Editorial: Working students need more help

Celia Jimenez

The San Diego Community College District has several programs that help specific student populations succeed in college but it doesn’t have anything to assist students who have unexpected life changes.

The completion rate for City’s students was 65 percent, according to 2014 data — meaning that only 65 percent earned an associate’s degree, transferred to a four-year university or competed 60 transferable units with a 2.0 GPA or better. We wonder how many of those who didn’t complete their studies fall in that category.

Unfortunately, the district data does not show why students fail to complete their studies. But it does show that African Americans and Latinos, who make 60 percent of City’s student body, have the lowest completion rates, with a 63 and 64 percent respectively.

While it is true that the college and the district offer a variety of support resources, such as tutoring centers, library databases and teachers’ office hours — they don’t offer much for students with abrupt schedule changes.

During the fall of 2014 there were 10,735 students working full or part-times jobs. That’s 66 percent of the City College’s student population.

Students who find a job after the semester has started have two options: They can drop their classes and forget about school to earn money or turn down the job, attend school and survive with little or no income.

There is another option students have but it’s only available for “an unforeseeable emergency and/or justifiable reason at the end of the term” and carries the risk of failing if the student can’t complete the coursework in the next two semesters.

City College has mainly non-traditional students, meaning that at least six out ten of them don’t enroll right after high school, have a GED or work full or part-time.

The district has been obsessive about cutting classes that have low enrollment. What it needs to do is help more working students, who represent two-thirds of the population. That requires innovative thinking.

Students need more flexibility than what’s being offered to be able to complete their classes if they face an abrupt change in their schedule, particularly after the add-drop deadline. This includes being able to take classes on the weekends, being able to switch to an online course or being able to switch to the same class offered at a different time.

We need non-traditional solutions to City’s majority non-traditional students.