Only 35 percent of students who entered a community college in San Diego and Imperial counties completed a certificate, a degree or transferred to a university within six years, a new report has found.

That remarkable statistic underscores a problem that I want to pay more attention to as an education reporter: School districts aim to get students to college and often measure their success that way. But getting into college is just the beginning. What happens to students after they get there?

The sweeping study followed more than 250,000 students statewide who entered California community colleges in 2003 and traced their progress over six years. The research was commissioned by the Campaign for College Opportunity, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that aims to increase college graduation rates.

Community college students in the San Diego and Imperial region, which was grouped together, were slightly more successful than the state average in getting diplomas and credentials or transferring out.

But problems in the region still echoed the statewide issues that the Campaign for College Opportunity is spotlighting, especially when it comes to racial gaps: Latino students here were less likely to successfully complete a degree or certificate or transfer to a university from community college, for instance.

Black and Latino students were also more likely to go to for-profit colleges than white or Asian students, something that raises worries, said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity. Such colleges have been criticized for saddling students with unaffordable debt.

Spot something interesting in the report? Please let me know by email or here on the blog!

Update: We originally said the research was done by the Campaign for College Opportunity. The nonprofit commissioned the report, but the actual research was done by done by CSU-Sacramento researchers.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter:

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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