Latinos Who Pursue Bachelor’s Degrees at Community Colleges Have High Success Rates

Latino students have low enrollment rates in bachelor’s degree programs at California’s community colleges, though those who do enroll often graduate quickly and secure employment post-graduation.

A recent study by UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Institute analyzed the outcomes for Latino students in baccalaureate programs at 15 California community colleges. The expansion of such programs at community colleges has provided a more straightforward path to a four-year degree.

Despite the availability of programs ranging from equine and ranch management at Feather River College to dental hygiene at West Los Angeles College, Latino student enrollment remains relatively low in these programs, with only 30.1% of students identifying as Latino.

The study recommends increased recruitment efforts and financial investment in these programs to bridge the enrollment gap among Latino students.

Of the students who do enroll, 64% complete their degree within two years of commencing their upper-division coursework, akin to the graduation rate of non-Latino students, which stands at 68%.

Post-graduation, a significant majority of Latino students in these bachelor’s degree majors—94% of them—are gainfully employed, with an average annual earnings increase of $22,600 compared to their pre-program income.

While these outcomes are positive, a call for a “public awareness campaign” to inform Latino students about the available bachelor’s degree programs is emphasized by report co-author Cecilia Rios-Aguilar.

Rios-Aguilar, a professor of education and associate dean at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, stressed the affordability of these bachelor’s programs compared to traditional university paths, with tuition and fees totaling $10,560, less than half of UC or Cal State costs.

Financially challenged community college students often qualify for state aid covering expenses, including lower-division fees through the California College Promise Grant and upper-division fees via the Cal Grant.

The study focused on California’s original 15 community college bachelor’s degree programs, established in 2015 and further expanded by a 2021 law allowing yearly approval of up to 30 new programs.

While some colleges struggled to attract Latino students to these programs, success stories like Antelope Valley and Bakersfield emerged, exceeding overall Latino student representation. Bakersfield, for instance, offers a bachelor’s degree in industrial automation that starts its pathway for students in high school.

MiraCosta, which features a biomanufacturing bachelor’s program, also showcased strong Latino student enrollment, suggesting the appeal across various ethnic backgrounds.

The report highlights the need for increased investment in community college bachelor’s degree programs to replicate these successes, emphasizing better outreach, recruitment, and research infrastructure.

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