Nearly 70 percent of degree-seeking students at California’s community colleges drop out, according to a study from the Campaign for College Opportunity, a nonprofit think tank. That’s one of the highest dropout rates in the nation.
Against this troubling backdrop, City College of San Francisco is attempting an intriguing experiment. Next fall it will offer priority registration to San Francisco high school graduates for math and English courses. Using a grant from the Gates Foundation, the college will expand the number of math and English courses to give about 1,000 freshmen access to these important core requirements. In a pilot program last year, the college had a 98 percent retention rate for freshmen who were allowed to register early. Those students were also more likely to take a full load of classes.
“The data shows that if a high school student enrolls full time, they’re more likely to actually persist with their education,” said Laurie Scolari, the college’s associate dean of outreach and recruitment. “(Access to math and English courses) was what was throwing them off of their path.”
Sadly, the grant won’t do much for the 7,100 new freshmen who didn’t graduate from San Francisco high schools. And it only lasts for three years.
But it’s a smart step toward finding solutions to this overwhelming problem. We encourage other community colleges in California to start experimenting, too.