California ranks 50th of the 50 states for appropriated dollars per student and 49th in college graduation rates, with nearly the worst graduation gap between under-represented students.
For example, among our state’s African American and Latino community college students who show a behavioral intent to transfer, only 12 percent and nine percent respectively are able to transfer to university within three years. In California’s community colleges, 78 percent of degree seekers do not complete a two-year degree or transfer to a four-year college within six years of starting. Variations on the same dismal statistics have been reported year after year for over half a century.
Although college enrollment rates have risen over the past three decades, the rate of degree completion has not improved since 1972. Nationally, the gap in college completion rates between low-income and more affluent students has doubled since 1975.
Major barriers to college success for low-income, underrepresented or first-generation students include:
- Lack of academic support so that students bog down in long sequences of remedial classes or are unable to pass gateway classes
- An overly complicated transfer process from community college to universities
- Lack of guidance and encouragement
Too many students waste time, money and educational resources taking courses that count for nothing toward graduation. The average community college transfer student graduates from the Cal State University system having completed 162 units, when only 120 are required—an excess of three semesters of full-time studies.
If this process could be curtailed, the community college system could serve an additional 40,000 students and the CSU an additional 14,000 students—a cost that would otherwise cost California approximately $160 million each year.
Overall, postsecondary education needs a fundamental redesign.
To tackle these issues with a commitment toward education equity, Metro College Success Program sets out to sharply improve both deep learning, and timely graduation. We reconfigure the first two years of college via cohort-style pathways in a ‘school-within-a-school’ setting, to ensure each student is successful. One hundred percent of Metro pathway classes satisfy graduation requirements for both an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree. The highly structured curriculum shaves off an average of one year to graduation at university, and two years at the community college. Because Metro sharply reduces attrition, this approach is sustainable, cost efficient, and can be brought to large scale.