Dismal graduation rates at California’s community colleges

November 22, 2021


The vast majority of students in the California Community Colleges system are failing to graduate within four years, according to newly released data. [Inside Higher Ed]

Data presented last week to the California Community Colleges Board showed, among those who started college in 2015-2016, only 21 percent of Asian students, 17 percent of white students, 14 percent of Latinx students and 9 percent of black and Native Americans students completed their studies within four years. Those rates mark modest improvements from the previous year.

John Hetts, a visiting executive in research and data at the California Community Colleges, presented the findings to the board and said major changes are needed.

“The vast majority of students who start at our institutions don’t successfully make it through to completion,” Hetts said. “If we are going to think differently and weather this change, we have to reimagine our approach to how we educate the students that we have.”

Less than 36 percent of California Community Colleges students complete their studies within six years. Nationwide, the average six-year completion rate among students who started at community college in 2014 was about 40 percent.

About 30 percent of community college students in California are still working toward graduation six years after they begin college — a higher percentage than in any other state’s community college system.

In addition to dealing with low graduation rates, the California Community Colleges system has had a sharp decline in enrollment during the pandemic. Enrollment in the system dropped by 14.8 percent from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

This is what you have when the students have no skin in the game, a continuation of high school for the unmotivated. Yale by the Jail has always been a catch basin for those that didn’t want to stop high school when you had to pay, not it has to be worse. I love the folks claiming it takes 6 years to do because of working, I put myself through working full time and up to 21 credits. Please.

Well, good for you.

CC’s are serving their purpose and doing so quite well. Viewing “graduation rates” as a measure of success is the problem. I spent three years at a CC before transferring (without degree) to cal state, then onto UC for “higher” degrees. The quality of education at my CC was way better than anything CSU or UC had to offer; my CC had instructors whose job it was to help students learn, not to kiss the butts of the money grubbing admins.

California is the worse at everything – and that’s too bad. Among the best qualities of junior colleges is the technical skills learned from classes for the trades. Whether you learn to be a mechanic, welder, electrician or the many other trades that society is in dire need of, learning a vocation is more valuable there ever before.

What we should do is have the taxpayers pay all the tuition. That way, the students have nobody to be accountable to when they never graduate.

Part of the mission of Cuesta College and other community colleges is vocational education. These classes teach practical skills, and I believe in many instances the student learns what (s)he needs to know and then can get a job without a degree. But these sort of unfinished studies show up as failures as noted above.

Regrettably, many vocational classes have been dropped, presumably due to higher material costs and a false perception that learning a trade is somehow not prestigious, or it’s only for kids too dumb to get a four-year degree.

You must understand the original mandate of California Community College.

Working folks would get thru faster if there was campus housing! Never understood why Cuesta doesn’t support on-campus housing, especially with national guard property right next door. Took me a decade to graduate from Jr. college, because I paid my own way: books ain’t cheap, + parking permit or bus pass and neither is rent, utilities, food, insurance….. But thank God for community college!!!!! The opposite of those college admission scandals!!!! Lifelong learning and civic responsibility should be the goal, not mommy & daddy bragging about how quickly their little Johnny or Betty made it through.

Well, if you can only go part time, have to work to live and attend school, these are the results. Most of us folks aren’t yups who’s rich parents pay our way, all utilities etc. I don’t see why this is bad, school shouldn’t be a numbers game rat race, it should be an endeavor for however long one wants. I don’t see Cuesta having any access to the corporate enterprises Cal Poly gets, and screw Cal Poly.

4 and 6 yrs to complete a 2 yr program? Yikes

It’s called working while attending school, Yikes!