"Express to Success" C.C. Programs Speedy and Successful with Latinos

By Orchowski, Peggy Sands | The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, March 12, 2012 | Go to article overview

"Express to Success" C.C. Programs Speedy and Successful with Latinos


Orchowski, Peggy Sands, The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education


Ernesto García was a typical California community college new student in many ways. Originally from Mexico, his English and writing skills needed work. He was low-income and no one in his large extended family had completed college. But he deeply aspired to graduate from a four-year university. Living in Los Angeles and finishing a polytechnic high school, he needed help.

Then García heard about the special programs for students with his background at Santa Barbara Community College (SBCC) : "Express to Success" and "Express to Transfer" programs. He is now one of its top students - headed for a full-credit, early transfer to the University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB) or the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) in one and a half years with solid English and math skills, thanks to a program that has seen few dropouts since it began in 2010.

"Express to Success" was created because SBCC faculty and administrators were concerned that fewer than 50 percent of their low-income, first-time-college, mostly Latino students were completing the AA degree; and that only around 30 percent of those who graduated continued on to a four-year degree. Many were struggling to afford the two-year programs plus the required development courses, and discovered too late that many remedial credits did not count for transfer.

It was clear that these students would benefit from focused counseling and specialized help inside and outside the classroom. So SBCC developed the two "Express" programs that now have been funded by the HSI (Hispanic-Serving Institutions) and other federal and state funds.

The Express to Success Program (ESP) was designed to help students complete college English and math requirements needed for transfer to a four-year degree program quickly (within a year and a half to two years) and efficiently (including some credited remedial courses). The Express to Transfer Program (EST) - just funded and to start next fall - will solidify articulation agreements between nearby UCSB and UCLA.

There are four steps in the ESP process. Recruitment of targeted students - who then must complete a two-hour detailed orientation program. Accepted students are then assessed to determine their needs. Each semester, they make a personal commitment to complete a full-time (at least 12 units) "immersion' study program and attend at least weekly meetings with ESP advisers and professors.

For many of their classes, ESP students gather in special "learning communities" - student groups of not more than 30. They work closely with each other and their professors in courses designed especially for help in math, English and ESL (not the majority of students).

In addition, there are monthly workshops on specialized subjects ranging from career explorations and field trips to college study tips such as not procrastinating. "Many workshops and courses emphasize the relevance of work and volunteer experiences to academic success skills," said Kathy Molloy, program director. "Students sign an agreement that they understand the ESP commitments, and each ESP professor also has an agreement to guide study groups and give out recruitment information. …

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