Community Colleges

California Community-College Leaders to Recommend One Million New Graduates by 2020

November 11, 2010

California's community colleges should increase the number of certificates and degrees they award by one million by 2020, a panel of the state's community-college leaders will announce next week.

The ambitious pledge seeks to contribute California's share to a goal set by President Obama, who has called for an additional five million community-college graduates in the next decade. California's 112-campus system enrolls about one-fifth of the nation's community-college students.

The recommendation will be announced next Wednesday as part of a report issued by the Commission on the Future, a panel of California chancellors, trustees, and faculty leaders convened by the Community College League of California. The group will also recommend closing participation and achievement gaps among underserved groups, especially Latino students.

Meeting the graduation goal will be an immense challenge in a system that has traditionally focused more on enrolling students than on awarding them credentials. Colleges would need to nearly triple the number of students who graduate with a certificate or an associate degree each year. On average, each college would need to increase annual completions to 3,500 from 1,200.

The changes would be required as state support for the colleges remains shaky. On Wednesday lawmakers learned that the state would soon face a new budget deficit estimated at $25.4-billion, which college officials fear could lead to new cuts in state support.

"Nevertheless, while current budget constraints leading to reduced access, lost purchasing power, and student-service program cuts make the goal daunting, the commission believes that it is necessary to establish a goal that meets the economic needs of the state and nation," the report says.