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Instructor Jeff Newby, top center, guides a classroom full of students through a lecture on first-century Asia on the first day of class at the new, temporary Bakersfield College campus adjacent to CSU Bakersfield. The SouthWest center's permanent home, just off Camino Media, is expected to open in January 2021. 

When students in Kern County graduate high school, often times higher education isn't on their mind.

Instead, they might have to help their families financially and put college on hold. 

Bakersfield College Student Government Association President Samantha Pulido understands that dilemma since she has seen it from friends and even thought about doing it herself.

"When I started graduating from high school, I saw my fellow classmates entering the workforce," she explained. "My sister went to (Cal State Bakersfield) and it was a lot of money and that was one of the things I was scared about. Just having money to go to school and helping my family."

But she decided to take a leap of faith. Rather than find work immediately after high school, she enrolled at BC and found herself surrounded by individuals that made her believe degree attainment was possible. She even joined various organizations such as Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement, which helped land her an internship and a $5,000 scholarship.

"Financial need should never be a barrier of pursuing education," Pulido said.

By May 2020, she is expecting to graduate from BC with an Associate’s Degree for Transfer in physics, computer science and math and move on to a four-year university.

That's a story higher education institutions want to see more of in Kern County and California as a whole, but it doesn't always happen. The Public Policy Institute of California suggests California will fall short by 1.1 million college graduates by 2030 and "even the arrival of highly educated workers from elsewhere is unlikely to be large enough to fill this gap."

In an effort to enhance baccalaureate completion, BC will hold an Intersegmental Pathways Symposium on Nov. 15 at the Bakersfield Marriott at the Convention Center. Featured panelists and speakers include BC President Sonya Christian; Eloy Oakley, chancellor of California Community Colleges; Lande Ajose, senior policy adviser for Gov. Gavin Newsom; Tony Thurmond, California superintendent of public instruction; CSUB President Lynnette Zelezny; and representatives from other colleges and universities.

General admission tickets cost $80, and a table of six or groups of six or more begin at $70. Sales end Nov. 11, and tickets can be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/intersegmental-pathways-symposium-meeting-californias-2030-baccalaureate-completion-goals-tickets-75774239791

Panel topics include pathways from high school to community college, intersegmental data sharing, lessons on partnerships from executive leadership, and pathways from community college to university.

Increasing degree attainment is a group effort, Lesley Bonds, BC director of student success and equity, explained, so bringing together educational leaders from across the state was a must.

"Any single system alone cannot create the sea change we need statewide," Bond said. "We must honor the work each system is doing to prepare students for success in higher education while recognizing the unique role we may each play in advancing our shared goal of baccalaureate completion."

BC in recent years has implemented intersegmental programs to help students reach their higher education goals. Those include Early College pathways through which students can get onto a path toward a degree or certificate as early as high school, the Program Pathways Mapper tool which displays fully-sequenced pathway maps from BC to the baccalaureate at CSUB and the Finish-in-4 transfer pathway which guarantees BC students admission to CSUB after two successful years and 60-degree applicable units at BC, Bond explained.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

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