Executive Summary

With low tuition and a longstanding policy of full and open access, the California Community Colleges are designed around a remarkable idea: that higher education should be available to everyone.

The California Community Colleges are equally remarkable for their versatility. They are the state’s primary entry point into collegiate degree programs, the primary system for delivering career education and workforce training, a major provider of adult education, apprenticeship, and English as a Second Language courses, and a source of lifelong learning opportunities for California’s diverse communities.

The California Community Colleges have made significant strides in the last five years through sustained reform efforts in the areas of student success, transfer, and career technical education. The colleges are now well-poised to build on this success and accelerate the pace of improvement.

students at CITY COLLEGE OF SAN FRANCISCO

students at CITY COLLEGE OF SAN FRANCISCO

At the same time,
the California Community Colleges face very serious challenges today:

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Most students who enter a community college never complete a degree or certificate or transfer to a 4-year university. Researchers project that California’s public higher education system is not producing nearly enough educated graduates to meet future workforce needs.

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California Community College students who do reach a defined educational goal such as a degree or transfer take a long time to do so, often accumulating many excess course credits along the way.

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Older and working California Community College students are often left behind in the system, lacking services and financial aid that suit their needs.

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California Community Colleges are more expensive than they appear—both to students and taxpayers— because of slow time-to-completion and a lack of financial aid
to cover students’ living expenses.

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Serious and stubborn achievement gaps persist across the California Community Colleges and high-need regions of the state are not served equitably.