Community colleges must reach out

Lauren Williams's picture
Friday, December 13, 2013

California Competes is, according to its mission statement, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit group concerned with “developing financially pragmatic recommendations for improved policies and practices in California higher education” with the goal of “helping the state improve postsecondary education in order to drive economic growth and vibrant communities today and tomorrow.”

Like virtually all of us working in the field of higher education believe, the organization holds that “the way to secure (California’s) future is to develop the talent and productivity of Californians through higher education.”

In order to provide that avenue to economic success for the state and its residents, the right programs must be made available to the right students at a reasonable price. Recent research shows that the community colleges are having some difficulties reaching potential students, and the study shows there is no one simple reason for that disconnect. Reaching potential students calls for a challenging combination of programs, school location and marketing.

California Competes released an interactive map of community college participation by 1,700 ZIP codes, using census data and enrollment numbers from the Chancellor’s Office of California Community Colleges (which has 112 schools) and then created a participation index score based on the number of full-time equivalent students enrolled in community college per 10,000 residents in each ZIP code. The statewide average full-time equivalent enrollment in community colleges is 450 per ZIP code.

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