The Campaign for College Opportunity released State of Higher Education for Latinx and Black Angelenos on Feb. 12, a new report that examines college preparation, access, and attainment rates for Black and Latinx students in Los Angeles; and the disparate impact of COVID-19 on these students.
Los Angeles is home to the second largest student population in the country, and the largest in California. 82% of these students identify as either Latinx (74%) or Black (8%), and they will be the ones powering California’s future economy.
The report finds some examples of progress in Los Angeles, especially when it comes to Black and Latinx students meeting the requirements to be college-eligible, yet reveals too many Black and Latinx students in Los Angeles do not receive the support or opportunity needed to ensure they enroll in college and earn Bachelor’s degrees at the same rates as their White peers.
Starting first with the good news, the report found that:
- Making the A-G curriculum part of the high school graduation requirements at L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD) nearly doubled the share of Black and Latinx graduates completing the courses required for eligibility to the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) over the last decade.
- Among Latinx graduates who earned associate degrees from community colleges within the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) in 2019-2020, more than half were supported to earn an ADT (Associate Degree for Transfer).
- Half of all first-time Black and Latinx students enrolling at California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA) are graduating within six years of their initial enrollment.
- Over 80 percent of Black and Latinx freshmen at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) are supported to graduate in six years.
- Roughly two-thirds of Black (61%) transfer students and Latinx (68%) transfer students who enrolled at UCLA in 2016 were supported to earn a Bachelor’s degree in two years.
The report also digs deep into a number of troubling trends, some of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
- The percentage of Black and Latinx students graduating from LAUSD who completed the A-G courses required for UC and CSU eligibility plummeted from 63 to 54% for Latinx graduates and from 53% to 46% for Black graduates in 2020. While newly released A-G completion data for the class of 2021 shows a rebound to pre-pandemic A-G completion rates, the gap between White and Latino students completing A-G has grown from three percentage points to 12 percentage points and the gap between White and Black students has grown from 13 percentage points to 17 percentage points.
- COVID-19 reduced first-time student enrollment at LACCD by 32 percent for Latinx students and 40 percent for Black students.
- Only six percent of Black students and seven percent of Latinx students earn a degree or certificate within three years of enrolling in LACCD colleges.
- Only a third of Black students who graduate from LACCD with associate degrees are supported to enroll in ADT pathways.
- Only 13 percent of Black students and 13 percent of Latinx students enrolling in 2014-15 transferred from LACCD within four years of enrolling, compared to 46% of White students.
“Los Angeles’ ability to thrive socially and economically is directly tied to Latinx and Black educational attainment but COVID-19 devastated many of the positive gains in college opportunity for these students,” said Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity.
“It is unacceptable that racial equity gaps are growing in Los Angeles and that too many Latinx and Black students are being left behind. There is urgency in ensuring that a new LAUSD Superintendent, racial equity minded leaders at our colleges and universities, and a governor who has proposed a 70% degree attainment goal coupled with a multi-year investment in higher education to create more seats and close racial equity gaps in higher education, act upon the opportunity to do right by Los Angeles students. Preparing Los Angeles students for college and the workforce will not only strengthen the future of our City, but that of our entire state.”
The report offers a set of concrete recommendations to help more Black and Latinx Angelenos obtain a Bachelor’s Degree, including:
- High schools in Los Angeles should analyze their A-G completion data by race/ethnicity and set aggressive goals to close all gaps that persist, and ensure all students complete A-G courses with a “C” grade or better.
- High schools should ensure all graduating seniors complete either a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act Application to increase awareness of the financial aid resources available to them.
- Improve transfer rates from community colleges and close gaps by race/ethnicity by strengthening the Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) pathway to ensure students are supported to earn a degree and enroll in the CSU or UC.
- Universities should expand outreach to and enrollment of Latinx and Black students, ensure a strong culture of belonging for students on campus, and work to improve the representation of Black, Latinx, and Asian faculty.
- The state should increase enrollment funding for the UC and the CSU to increase the number of students who meet the eligibility requirements for the two systems and allow campuses, like UCLA and Cal State LA, to better serve students in their regions.
The report clearly outlines that the COVID-19 pandemic is creating a generation of students in Los Angeles that has not been supported to complete the courses needed to be college-eligible and a generation of students that has not been supported to enroll and complete college. Unless education leaders and elected officials act quickly, these trends will have long-term impacts on Los Angeles’ workforce and the lives of these students and all Californians.
“This powerful and well-researched report should serve as our urgent clarion call for educator-activists and policy makers to do major things differently to ensure equitable access and student success—an essential and timely investment towards California’s future stability, progress and inclusive prosperity,” added Dr. Francisco Rodriguez, Chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District.