Practices that Promote Equity in Basic Skills in California Community Colleges

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Grossmont College Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS)

“EOPS program's primary goal is to encourage the enrollment, retention and transfer of students handicapped by language, social, economic and educational disadvantages, and to facilitate the successful completion of their goals and objectives in college CCCCO.” EOPS offers academic and support counseling, financial aid, and other support services. The Grossmont College EOPS Student Success Plan “incorporates student success strategies for retention of students who are identified as one of the most at-risk groups: those who are both academically and educationally disadvantaged and on academic probation. Through assessment and counseling, an individual Student Success Plan is developed and co-signed by both the student and the counselor. Follow up and intervention is provided throughout the semester with dramatic results. The percentage of students who have succeeded has been impressive. Their rate of retention is 67% as opposed to the usual 16% for this population. Students with a history of non-persistence continue to take classes and have real hopes of transferring to a four-year institution (ASCCC, 2002, p 2).”

El Camino College Project Success

Project Success is a recruitment, retention, and graduation program targeting African American students but open to all. This program was developed in 1987 in response to the disproportionate number of African American students who had either dropped or had been academically dismissed from El Camino Community College. The program is open to any at–risk student who just graduated from high school and is serious and motivated.

The goals of the project are achieved with the support of the following services: counseling, tutoring, student and parent orientation, faculty, staff and peer mentoring, tutoring, cultural and university fieldtrips, book loans, book vouchers, scholarships, and learning communities. The mentors are available to offer "real world" experiences and guidance to students along the way. Students are worked with intensely their first year and continue in the program until they graduate or transfer on to four year universities. (See Appendix I for curricular details.)

  • Learning Communities are required for students in their first year. First semester students take Human Development 10 - Strategies for Success in College and Library Science 1 - Library Research.

  • Students in their second semester take Human Development 5 - Career Planning and Psychology 10 - African American Psychology.

Project Success has been operating for 22 years and has helped thousands of students assessed with basic skills needs to reach their goals, particularly within the African American, African-recent immigrant, and Caribbean- recent immigrant populations. Project Success is a consortium member of the newly established UMOJA Community. UMOJA is a community and critical resource dedicated to enhancing the cultural and educational experiences of African American and other students.

Outcomes for Project Success

Project success has a long standing record of persistence reporting a 91% persistence rate from fall 2008 to spring 2009, 94.4% from fall 2007 to spring 2008, and 90% from the fall 2006 to the spring 2007. The student retention rate from the first year to the second year exceeded 80%. This compares to a 50% retention rate of comparable first year students. Students who complete the program transfer to universities, both in state and out–of–state, at a much higher rate, and students who transfer complete their bachelor degrees in less than three years after graduation from El Camino College.  Students in the program graduate from El Camino College at twice the rate of comparable students not in the program.    

Santa Barbara City College Partnership for Student Success (PSS)

In 2007 the Partnership for Student Success program was recognized for best practices in student equity by the Chancellor's Office for advancing college access and successful outcomes in historically underserved populations. The Partnership for Student Success also received a 2008 Hewlett Leaders in Student Success Award recognizing colleges that use innovative and proven methods in foundational math and English. In addition, it was awarded the ASCCC 2009 Exemplary Program award honoring programs with proven success in transitioning students to transfer and career.

The Partnership for Student Success is a faculty-driven initiative that pairs student service support programs and instructional support programs to address academic skills, especially basic skills, across disciplines. The partnership initiative encompasses many programs, including the Gateway program, the Writing Center, the Math Tutorial Lab, ESL, and the Student Athlete Academic Achievement Zone among others. Information about all these programs is available online at; however, the success of these programs can be exemplified from this data about the Writing Center:

The Writing Center visits increased 29.5% in the 2007-2008 academic year on top of a 35.9% increase in the number of students over the previous year. Each semester the rate of successful course completion has been 15 to 20% higher among students who visited the Writing Center than among those who did not. Please see Appendix J for more detailed data about the successful work of the Writing Center.

The Role of Noncredit in Promoting Equity

The data presented at the beginning of this paper about student diversity noticeably reveals noncredit courses as the primary entry point for higher education among our fastest growing Hispanic/Latino communities. Dona Boatwright, in a report to the Board of Governors (2005) about noncredit education, clearly described the link between noncredit, diversity, and equitable outcomes (Boatwright, 2005, p.13):

There is a substantial need for the community colleges to provide noncredit instruction to the residents of California. Close to 20 percent of California’s community college students are legal immigrants. More than 50 percent are non-Caucasian and that number is rising. The community colleges educate the core of California’s future workforce. Noncredit instruction is a portal to the future for thousands of underprepared students. California’s policymakers, employers and the public have recognized the need for adult education.

The capacity of the community colleges to assist students to transition from low skills into higher levels of educational achievement and meaningful work is contingent on adequate funding. Steps should be taken to fully assess how to leverage federal and state funds to meet the educational development skills of underprepared students, including addressing the well-documented inequities in state funding.

A seminal document, Noncredit at a Glance, written in collaboration by the Chancellor’s office and noncredit faculty and administrators, observed an undeniable link between equity, opportunity, and noncredit instruction. Noncredit, an instructional delivery style foreign to many community colleges and confusingly overlapping with K-12 adult education in some community college districts, became a focus of attention and clarification. The philosophy, the pedagogical style, and the instructional delivery represented something that was culturally accessible to many Hispanic Californians.

Noncredit Instruction has been described as an ‘educational gateway’ or a ‘portal to the future.’ It serves as a key contributor to ‘open access’ for students with diverse backgrounds and those seeking to improve their earning power, literacy skills and access to higher education. For many, particularly immigrants, the economically disadvantaged and low-skilled adults, it is the first point of entry into a college (California Community College Chancellor’s Office, 2006, p3).

Colleges effectively addressing diversity must evaluate the need or lack thereof for noncredit access points based upon the local student populations. They must study this delivery style and the cultural bridge created through noncredit to access the local population needs. In addition, colleges with existing noncredit programs must actively evaluate the effectiveness of bridging students from noncredit to credit in order to continue these students’ trajectories towards their individual academic goals. It is clear that effectively addressing diversity in California involves a serious look at the role of noncredit. Because noncredit instruction has an essential role in promoting equitable outcomes but goes beyond the scope of this paper, we suggest further investigation particularly through the following excellent resources:

  • Academic Senate for California Community Colleges [ASCCC]. (2006). The Role of Noncredit in the California Community Colleges

  • California Community College Chancellor's Office [CCCCO]. (2006). Noncredit at a Glance.

  • Center for Student Success [CSS]. (2009a). Promising Practices for Transitioning Students from Adult Education to Postsecondary Education

  • Senate for California Community Colleges [ASCCC]. (2010). Noncredit Instruction: Opportunity and Challenge
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