California Community College Students Taking Longer To Graduate

A study released this week from the Campaign for College Opportunity found that almost half of the 64,000 students enrolled in community colleges in California need twice the traditional two-year dedication to graduate with an associate's degree.

"We're all talking about a college affordability crisis," said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the group that examined the graduation rates of the 2012-2013 graduates. "And time is part of that crisis."

The report attributed numerous factors to the added time, including limited course offerings, work and family responsibilities, and remedial courses that needed finishing.

Recession budget cuts caused the 112 community colleges in California to have access to almost $1 billion less, causing some courses to not be offered as frequently. This caused students to take extra courses in order to keep their financial aid while they waited for the required courses to become available, writes Jason Song for The Los Angeles Times. In the end, of the students who graduated in 2012-2013, many had taken more than 78 credits, or 1/3 more than required.

"Because of the lack of state funding, we had to reduce our workload and students were on long waiting lists, so that was a big factor," said Francisco Rodriguez, the new chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District.

Christine Reed, a counselor at Allen Hancock College, reports that the number of course offerings are returning to a normal level, and the current issue at hand is that students are arriving at college unsure of what they would like to study.

"There's a big push on the statewide level for student service programs to have every student planned out academically and have an educational plan," said Reed.

According to Christian Hartnett for KEYT, students who take six years to graduate will acquire $120,000 in extra expenses and lost wages over their career when compared to someone who completes the course in two years.

The study left out those who earned additional certificates and degrees, writes Max Pringle for Capital Public Radio.

"If you have someone whose earned an associate degree and got a certificate along the way, those should be counted as a success," says California Community Colleges spokesman Paul Feist.

To remedy the situation, the study suggests that remedial courses are easier to take and complete, as well as making sure low-income students have easy access to financial aid.

The study also asks for more funding for community colleges.

Many of the suggestions are beginning to be implemented. A transfer program has been established with the California State University system, and more students are receiving financial aid as well as completing remedial courses.

The study also looked at the California State University system, and found that the average student takes 4.7 years to graduate with a bachelor's degree.

According to Cal State officials, measures are already being taken to remedy the situation. More faculty have been hired and courses are being redesigned.

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