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ERIC Number: ED529624
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Jan
Pages: 43
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Unrealized Promises: Unequal Access, Affordability, and Excellence at Community Colleges in Southern California
Martinez-Wenzl, Mary; Marquez, Rigoberto
Civil Rights Project / Proyecto Derechos Civiles
California community colleges are, by design, the only entry point to four-year institutions for the majority of students in the state. Yet, many of these institutions perpetuate racial and class segregation, thus disrupting the California Master Plan for Higher Education's promise of access, equity, and excellence in higher education. This report is an exploratory and descriptive examination of the pipelines to and from Southern California's 51 community colleges. Two central questions guide the analysis and discussion in this report. First, how does high school performance relate to the levels of racial and ethnic segregation in receiving community colleges? Second, how do transfer outcomes relate to the ethnic and racial composition of the community college? The authors find evidence of a harmful cycle of segregation, whereby students from low-performing high schools are funneled into racially isolated community colleges, which in turn fail to transfer students at high rates. And at more integrated community colleges, a racial transfer gap persists. The authors examine the flows of students in the region from the strongest- and weakest-performing high schools to community colleges by their levels of segregation. The high schools' performances are measured by three-year promoting power averages, or successful transitions from one grade to the next. Specifically, they look at the number of large pathways (flows of more than 50 students per year) to community colleges. These pathways can be thought of as large roads funneling students to specific community colleges year after year, and illustrate how certain community colleges in the region serve large numbers of students from weak-performing high schools, while others largely serve only those from high-performing high schools. This report also assesses how transfer rates vary between community colleges that are the most- and least-segregated in the region. Colleges are divided into the following categories by their levels of segregation: intensely segregated (n=5), majority underrepresented minority (n=17), highly diverse (n=4), majority white/Asian (n=14), and majority white (n=11). Five themes emerged from this analysis, summarized as follows: (1) Students from weak high schools are concentrated in community colleges where Black and Latino students are overrepresented; (2) Students from strong high schools are concentrated in community colleges where white and Asian students are overrepresented; (3) Most of the lowest transfer rate community colleges are majority underrepresented minority or intensely segregated; (4) Community colleges with the highest transfer rates are majority white or majority white/Asian; and (5) Many of these highest transfer rate community colleges have racial disparities. To summarize, it is at the extremes that one sees the starkest differences in levels of segregation and educational opportunity. Students who live near and attend community colleges that are intensely segregated, or majority Black and Latino, typically are in colleges where a great number of fellow students come from weak promoting high schools. Students from weaker high schools tend to have weaker academic preparation and require more remediation, and their colleges and faculty tend to focus more on those needs. In contrast, students from majority white and/or majority white/Asian colleges largely encounter students coming from schools with high promoting power. In consideration of these challenges, the authors offer the following recommendations: (1) Recognize and reward success; (2) Streamline the transfer process; (3) Alignment across institutional sectors; (4) Information and integration; and (5) Increase funding. Appended are: (1) Six-Year Transfer Rates by Race/Ethnicity, 2003-04 Cohort; (2) Transfers to UC and CSU from Colleges with at Least 20% Black Enrollment, 2008; (3) Transfers to UC and CSU from Majority Latino Community Colleges, 2008; and (4) Racial/Ethnic Composition of Southern California Community Colleges by County, 2008. (Contains 6 figures, 22 tables and 47 footnotes.)[Foreword by Gary Orfield.]
Civil Rights Project / Proyecto Derechos Civiles. 8370 Math Sciences, P.O. Box 951521, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1521. Tel: 310-267-5562; Fax: 310-206-6293; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Numerical/Quantitative Data; Reports - Research
Education Level: High Schools; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Secondary Education; Two Year Colleges
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: University of California, Los Angeles, Civil Rights Project / Proyecto Derechos Civiles
Identifiers - Location: California