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Community Colleges Report Successes After Years Of Cutbacks During Recession

  

California community college leaders say they’re starting to see returns from recent reforms and investments to the system. They told lawmakers Wednesday they're working to reverse low graduation and transfer rates. 

The governor and state lawmakers increased funding in the past two budgets for community colleges—some of it to restore cuts from the recession, but a healthy chunk was for an initiative to improve low completion rates. Less than half of students are earning certificates or moving on to four-year colleges. The systems’ chancellor Brice Harris told a state Senate committee that’s improving.

"Access to the system is returning, course completion is up, the number of degrees and certificates being awarded is up, so basically the news is very good," says Harris.

He says efforts include priority registration, fee waivers and working with students to plan ahead. Local community college presidents supported that testimony. For the most part, so did the student’s representative, Dahlia Salem. But she also told this personal story. Last year, she was trying to choose between two computer programming languages.

"I was informed by counselor that I can take one of these series and it would apply to any of the schools I wish to transfer to, however, later on when I actually went through the transfer process, I did find out that these classes don’t match what I need to take and that I need to spend another year learning the language series," says Salem.

Salem urged the colleges and lawmakers to focus more of their investment on support services, including counselors.