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Tim Myers: In all the numbers, COC is just full of stories

Myers' Musings

Posted: October 3, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Updated: October 3, 2010 4:55 a.m.

When I think of the “story” of College of the Canyons, I always think of David, a senior on the Valencia High School tennis team in 2004.

I first met David in May of that year at the annual tennis awards banquet, and he appeared a bit bewildered accepting his awards and recounting his triumphs on the tennis court where he and his teammates locked up three Foothill League championships in a row.

He explained his malaise when I met him again about eight months later, when he was coaching the JV Valencia High team and enrolled full time at COC.

He confessed that on that night months earlier he stood on the threshold of graduation with absolutely no thought for the future. With a lackluster high school academic performance, he did not even take any college entrance exam or make any college applications prior to graduation.

How did David’s story end? He coached the JV team for two years and then received his associate’s degree with a nearly 4.0 GPA, then successfully transferred to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where he enjoyed further academic success and graduated with a degree in architecture.

I also think of our own daughter, a sophomore at CSU Channel Islands who, during the semester break in her freshman year, took an online political science class at COC during the winter interim to fulfill a general-education requirement and maintain the appropriate credit velocity for a four-year bachelor’s degree.

Many other stories exist at COC, including that of our adult daughter, 16 years out of high school, who works in the COC program to become a nurse, the journeyman carpenter able to start his own successful dry-walling business after taking construction management classes and the senior lady who took a beginning computer class and can now use Skype with her grandson serving in Afghanistan.

But during the recent joint meeting between the William S. Hart Union High School District and COC governing boards, COC revealed that one of its primary cash crops relates to the first two stories above. Sixty percent of the graduates of
Hart district high schools will enroll in COC at some point within two years of graduation.

That figure comports with figures provided by the Hart district for the 2008 graduating class. From the four comprehensive high schools with available data, just under 66 percent of the aggregate graduates matriculated into community college (46 percent), the CSU system (12.5 percent) and the University of California system (7.5 percent).

The 60 percent number works if about two-thirds of the CSU and UC students found themselves at COC for some general education or summer classes during their first two years of university.

How does this rate compare with the statewide matriculation rate? In the aggregate, the Hart district’s CSU and UC matriculation rates stand slightly below the state averages, but community college (read: COC) matriculation rates stand about 50 percent higher than the state average (46 percent vs. 31 percent). 

Only Hart High School on its own sports a matriculation rate that almost exactly mirrors the state average. Saugus and Valencia boast community college matriculation rates nearly 60 percent higher than the state average.

What happens with these 46 percent of Hart district students who end up at COC? Based on 2005 numbers, COC reported a 49 percent transfer/completion rate when compared to a statewide completion percentage of 42 percent.

This implies that about 23 percent of the students who graduate from a Hart district high school will enter COC and actually complete an associate’s degree and/or transfer to a CSU or a UC.

So what does this mean? Well, COC demonstrably does about a 20 percent better job than the average community college in moving students to completion of a two-year degree and/or a transfer.

The Hart district high schools, in the aggregate, do a slightly poorer job of preparing students for immediate entry into the CSU or UC system than an “average” high school in the state. Since community colleges do not provide thresholds or standards for entry, one can only say that the Hart district schools and broader community must instill some sense of the importance of higher education since so many more graduates than average take advantage of the opportunity that COC affords.

So on the margins, with COC’s completion/transfer rate applied to Hart district graduates, about 300 additional students per year in the SCV will complete some form of higher education past high school when compared to the state average, cumulating and compounding year on year.

That does not make for a bad story, either.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Myers’ Musings” appears Sundays in The Signal.


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