By Sergio Berrueta
Improving student graduation rates and transfers to four-year universities was the topic of discussion among California states and district officials for community colleges August 28.
California Community Colleges Chancellor Dr. Brice W. Harris was in attendance to speak about the long-term success goals of state colleges.
One major goal set by the Board of California Community Colleges is to have roughly a quarter of a million students in the next ten classes of entering freshman to go on and graduate.
“If you think about that specifically, that’s about 227,000 more graduates and transfers than before with this new student initiative,” Harris said. “What that means is that our current completion ratio is about 48 percent. This would increase that number to 63 percent.”
Harris describes the goal as a “simply Herculean” focusing on improving the strategy of the past in order to maintain a strong future.
ELAC currently ranks as number nine in the nation for largest colleges. Enrollment itself has increased with 56,000 students currently attending, making ELAC the largest community college in California.
A new step-forward campaign for students is currently in progress to help them start on priority enrollment to see what requirements are needed to succeed in their own personal educational goals.
“Our individual colleges up and down the state will also be setting student success goals at the local level,” Harris said. “We will watch those year by year to see our progress and be able to see if we are on target to meet that nearly quarter million goal.”
As the speech continued, Harris stated the facts of the struggles of past years and the current state of the California community colleges system.
Also speaking at the conference was Board of Governors’ President Manuel Baca. He spoke about the recent developments within the system and the complications of achieving the new set goal.
“As the president of the Board of Governors, I recognize my limitations, my board’s limitations. It’s important to understand that, because that is the first step to gaining collaborative support,” Baca said.
Baca continued talking about the efforts into reaching the current goals completed and which parties should come into play to help create a stronger future.
“I have to emphasize that the instructional faculty, in particular, has to be very much engaged in the discussion,” Baca said. “The instructional side of the house cannot be sitting back and simply saying this is about processes. It’s not about processes, it’s about making an actual difference and the only way we can be sure is if we have a process in place to have the campus community fully engaged.”
David Radford of the Educational Workforce of the Los Angeles Chamber spoke about rebuilding the state of California as a place of success with a focus on hiring more students to work. Radford focused on the emotional aspect to shift the mood of the event.
“These are our dreamers. Whether there are dreamers who are undocumented or there are dreamers who are simply here to want themselves to do better and their parents want them to do better,” Radford said. “We will match the commitment in our own way. You send them to us and we will hire these young people so they can bring to their own families the next generation of dreams.”
Radford also said the group will work to fight for internships and financial aid in order to help students continue on their college career paths.
ELAC Students stepped up to the podium to talk about their experiences with the community college system.
Maria Aynos, a single parent, spoke first to talk about her current enrollment and obstacles she faced. Aynos graduated from ELAC this past year and recieved an associates degree in general studies and transferred to California State University,Los Angeles to focus on social work.
“I want to be able to succeed in life and encourage young mothers to continue their education like I did,” Aynos said. “I am very grateful for all the programs ELAC provides their students. Everyone here has made it possible for me to accomplish my goals so far.”
Buk Lao, another graduate of ELAC, was laid off before attending with a focus on succeeding. Lao went on to talk about the book “The Genius in All of Us” by David Shenk, a book he read for extra credit.
“This book taught me the valuable lesson that at any age, one can exert their potential as a genius and genius can mature later on in their life,” Lao said.
Lao said that he was encouraged by the faculty and staff at ELAC to continue on to complete his goals and succeed.
“I know that by working together and putting our community resources together, there is nothing that we can’t do,”said Lao
ELAC alum Reyna Hernandez, part of ELAC Outreach and recruitment office, was the final speaker of the event and reflected on her life on campus.
“East Los Angeles College was my savior,” Hernandez said. “While I wanted to pursue education, it was not my priority at the time as I worked jobs to not be homeless. When I did come to use the services ELAC provides, it helped me get focused to be a full-time student to be successful,” Hernandez said.