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Less than half the students who enrolled at Gavilan College with
the intent to transfer to a four-year college or earn an
associate’s degree or certificate actually achieve their goals.
Less than half the students who enrolled at Gavilan College with the intent to transfer to a four-year college or earn an associate’s degree or certificate actually achieve their goals.

According to the state’s 2009 accountability report for community colleges, 46.4 percent of first-year Gavilan students who expressed a desire to transfer to a university or earn an associate’s degree or a certificate reached their goal within six years. That percentage is down from 49.8 percent the previous year and 52 percent the year before that. Gavilan’s percentage also lags behind the state’s 51.8 percent of community college students who reach their initial goals within six years.

Gavilan’s Vice President of Instructional Services Kathleen Rose said she wasn’t worried by the statistic, “but it’s a bit of a call to action.” Part of the problem is that Gavilan “doesn’t do a good job” of capturing the reasons why students drop out, withdraw from classes or fail to reach their goals, Rose said.

“We have to, of course, continually monitor these trends,” she said. “I think that would help.”

“It’s a challenge to be a student these days,” she added.

By connecting with counselors and staying abreast of graduation and admissions requirements, students can better reach their goals, she said.

“Most importantly, before making that decision to withdraw or walk away, having that critical conversation with academic counselors is key,” Rose said. “Despite the fact that our enrollment has increased, we’re still a small school and can provide that individual service students may not have at the four-year level.”

The state also posted its 2010 draft accountability report to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Web site with similar numbers but that data is still subject to change pending corrections colleges are allowed to submit up to Dec. 1. The Chancellor’s Office expects to finalize the 2010 report by March.

In the last six years, the number of students enrolled in the California State University and University of California systems who attended California community colleges rose steadily. Since university enrollment also increased, the percentage of students who previously attended community colleges hovered at 46 percent, with more community college students gravitating toward the CSU, rather than the UC, system, according to the report.

With the state university systems limiting their freshman enrollment in recent years, Gavilan is seeing unprecedented growth, President Steve Kinsella said.

“We are just stuffed,” Kinsella said. “When the economy is strong and jobs are plentiful, students take fewer units and delay the completion of their education program to work. When the economy starts to decline, they come back to take the additional courses that will make them more competitive in the marketplace.”

If the success rate of Gavilan and other community colleges remains the same, there will be more students looking to get into fewer spots at state universities in the coming years.

Thanks to budget cuts, state universities reduced their freshman classes by 10 percent for the current school year and Gavilan cut its course offerings significantly. As a result, “many students who wish to attend college may not be able to find what they need,” said Gavilan spokeswoman Jan Bernstein Chargin.

Although students are asked to indicate their educational intent on their application to Gavilan, many are not ready to make that decision and end up revising their academic goals anyway, Bernstein Chargin said.

“Very honestly, if a student accomplishes their goal in a longer period of time, we still feel that that student has succeeded,” she said. “I think a lot of people in community colleges are here specifically because their lives do not accommodate the traditional student track, meaning that they don’t have the money and family support to dedicate themselves full-time to their studies for several years.”

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