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2010 November 15 - 12:00 am

Study: Most 2-Year College Students in Calif. Don’t Finish

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Most students seeking degrees at California’s community colleges neither complete them nor transfer to a four-year university within six years, according to a study that spells trouble for the state’s economic future.

Nearly 70 percent of degree-seeking students who enrolled in community college during the 2003-04 school year did not transfer or earn a degree or certificate by 2009, according to the report released this week by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy at Sacramento State University.

It found most of the students who didn’t complete degrees or transfer dropped out.

The study, which tracked more than 250,000 students, found a wide disparity among racial groups in the percentage of community college students who earn degrees or transfer. The study found the rate was 37 percent for white students, 35 percent for Asians, 26 percent for blacks and 22 percent of Latinos.

The low rates of college completion could hurt California’s economy as other states and countries send more people to college and increase their levels of educational attainment, said report co-author Nancy Shulock, who heads the higher education institute at Sacramento State.

“We’ve got to try to increase the educational attainment of California, or we’re going to lose jobs and our stature as a leading economic powerhouse,” Shulock said. “California is falling behind the rest of the states. And the rest of the states are falling behind the rest of the world in terms of educational attainment.”

The report, which was sponsored by the nonprofit Campaign for College Opportunity, made recommendations for boosting completion and transfer rates, including developing a better system to track student progress and financially rewarding campuses that help students meet college milestones.

Officials for the state’s community college system said they were committed to increasing completion rates at its 112 campuses, and that the study reinforces many of their own conclusions.

“We’re going to turn our attention to getting our students not only in the door, but moving them out with a degree,” said Terri Carbaugh, its vice chancellor of communications.

Efforts to boost graduation rates should be helped by newly signed legislation that makes it easier for community college students to transfer to California State University campuses, Carbaugh said.

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