Succeeding at LBCC
Interview with Long Beach City College President Eloy Ortiz Oakley
By Jesus Ambrosio
Latinos make up 53.99% of the Long Beach City College (LBCC) student population. That’s a jump from 39.99 % in the 2010-2011 school year.
“The biggest challenge right now is getting Latino students to complete,” said LBCC President Eloy Oakley. “Completion is key because without gaining some sort of credential, Latino students don’t take advantage of the economic benefits [of receiving an education].”
Two in ten Latino students in California community colleges complete a certificate, associate’s degree or transfer after six years, compared to 37% of whites. This, according to a report titled “Latino Students and Higher Education: California Profile”.
Dr. Greg Peterson, Vice President of Student Support Services at LBCC thinks there are several factors that delay completion for students at LBCC. “There are fewer and fewer students that are having the traditional college experience.”
Peterson added, “Our students are really trying to find out how to navigate different responsibilities they have.”
The average age of LBCC students is 26.5 years. Oftentimes, Latino students have financial responsibilities with their families, as well as parental roles that can interfere with course work. Peterson said he thinks these are some responsibilities that contribute to this struggle.
“Two year colleges are often a misnomer… Full time attendance and completion have a direct correlation,” Peterson said. “The more life gets in the way that could potentially derail you from [completion].”
Nohel Corral, Dean of Counseling and Student Support Services at the college said he thinks completion requires a balancing act for students.
“It’s really making sure that they realize the course load and number of units they take should correspond with the number of hours they are working,” Corral said. “If you are working full time 40 hours a week, you probably aren’t going to be as successful taking 12 units or a full course load.”
With this in mind, Peterson said LBCC has been mindful of changing the experience to be more supportive of these students as they arrive.
“Some of these things that we’ve done have been direct correlations with our partnership with the Long Beach College Promise,” Peterson said. “By working closely with Long Beach Unified School District and California State University, Long Beach [we are] establishing a pipeline early so students can streamline their experience right into college to eliminate some of the barriers.”
The Long Beach Promise is a joint commitment between LBUSD, LBCC, CSULB and the city of Long Beach to help local students succeed in higher education. Long Beach Promise provides a free semester of tuition at LBCC, and guarantees admission to CSULB for students in LBUSD if they meet certain requirements.
That will change. “We will be announcing a few initiatives. One will extend the Long Beach promise scholarship to one year,” Oakley said. “So every student, whether they are in LBUSD or private schools in Long Beach, can attend [LBCC] for one year for free.”
Since 2009, Long Beach Promise has provided students exposure to higher education. LBUSD fourth graders visit LBCC and fifth grade classes have visited CSULB as part of the program.
In 2012, LBCC created Promise Pathways to further assist student success.
“We no longer rely on the assessment test to come into the institution,” Corral said. “Coming in and having your high school course work and grade point average [taken into account], really helps determine what level of math to take at the college level. It has helped our first year students become successful.”
Other support services include achievement coaches to help students navigate the transition into college, as well as priority registration, which allows students to take the classes they need in ordered to complete their semesters.
Learning communities such as Students & Teachers Achieving Success and The Puente Project (see “Puente Spotlight) also provide support for Latino students at LBCC.
“For our working students, it’s important for them to understand the demand of courses,” Corral said. “Its not just about attending classes.”
Corral said LBCC will also be reaching out to the community in the future to seek out possible internships and even mentors for students at LBCC.
“For our community and local Long Beach residents and businesses, I think the important thing is to be supportive,” Corral said. “It’s important for the community to be there for our students.”