Race, Income Create Attainment Gap

By Katie Porter

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]espite an increase in degrees awarded each year, Santa Ana College has the lowest progress rates of Orange  County’s nine community colleges.

The state’s 2014 Student Success Scorecard results show only 46 percent of students obtain a certificate or transfer within six years of enrolling.

But stacking SAC against Orange County schools is an unfair comparison. The numbers don’t take into account race and socioeconomic factors that play a role in determining graduation pace, said Dr. Sara Lundquist, vice president of student services.

Latinos, who make up 78 percent of Santa Ana’s population, experience a national equity gap in education. Almost 37 percent of OC’s population have a bachelor’s, while 12 percent of Santa Ana residents do, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Roughly a fourth of the city’s adults didn’t finish eighth grade.

Income also influences degree completion, with students from high-income families 30 percent more likely to graduate in six years. In Santa Ana, more than 20 percent of residents live below the poverty line.

“I don’t think, ‘I wonder how my school stands against a south county upper middle class suburban school,’” Lundquist said. “So what?”

The life situations of SAC students also affect transfer pace. With 85 percent of them working an average 24 hours a week, most students take less than 12 units a semester, according to a 2013 Rancho Santiago Community College District Research Department report.

Noe Inocencio enrolled in 2007 while juggling jobs at Best Buy and as a security guard.  He needs two more classes to transfer.

“Before I wouldn’t take it too seriously. I focused more on work, taking school on and off,” Inocencio said.

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Attending classes part time lengthens the time it takes to finish. Students under the age of 25 account for 68 percent of transfers from SAC, and numbers drop significantly with each ascending age group.

[quote]“As you let yourself get older, it’s harder to get back into the swing of studies. Kind of like exercise, once you stop it’s hard to start up,” student Maury Hopkins said.[/quote]

He has spent more than 30 years trying to get his degree. After dropping out of Penn State he went through several schools’ programs and took time off before coming to SAC. In January he will transfer to Azusa Pacific University for the nursing program.

But it’s not about the length of the journey. Hopkins, 50, is proud of himself for continuing his education.

“If it does take you a few extra years, so what? I started off college in ’81 planning to get a bachelor’s and I’m going to do it.”


By the Numbers
46 Percent of SAC students transfer or earn certificates within six years.
37 Percent of Orange County residents have earned a bachelor’s degree.
12 Percent of Santa Ana residents have 4-year degrees.

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