Santa Barbara City College in California recently won national praise and a $400,000 prize, in large part because of its success with Latino students and emphasis on transferring students to four-year colleges.
The Aspen Institute awarded its Community College Excellence Award to the Santa Barbara campus along with Walla Walla Community College. The evaluates four areas: student learning outcomes, degree completion, labor market success after college, and facilitating minority and low-income student success.
More than 30% of Santa Barbara’s roughly 28,763 students are Hispanic. About 48% of the college’s Latino students graduate or transfer within three years–compared with 35% nationally. The college places a priority on moving students on to four-year colleges and universities.
Edith Rodriguez, 22, the daughter of Mexican parents, had a juvenile record when she decided to turn her life around. NBC Latino reports that she learned about the Running Start “bridge” program at Santa Barbara City College when a representative spoke at her high school. During the summer program she took math and English enrichment courses, and once enrolled in colleges she received extra support such as tutoring.
“In my neighborhood, the people I grew up with are not in college right now because they don’t know anything about it,” Rodriguez told NBC Latino. “Most of us need to be motivated, and we don’t know about these opportunities. These programs help us.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that president Lori Gaskin believes that its key to reach out to students early.
“We reach out to students like Edith even before they set foot on campus, before they realize that college is a potential opportunity for them,” she told the publication. “Our students don’t necessarily have role models or cheerleaders at home.”