By Rachael Marcus and Charla Bear
Fewer than half of students in California's community colleges are completing their degrees, and Bay Area community colleges are no exception, according to new data released by the California Community Colleges on April 9.
De Anza College in Cupertino had the highest graduation/certificate completion rate, at 66.6 percent, and Merritt College in Oakland had the lowest rate, at 40.4 percent.
Statewide, the average is 49.2 percent, down more than three points from four years ago. Hispanic and African American students' completion rates were below 40 percent.
Completion rates for Bay Area schools slid at about two-thirds of colleges, the Oakland Tribune reported.
Brice Harris, the chancellor of California Community Colleges, emphasized in a press conference that it is important to put the data in context. The Oakland Tribune explains:
The past five years have been rocky for the state's 112 colleges and the students who turned to them during the recession. As unemployment swelled, the system simultaneously saw soaring demand and $1.5 billion in state funding cuts, forcing its colleges to cut back on student services and classes. State universities also accepted fewer transfers during that time, another factor working against students.
This new "Student Scorecard" database, compiled by the California Community Colleges' Chancellor's Office, shows data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender and age as well as makes such comparisons as students prepared for college versus those who need to take remedial classes in math, language arts and the English language.
Drilling down to this level of data helps schools figure out where to concentrate their efforts, said Harris.
The most surprising data?
"If students need remediation, they have below a 50 percent chance of succeeding, where if they're ready to go to college, they have well above a 70 percent chance," Harris told KQED's Charla Bear. "That's a pretty dramatic difference."
Nonetheless, those unprepared students are hanging on for a third straight semester at even higher rates than their prepared peers, the data show, in a measure the scorecard dubs "persistence."
Tamela Hawley, executive director of research and institutional effectiveness at the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District, told the Oakland Tribune that realizing how much these students want to succeed might encourage schools to help them through their remedial courses as quickly as possible so they can begin earning college credits.
At its core, the chancellor's office intends the Student Scorecard to be an accountability tool.
"Frankly, we'll be the most accountable system of higher ed in the country," Harris told Bear. "I don't think there will be any other system in America that's as transparent as ours."
Ranking: Bay Area Community Colleges Ranking By Completion Rate
(Percentage of degree and/or transfer-seeking students tracked for six years through 2011-12 who completed a degree, certificate or transfer-related outcome.)