Matthew Garrett and Janet Fulks

Matthew Garrett and Janet Fulks

Two weeks ago, Bakersfield College received the 2018 state Chancellor’s Student Success Award for modeling outstanding methods and outcomes that led to increased graduation and transfer from BC to four-year institutions. This is a particularly prestigious honor because the California Community College system boasts 114 campuses serving more than 2.1 million students, making it the largest higher educational system in the United States.

In 2017-18, BC set a new institutional record of transferring 566 students to Cal State Bakersfield — a 14 percent increase over last year — and with clearer pathways now in place, we are confident that completion and transfer rates will continue to grow, and at an unprecedented rate. This is important because communities with higher levels of bachelor’s degree attainment are associated with more economic stability, better opportunity, greater civic participation and lower unemployment rates.

As a team, CSUB and BC set a goal to change the fact that Kern County has only half the proportion of bachelor’s degrees compared to California as a whole. While this seems like a simple goal, only requiring a simple agreement, it was not.

Us two faculty members chaired the 18-month task force which facilitated the detailed work between faculty and counselors at BC and CSUB. Our group closely examined the details to analyze course sequences for the 60-credit Associate Degree for Transfer and another 60 for baccalaureate completion. We hosted difficult conversations about student freedom and breadth of coursework balanced with faculty recommendations and mandatory course sequencing and curriculum at both colleges. The BC-CSUB collaboration is unique in our state and will serve as an example of the kind of work necessary to make these systems really work for our students.

This high-touch effort was followed by a revolutionary high-tech tool developed here at BC called the Program Pathways Mapper. This 21st century technology provides a visible roadmap to students that empowers them to see the classes they need to efficiently complete their education. By scaling the collaborative process and curricular sequencing work statewide, 2.1 million lives can be changed and we are proud to say the idea and process was developed at the home of the Renegades and Roadrunners.

As the state moves to a new funding model based on completion and transfer, and as the CSU system adopts its new Graduation Initiative, it is more important than ever that BC builds bridges to CSU partners. In light of these needs, BC is forging ahead with a new effort to relocate our southwest center campus adjacent to CSUB. With increased transfer curriculum partnership, the co-location of educational spaces will foster even greater inter-institutional collaboration. In this academic and hopefully geographic partnership, BC and CSUB will once again serve as a statewide exemplar as California strives to ambitiously eliminate the anticipated 1.1 million college graduate shortage expected by 2030.

Unfortunately, this bold new plan has stalled in the Kern Community College District Board of Trustees. At the Sept. 13 board meeting, BC and the KCCD jointly recommended a viable but time-sensitive proposal for co-location to the KCCD Board of Trustees. More recently, BC’s Academic Senate also endorsed the plan as the most fiscally responsible path to serve our southwest students. Unfortunately, the board tabled and relegated the proposal to a three-member finance subcommittee where it has languished without discussion for two months. The Bakersfield Californian recognized this delay in the Hits & Misses section on Nov. 15. Only after increased pressure has the board brought the proposal back to the floor for discussion at the Dec. 13 meeting.

BC faculty, along with administrators at BC and KCCD are ready to make this extraordinary vision a reality. But we must delay no longer. We can still rescue this “miss” and make this extraordinary opportunity for our community a reality.

It’s up to the KCCD Board of Trustees to act now and allow BC to press forward as a statewide example yet again. Why wouldn’t we continue to make a seamless pathway for our students that results in tangible community benefits?

Matthew Garrett is a professor of history, and Janet Fulks is a professor of biology at Bakersfield College. They recently chaired the college's four-year degree attainment committee.

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