College Guide


February 17, 2012 10:00 AM California Segregated Community Colleges

By Daniel Luzer

The Golden State appears to maintain essentially segregated community colleges. There’s one system for white students and another for blacks and Latinos. According to an article by Jamaal Abdul-Alim in Diverse Issues in Higher Education:

Researchers found [that] while nearly three-fourths of all Latino and two-thirds of all Black students who enroll in a post-secondary institution in California go to a community college; in 2010 both groups collectively represented only 20 percent of all transfers to four-year institutions.
This is due… to the fact that the pathways to the baccalaureate are being subjected to a segregated system in which a handful of community colleges that primarily serve White, Asian and middle-class students are responsible for the vast majority of transfers in the state.

But the actual nature of the problem remains unclear. Are black and Hispanic students attending lower-quality community colleges? Why are the successful transfer rates at such institutions so low? Maybe it’s just California’s communities that are segregated.

Advocacy organizations have found similar situations, where institutions primarily enroll students of one race, despite being located in a diverse state, at the public colleges of Georgia and Maryland.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • Crissa on February 17, 2012 5:19 PM:

    I've attended Community Colleges in California, and every one of them has suggested transferring to a four-year.

    But doing so doesn't stop that a four-year school is very expensive.

    Wouldn't controlling for income show this?

  • ceilidth on February 21, 2012 10:43 AM:

    Maryland and Georgia both have a long history of colleges built specifically for African American students. They have tended to remain majority African American. I'm not sure that the situation is comparable.

    But I do think you are right about the location of the community colleges that have most of the transfers. Students typically go to community colleges near their homes. If those students plan to transfer when they enroll, they will put pressure on the schools to offer coursework that transfers.

  • jonas on February 22, 2012 2:22 PM:

    Having taught at CC's in California, including some urban campuses, the problem is obvious: minority students tend to come from schools where they were less prepared to do college-level work. They tend also to just get by -- if at all -- at the CC and many don't have the grades or units to transfer. (Having to work full time, care for children/siblings, deal with other issues that poverty and/or limited English tend to exacerbate doesn't help either) You need very good grades and certain advanced classes to qualify for transfer to Cal State or UC from a CC. White students, who tend to come from better school districts -- are simply better prepared to meet the standards and so make up the vast majority of those who qualify for transfer.