Merced College's Duran instrumental in massive community college report on increasing graduation rates and eliminating achievement gaps among blacks and Latinos

Merced College Superintendent/President Benjamin T. Duran joined community college leaders from throughout the state in releasing a report outlining 17 recommendations to increase the numbers of community college graduates while eliminating achievement gaps among black and Latino students.

The report was released at a press conference at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.

The report, “A 2020 Vision for Student Success,” was the culmination of a year's work performed by the Community College League of California's (CCLC) Commission on the Future. Duran co-chaired the 33-member commission.

"The commission, which represented community colleges throughout California, worked diligently through the spring and summer months to formulate a plan that is timely and relevant to the work we do," Duran said in a news release.

The renewed focus on student success and equity provided in the report is intended to increase the number of community college students earning a degree or certificate by 1 million by 2020, according to the news release.

The goal is intended to meet a national goal of increasing college attainment to 60 percent of adults by 2025. To achieve the goal, the 112 California community colleges would need to triple each year the number of associate's degrees and certificates by 2020. Today, about 128,000 students complete a degree or certificate, and many transfer to four-year universities without completing an associate's degree, the news release said.

"The goal is particularly remarkable considering the cuts the system has taken over the last three years," said commission member John Hendrickson, chancellor of the West Valley-Mission Community College District. "Nevertheless, we must boldly state what we need to achieve to meet California's economic and social needs over the next 10 years."

In the news release, Duran provided a local perspective.

"For the Central Valley, it is essential that we eliminate the achievement gap for Latino and black students," he said. "Only by increasing college attainment will we attract the jobs that will bring down the unemployment rate and bring economic promise to all of our communities."

The report provides 17 recommendations for policy and practice changes that the commission believes will enable the system to meet the goals. The recommendations include increased attention of college leaders to completion and the use of disaggregated student data, changes in the community college funding formula and course scheduling practices.

California's community colleges serve 2.7 million students each year, but the commission found that too many are arriving at community college underprepared and many leave before completing a degree or certificate.

"What I particularly like about this report is that it recognizes the difficult financial times of the state, but identifies specific strategies that many of our colleges are using for increasing success even during austere times," Barbara Dunsheath, a trustee at the North Orange County Community College District and history professor at East Los Angeles College, who co-chaired the commission, said in the news release. "Our goal is to see the best practices spread to all of our colleges and students."

Commission member Dr. Eloy Ortiz Oakley, superintendent/president of Long Beach City College, added, "Community colleges have often followed the path of least resistance while failing to recognize that the student body has changed. Simply put, the way we deliver instruction and student services must change to meet the needs of the 21st century student."

In addition to releasing the report today, the commission launched the website CCCVision2020.org, which will assist community colleges in sharing information about how they are increasing completion rates and tracking the progress toward the goal.

"I am thrilled with the work of the commission, the bold goals it has established, and the vision it has charted for the League in our work serving California's 112 community colleges," said Scott Lay, president/CEO of the CCLC. "The release of this report is simply a starting point."

The league is a not-for-profit association whose mission is to promote student access and success by strengthening colleges through leadership development, advocacy, policy development and district services, the news release said.

Copies of the report and more information on promising models for strengthening community colleges are available at www.cccvision2020.org.