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Basic Skill Medium

October 2013 | No. 12

Inside the Basic Skills Classroom: Student Experiences in Developmental Education

Maria C. Malagon, Lluliana Alonso, Robin Nichole Johnson-Ahorlu, and Yen Ling Shek
University of California, Los Angeles

Project: Los Angeles Case Studies

Inside the Basic Skills Classroom reveals how low-income students experience developmental education, from the placement process to course completion. Their perspectives lead to important recommendations for policy and practice. 






October 2013 | No. 11

College Can Be Complicated: Low-Income Single Mothers’ Experiences in Postsecondary Education

Christine Cerven, Vicki Park, Jennifer Nations, and Kelly Nielsen
University of California, San Diego

Project: Riverside Case Study

This report sheds light on the range of responsibilities that low-income single mothers must balance in order to persist in community colleges, and describes what helps and hinders their efforts to do so.




Dev Ed Policy Brief - Medium

October 2013 | No. 10

Latina/o Community College Students: Understanding the Barriers of Developmental Education

Daniel G. Solórzano, Nancy Acevedo-Gil, and Ryan E. Santos
University of California, Los Angeles

Project: Los Angeles Case Studies

This report highlights the trajectories of Latina/o students who test into developmental coursework and brings attention to the stumbling blocks created by these courses. Based on the findings, the authors offer suggestions for improving Latinas/ os’ developmental education completion rates.




Labor Markets - Medium

October 2013 | No. 9

Labor Market Outcomes and the Postsecondary Educational Attainment of Low-Income Youth

Mariam Ashtiani, Edelina Burciaga, and Cynthia Feliciano
University of California, Irvine

Project: National Analysis

This report draws on data from a national longitudinal study to reveal the connections between low-income young adults’ degree status and their labor market outcomes. The findings point to the value of a bachelor’s degree in the marketplace and to the complex variations in outcomes by race, gender, and socioeconomic background.





July 2013 | No. 8

Socioeconomic Inequalities in the Postsecondary Enrollment, Employment, and Civic Engagement of California's Youth

Veronica Terriquez and Sandra Florian
University of Southern California

Project: California Young Adult Survey

In a best case scenario, young adults who are transitioning out of high school face a choice among various postsecondary education and employment options. At the same time, they may have new opportunities to engage with and be a positive influence on their communities. But today's youth are coming of age at a time of significant socioeconomic inequality that may shape their ability to access postsecondary education, obtain meaningful employment and contribute to the world around them. This may in turn shape their current and future outcomes and well-being.

In recent decades, parental income has played an increasingly important role in determining children's educational attainment and other opportunities. Meanwhile, parents with college degrees tend to be better informed about postsecondary educational options and have significantly more experience and resources to help their children attend college, secure good jobs, and participate in civic affairs. With these socioeconomic inequalities in mind, we draw on the 2011 California Young Adult Survey (CYAS) to outline patterns of postsecondary school enrollment, employment, and civic engagement among California's 18- to 26-year-olds.



stopouts-coverJuly 2013 | No. 7

California's College Stopouts:
The Significance of Financial Barriers to Continuous School Enrollment

Veronica Terriquez, Oded Gurantz, and Ana Gomez
University of Southern California

Project: California Young Adult Survey

In California, the majority of four-year and community college students do not complete their intended degrees and certificates on time (Chronicle of Higher Education, 2013; Fain, 2013). Many of these students “stop out”—that is, they leave college with the intention of returning later. Discontinuous enrollment is highest for students with lower academic preparation and lower socioeconomic status (Ewert, 2010; Goldrick-Rab, 2006). This is particularly troubling in light of the recent economic recession and the rising cost of higher education, which have both made paying for college more difficult. Students from low-income backgrounds in particular may find they need to take time off from school to save money or to help their families pay their bills. Unfortunately, college students with discontinuous enrollment have significantly reduced likelihood of ever completing their degrees (Cabrera, Burkum, La Nasa, & Bibo, 2012), making this an urgent problem for higher education researchers and policymakers.

In this policy brief, we describe the range of influences on the attendance patterns of California’s college students, focusing in particular on economic factors. Drawing from the mixed-methods California Young Adult Study (CYAS), we classify stopouts as students who enrolled in public or private community or four-year colleges and took a break from school for a term (quarter or semester) or more, not including summer, with the intention of returning. We include individuals who were on break from school but still planned to pursue postsecondary degrees, as well as those who had previously taken time off and successfully re-enrolled in postsecondary institutions.



enteringadult-coverMay 2013 | No. 5

Entering Adulthood in Hard Times
A Comparative Report on the Educational and Economic Status of 18- to 26-Year-Olds in California

John Rogers and Rhoda Freelon
University of California, Los Angeles

Project: Indicators

The Great Recession that began in 2008 has left millions unemployed or underemployed and dramatically increased the number of Americans living in poverty. Young adults have been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn. As new entrants into the labor market, they have faced the challenge of being the last hired and, hence, the first fired. Compounding this problem in California is the fact that the job market has been particularly weak, with unemployment rates higher than almost any other state in the nation. California also cut off other avenues for young people to move toward economic security. Falling tax revenues, structural deficits, and an unwillingness of state lawmakers to forge compromise on tax increases have led to reduced educational expenditures. Numerous reports have documented the resulting deteriorating conditions in California’s public K–12 schools and system of higher education.

While the recession has had a broad impact, we know from other research that some demographic groups have disproportionately borne the brunt of its effects. Moreover, the growing economic value of higher education has brought new attention to unequal postsecondary attainment across demographic subgroups. 

With these issues in mind, this policy brief draws primarily from the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) to assess the education, employment, and economic conditions of California’s young adults. In particular, we explore how race and gender shape the experiences of 18- to 26-year-olds in the state. To provide context, we compare findings for California’s young adults to national averages and to findings for the four next most populous states—Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois.



MoreInfo-coverApril 2013 | No. 4

'I Need More Information'
How College Advising is Still Absent from College Preparation in High Schools

Makeba Jones
University of California, San Diego

Project: San Diego Case Study

In the wake of the Great Recession, unemployment and poverty rates among young adults have dramatically increased, especially for those who have not earned bachelor’s degrees. College attendance and completion are critical for individuals seeking stable employment and economic mobility out of poverty. We know that the institutions at the end of the pipeline—colleges and universities—need to improve graduation rates for students who have grown up in poverty. As important, students who are earlier in the pipeline—i.e., in high school—need to be prepared for college-level work and expectations. For low-income youth, the transition from high school to college is a pivotal juncture; clearing the college-going hurdle immediately, without delay, increases the likelihood that they will earn four-year degrees. One of the most important components of preparation for a smooth transition is college advising. High school counselors are arguably as important as teachers in preparing low-income high school students for college.

Nationwide, high school counseling is fragmented. Absurdly high student to counselor ratios, counselor knowledge gaps about college requirements, and increasing pulls on counselor time that have nothing to do with advising students have cracked counseling systems in many public schools. And, in recent years, slashed education budgets have pushed already fragmented counseling systems to the breaking point. 

Our nation’s students are painfully aware of how their school counseling programs are failing them. In 2010, Public Agenda publicized troubling survey results from over 600 individuals between the ages of 22 and 30 about their high school guidance systems. Results showed an overwhelming failing grade; even young adults who had earned four-year degrees rated their school counseling as poor. The fact that the report presented a national portrait of dismal counseling for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds does not diminish the urgency to improve counseling for low-income students in particular.



financialaid-coverApril 2013 | No. 3

Increasing Federal Financial Aid Access for California Community College Students

Susan Yonezawa
University of California, San Diego

Project: San Diego Case Study

An estimated 1.7 million U.S. undergraduates are eligible for federal financial aid but fail to complete the FAFSA. Over 1.1 million of these students attend community colleges. There is growing evidence that when low-income students receive federal grants early in their college-going trajectories, they stop out or drop out less often than if they receive no aid or if they take out loans. California could also capitalize on the federal funds both to educate its 18- to 24-year-old population and to improve the state’s economy. 

In 2011–2012, the average community college recipient received $3,100 in Pell Grants. California enrolls more than 25% of the nation’s rising population of over 8 million community college students (Fry, 2009). Nearly 2.6 million Californians attend school full- or part-time at the state’s 112 community colleges and 71 satellite programs and centers (California Community Colleges Student Success Task Force, 2012). And thousands of California community college students are between the ages of 18 and 24, non-white, and increasingly low-income, even more so than the national two-year college population. Because of the sheer size of California’s low-income student population, when federal aid is left lying on the table, the loss of potential funds for the state is staggering.

This report draws on data gathered from 75 low-income 18- to 22-year-old youth, their institutions, and the San Diego region. Over 300 hours of interview data allowed us to examine how students interpreted their options and made decisions about postsecondary education and employment as they left high school.



WhatMatterPR-coverFebruary 2013 | No. 2

What Matters fo Community College Success?
Assumptions and Realities Concerning Student Supports for Low-Income Women

Vicki Park, Christine Cerven, Jennifer Nations, and Kelly Nielsen
University of California, San Diego

Project: Riverside Case Study

In line with national efforts, California has undertaken a series of reform initiatives to improve student success in the state’s community colleges, especially with respect to completion rates, which have not been up to par (California Community Colleges Student Success Task Force, 2012). For example, only 31% of the 2003–2004 cohort of California community college students seeking a degree either obtained a certificate or degree or transferred to a university within six years of enrolling. In response to these types of statistics, and in order to improve retention and completion rates, Governor Brown recently signed into law the California Student Success Act of 2012. This legislation is designed to improve completion rates by requiring community colleges to develop student success and support programs with, among other things, expanded orientation, assessment, and educational planning services for students. These types of broad efforts have placed a spotlight on how support services can facilitate student success, and what institutional conditions must exist in order for them to do so.

To better understand the barriers to and supports for student success, this report focuses on the experiences of one large segment of community college students—low-income women. In general, women have made significant gains in college enrollment and completion, often outpacing men in both categories . Women currently make up 53% of students enrolled in California’s community college system. However, despite gains for women overall, low-income women, women of color, and student parents continue to experience lower rates of college completion. And while women continue to cluster in female-dominated fields of study, low-income women in particular appear to be making very few in-roads to better paid, male-dominated occupations.



ihelp PR coverMay 2012 | No. 1

Measuring Institutional Conditions that Support Student Success in the California Community Colleges

Caroline West, Nancy Shulock, and Colleen Moore
California State University, Sacramento
Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy

Project: Indicators

A Policy Report prepared for UC/ACCORD

Community colleges are an essential component of the American higher education system. They are a vital entry point for many first generation college students, who typically come from lower-income backgrounds, who are often students of color, and whose education is vital to the future of the country. Scholars have identified numerous interrelated factors associated with success and failure among students in community colleges. These factors include student characteristics, student behaviors once enrolled, and institutional conditions.

Some of the student characteristics and behaviors may present greater obstacles to individuals who grew up in poverty and/or attended under-resourced K–12 schools; others may be equally challenging to all students, regardless of background. What the students arguably share, however, is their ability to access the resources offered by their institutions. Indeed, individual colleges have the most direct control over their own institutional conditions, and these conditions can be leveraged to affect students’ personal circumstances and behaviors. This paper is a step toward increasing attention toward institutional readiness. It focuses specifically on California’s community colleges, where nearly one quarter of the nation’s community college students are enrolled. With our attention set on the institutional level, we draw from the literature and from ongoing research to identify a set of indicators of the campus-level conditions that support student success. And with an eye toward operationalization, we also describe how community colleges might demonstrate that these conditions are in place on their campuses.

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