- California is preparing to launch four-year degree offerings at some of its community colleges, but some critics say the student groups that need the most help will not benefit from the new initiative.
- Latino and black students are outpaced by white and Asian students in degree completion in the state, and research indicates that half of the 15 community colleges selected to award four-year degrees are most likely to reach white students.
- Most community colleges do not have the faculty or service capacity to adequately serve an influx in enrollment, or to meet the demands of certain four-year programs.
California is uniquely positioned for this kind of educational access initiative, because unlike most states, its economy is returning at a rapid pace and could afford to do more to promote college access beyond duplicating programs between community colleges and four-year institutions. But it also has unique challenges in balancing diversity objectives with completion goals, which makes its approach more about inclusion and affordability than just access.
This is the kind of difficult balance many college leaders will have to create as college access grows in raw numbers, but enrollment at community colleges has fallen significantly in the last 25 years among all students. Determining how to create stronger transfer agreements and credentialing programs may be a better fit to meet student needs, instead of working to build community colleges into smaller four-year institutions, which are struggling in comparison to larger public and private schools.