Academic journal article Peer Review

One Degree: Collaborating with Community College Partners for Student Success

Academic journal article Peer Review

One Degree: Collaborating with Community College Partners for Student Success

Article excerpt

In 1909, Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) was a comprehensive community college serving a diverse regional student population with a range of academic and vocational goals. SBCC offered associate's degree and certificate programs, as well as transfer programs that provide the first two years of study toward the baccalaureate degree. Dedicated to the success of each student, the SBCC mission was to provide "students a diverse learning environment that inspires curiosity and discovery, promotes global responsibility, and fosters opportunity for all." By fall 2017, Hispanic/Latinx students made up 40 percent of SBCC's total enrollment, and SBCC is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) since it has an enrollment of at least 25 percent Hispanic students and satisfies other student financial eligibility requirements.

Founded almost a century later in 2002, California State University-Channel Islands (CSUCI) became the newest institution of the twenty-three-campus California State University (CSU) system. CSUCI is founded on a student-centered mission of emphasizing learning within and across disciplines through integrative approaches and community service, with multicultural and international perspectives. CSUCI began as a transfer-majority institution, welcoming transfer students in fall 2002 and admitting its first freshman class in fall 2003. In fall 2017, 49 percent of total enrollments were transfer students and 50 percent were Hispanic/ Latinx students. Of all undergraduate students, 49 percent came from low socioeconomic-status backgrounds and 60 percent were first-generation college students. As an HSI, CSUCI collaborates with community college partners such as SBCC to serve a regional and diverse student population.


Receiving an HSI (Title V) cooperative grant in 2014 created new opportunities for a cross-institutional partnership between SBCC and CSUCI that spurred dialogue about transfer success and degree completion. Through our partnership, we share students, a large population of overlapping faculty, and a common purpose as two HSIs in our commitment to student success and equity for all students. For example, a group of SBCC faculty also work as part-time lecturers at CSUCI. As such, they have the opportunity to shape students before they come to CSUCI and welcome students as they start their educational pathway at CSUCI. Yet, part-time lecturers at SBCC and CSUCI often have the least access to professional development opportunities. Students in our region often attend two or more community colleges before transferring to CSUCI, and some continue taking community college courses while enrolled at CSUCI. Together, both institutions provide the coursework for which the baccalaureate degree is awarded.

The fact that both institutions are partners in this one degree anchors our approach to our General Education Maps and Markers (GEMs) Pathway project through the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). Our GEMs Pathway partnership intentionally focuses on improving transfer pathways, building a unified vision for shared pedagogy, facilitating student engagement through high-impact teaching and highimpact practices (HIPs), and increasing successful transitions to baccalaureate degree completion through peer mentoring (Kuh and O'Donnell 2013).

In 2016, a team from CSUCI and SBCC attended the AAC&U Institute on General Education and Assessment. The guiding question that framed our experience at the institute was, "How do community colleges and universities have a conversation about general education across institutions, and in our case, across systems?" We learned that under current general education models at both CSUCI and SBCC, the burden is on students to integrate coherent learning experiences as they move through general education courses within and across our institutions. Our action plan theme, "aligning to one degree," recognizes that credits earned at different institutions are wrapped into one baccalaureate degree. …

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