More College Graduates are Needed in Los Angeles; LA Community College District is Key
A recent report titled Divided We Fail: Improving Completion and Closing Racial Gaps in California’s Community Colleges shows that student outcomes in the state’s community colleges are inadequate to meet the projected demand for college-educated workers in the labor market. The report also documents the serious problem posed by the disparities in outcomes across racial/ethnic groups, disparities that leave the growing populations of underrepresented minority (primarily Latino and black) students much less likely to complete college degrees. The impact of continued racial disparities on the workforce is especially relevant in the Los Angeles region, given its size and diversity. Educational attainment among the large and growing Latino population is a particular concern, as the Latino share of the working-age population in Los Angeles County is projected to grow from 44% currently to about 50% in 2020 and 60% in 2040.
The Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) is the largest district in the state, enrolling over 250,000 students annually – about one in 10 of all students in the 72 districts of the California Community College (CCC) system. It serves a substantially higher share of URM students than the system as a whole (Figure 1), with blacks and Latinos accounting for 68% of enrolled students compared to 43% systemwide. At the request of Alliance for a Better Community, an organization dedicated to enhancing opportunities for Latinos to ensure the well-being of the Los Angeles region, this report summarizes student progress over 6 years for over 18,000 students in the LACCD. As we did for the CCC system in Divided We Fail, we examine student progress through intermediate outcomes (called “milestones”) and on to the completion of certificates, degrees and transfers. Analyses of student progress and outcomes in LACCD and other large urban districts can contribute to an understanding of the challenges faced by those colleges that serve the most diverse student populations, with all the issues of under-preparation and lack of economic and social resources that accompany that diversity. While these colleges, like others, must ensure that they are implementing effective campus practices, the challenges they face may call for broader solutions involving changes to system and state policy that would help large urban districts afford and sustain their efforts.