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Community College: Equity and Access

** Moore, C., & Shulock, N. (2010, October). Divided we fail: Improving completion and closing racial gaps in California’s community colleges. Sacramento, CA: Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy. Available at

This report outlines low completion rates at California’s community colleges, particularly for Black and Latino students. The authors find variation in the completion rates of underrepresented minorities (including Black, Latino, and Native American students) across colleges of similar size and demographic profiles, suggesting that some colleges are using their resources more effectively to support these students. The authors also find that fewer students of all backgrounds are following what research has found to be successful enrollment patterns (such as passing college-level math and English within two years), but the problem is most severe for Black and Latino students. The authors conclude with recommendations to improve institutional practice and state and system-level policy to address these inequities.

Gándara, P., Alvarado, E., Driscoll, A., & Orfield, G. (2012). Building pathways to transfer: Community colleges that break the chain of failure for students of color. Los Angeles, CA: The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA. Available at

Recognizing that certain minority groups have lower rates of transfer from community colleges to four-year universities, the authors looked to identify and study institutions that had better rates of transfer for minority students. The authors found that these community colleges were not necessarily ones with stronger reputations for transfer. Rather, these community colleges had strong high school outreach programs, special support programs for minority students, an emphasis on counseling focused on transfers, and a strong focus on basic skills. The authors acknowledge that these schools still had progress to make in these areas and conclude with recommendations for additional work to be done to improve further.

Martinez-Wenzl, M., & Marquez, R. (2012, February). Unrealized promises: Unequal access, affordability, and excellence at community colleges in Southern California. Los Angeles, CA: The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA. Available at

This executive summary of a descriptive study of the racial and ethnic profiles of Southern California’s community colleges, finds that students from low-performing high schools tend to enroll in racially isolated community colleges which themselves have low transfer rates. Even in colleges with higher transfer rates, the researchers find disproportionately low transfer rates among Black and Latino students. The brief then offers recommendations to reduce these disparities, such as increasing alignment and connections between high schools and community colleges, and providing more information about college transfer rates to incoming students.

**This document is considered a priority reading.