students so they complete an associate's degree or transfer to a four-year university but systematic improvement is very slow.
Gandara and Santiago agree the state’s recent focus on improving and accelerating graduation from public colleges and universities could help. But, Santiago said, serving more students will also require restoring class section and student support services cut during the economic downturn.
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