Five years ago, leaders from the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD), Long Beach City College (LBCC) and California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) signed the Long Beach College Promise, committing the three institutions to providing local students with greater opportunities to complete their higher education.
On Thursday, March 21, officials from those educational entities gathered to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the College Promise and to discuss the progress made by LBUSD students, including how more LBUSD high school graduates are enrolling in college, and how many more of those students are prepared for rigorous college-level classes.
Unveiling a progress report titled, “A Breakthrough in Student Achievement,” officials revealed encouraging results in three key measurements of student achievement—college preparation, college access and college success.
At CSULB, for example, the number of LBUSD students who entered the university as freshmen has grown by more than 43 percent over the last five years under the College Promise. Even more notable is that the increase in LBUSD students continued despite the fact that CSULB enrolled 2,000 fewer students for two consecutive years (2009-10 and 2010-11) due to cuts in state support to the CSU system.
The fact is the number of applicants, admitted students and enrolled students from the LBUSD has grown each year over the last five years, and CSULB’s commitment to local student access might be best illustrated in its admissions numbers.
In the last admissions cycle, nearly 80 percent of LBUSD applicants gained admission to CSULB compared to just 25 percent of non-local freshmen applicants. In addition, Long Beach City College transfer students gained admission to CSULB at a rate 18 percent higher than applicants from other community colleges.
“To put it in an even greater context, for fall 2013 Cal State Long Beach received over 82,000 applications…and from these 82,000 applications we expect to enroll about 4,000 new freshmen and about 3,500 transfer students,” CSULB Provost Donald Para noted at the event. “That means we are going to turn away something like 33,000 CSU eligible first-year students. That makes the College Promise all that much more valuable.”
Perhaps the best example of preparedness came from LBCC where the number of students completing college-level courses increased dramatically. The number of LBUSD completing college-level (non-remedial) English at LBCC increased by 500 percent over the previous year, and the number of LBUSD students completing college-level math (again, non-remedial) at LBCC jumped by 200 percent over the same period.
“The latest results of the College Promise show that our school district’s teachers are better at preparing students for college than many educators thought,” said LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser. “We had a hunch that more of our students could successfully complete college courses, if only we gave them the chance. That hunch is now confirmed, and the College Promise is giving more students that chance.”
Also at LBCC, some 4,000 LBUSD graduates have taken advantage of the tuition-free first semester at the city college that is part of the College Promise. Those numbers will continue to rise each year as the LBCC Foundation has raised more than $6.5 million and established an endowment to pay for the free semesters in perpetuity.
“The collaborative partnership between our three institutions has provided a seamless transition for local students to be college-ready, leading to the successful completion of college-level courses and put them on the path to economic opportunity,” said LBCC Superintendent-President Eloy Ortiz Oakley. “These past five years, the College Promise has helped prepare students in our community for the opportunity for higher education beginning in fourth grade and continues every step of the way through high school, to community college and onto the university level. We look forward to helping more students succeed in higher education for years to come.”
Oakley, Steinhauser and Para emphasized the involvement LBUSD students at an early age, and all three alluded to the 26,000 fourth-graders who have visited LBCC and the 26,000 fifth-graders who have visited CSULB since 2009.
Since its creation, the College Promise has become a national model for its efforts to provide a seamless education for Long Beach students from preschool to graduate school. The partnership also aligned academic standards, teaching methods and student assessment across institutions to improve student achievement and teacher quality. It has garnered recognition and attention by the White House and the California State Senate, and it is being modeled by many other communities in California, including Fresno, the Inland Empire, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco.
“The data included in the report released today on the College Promise reinforces the old adage that when people come together and make a commitment to solve a problem, things really can change for the better,” CSULB President F. King Alexander said in a prepared statement. “Today’s report underscores that the efforts of our teachers, faculty and staff are paying off. We now know that more Long Beach high school graduates are better prepared to succeed in college than they were five years ago.”
“I’m proud the College Promise has touched the lives of more than 27,000 children and families living in our community. It inspires area youth to work hard to earn a college degree,” he added. “The College Promise is not only inspirational in nature, but it also helps students move seamlessly through an otherwise complicated education pipeline that is fraught with barriers to success.”
In addition to the data, however, Para noted there are personal stories that also point to the success of the College Promise. One student who embodies that success is Dominique Vera, who attended LBUSD’s Tincher K-8 Preparatory School, graduated from Long Beach Poly High in 2010, attended LBCC and is now a junior at CSULB.
“The resources and friendships I developed at LBUSD, LBCC and CSULB enabled me to make a real plan for my future,” Vera said. “I am on my way toward a double major in international business and hospitality management, heading to Germany this summer on an internship, and looking forward to one day becoming a philanthropist so that I can really help those who have less than I do.”
The fifth anniversary event closed with the awarding of nearly 30 scholarships ranging from $50 to $250 to LBUSD eighth-graders who have shown significant academic improvement at their respective middle schools. Each student shook hands with all three education leaders and were recognized on stage.
To view the full fifth anniversary report, visit the Long Beach College Promise website.