Identifying a need “to step up the pace of improvement” within the California Community College (CCC) system, Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley recently announced the CCC Board of Governors’ adoption of a strategic vision, set forth in a new report titled “Vision for Success.” The report articulates various goals and commitments intended to overcome the challenges facing the CCC system to better serve its 2.1 million students and to meet California’s future workforce needs. As 60% of California undergraduates attend community colleges and one in five American community college students attend a CCC, the performance of the CCC system has statewide and national implications.

Among the report’s findings is that most CCC students never reach a defined end goal, with only 48% of students leaving the community colleges with a degree, certificate or transferring to a four-year college after six years. Students who do complete an associate’s degree on average take more than five years—considerably longer than the two-year timeframe for degrees and transfer preparation expected by the system’s architects. And students often accumulate far more course units than they need to graduate, earn a certificate, or transfer to a four-year college, creating inefficiencies and driving up costs for the student and California taxpayers, while slowing the progress of other students who need the same courses to reach their educational goals.

The report notes that over 40% of CCC students are age 25 or older, yet older and working students are often left behind due to personal challenges; community colleges need to identify and address those issues. Achievement gaps continue to persist along the lines of age, race, ethnicity, and region—a disparity that will increase as demographics change.

The report identifies six goals for the CCC system to achieve by 2022: (1) increase by at least 20% the number of CCC students annually who earn associate degrees, credentials, or certificates or acquire specific skill sets that prepare them for an in-demand job; (2) increase by 35% the number of CCC students transferring annually to a UC or CSU; (3) reduce from 87 to 79 the average number of units accumulated by students who earn an associate’s degree; (4) increase the number of students completing career education programs who report being employed in their field of study from the current 60% to 69%; (5) reduce equity gaps by 40% within five years and close those gaps within ten years; and (6) reduce regional achievement gaps with an ultimate goal to fully close those gaps within ten years.

To achieve these goals the report suggests community colleges make seven commitments: (1) focus relentlessly on students’ end goals; (2) always design and decide with the student in mind; (3) pair high expectations with high support; (4) foster the use of data, inquiry and evidence; (5) take ownership of goals and performance; (6) enable action and thoughtful innovation; and (7) lead the work of partnering across education and workforce development systems.

Vision for Success notes that change will not occur without collective effort by community colleges and stakeholders, and serves as a call to action for the colleges to “reach their full potential as California’s engine of social and economic mobility.”