Community College Participation

by California Competes

Topics: Community Colleges, Enrollment, Regions

If California is to produce the 2.3 million additional degrees it needs to have an engaged citizenry and robust economy, our community colleges need to reach the people who are most in need of education and technical training. California Competes conducted an analysis of where students live and found that many areas of the state that could benefit – where few adults have college degrees – are not being reached. Participation is often low where it should be high. Our interactive online map paints the picture, showing community college participation for 1700 zip code areas and allows users to examine community college enrollment by indicators of need.

To improve participation in needy areas of the state, the California Competes Council recommends that the state:

  • Create financial incentives for community colleges to enroll and successfully serve Californians living in areas of need (low levels of college education and other factors such as high poverty and unemployment).
  • Collect and analyze data on enrollment by other open-enrollment institutions including adult education, for-profit and nonprofit colleges, and UC/CSU extensions.
  • Support college-access efforts at high schools and outreach programs in areas with apparent need but low community college participation.

Additional Resources

Full map viewer

Rank of colleges in terms of college attainment level of zip codes served

Rank of college districts in terms of college attainment level of zip codes served

California Community College Participation from CalCompetes

The map allows users to view community college participation in each of more than 1700 zip codes across the state. But participation also varies by region. In relatively needy areas like Los Angeles, the Inland Empire and the Central Valley, for example, California Competes found lower levels of enrollment. The slide deck above includes regional analyses, as well as a guide for using the interactive map to its full potential.

Findings by Region

Los Angeles: Community college participation in Los Angeles is 5% below the state average and 26% below Orange County. If L.A. had the same rate of community college participation as Orange County, it would have 110,000 more students, the equivalent of four more Santa Monica Colleges.

  • Among the many equity areas in L.A., higher community college participation tends to exist in the southern part of the county (e.g. Long Beach).
  • People who live in Glendale have very high rates of community college enrollment (a participation index of more than 800 overall).

Inland Empire: Riverside and San Bernardino Counties are among the poorest counties in the state, yet overall have the lowest community college enrollment. Community college participation is 14% below the state average and 33% below Orange County.

  • The Inland Empire has virtually no zip code with the highest category of community college participation and has many equity areas with very low community college participation.
  • If this region had the same rate of participation as the San Diego region, it would have 33,000 more students. If the rate of participation were the same as Orange County, the Inland Empire would have 65,000 more community college students.

San Diego-Imperial: The San Diego-Imperial region is well-educated and growing. This region has above average community college participation. The entirety of Imperial County, just 5% of the region’s population, is an equity area. Most equity areas across the region tend to have high participation.

San Joaquin Valley: This region is the poorest in the states from Stockton to Bakersfield yet has low community college enrollment, especially in the south (Bakersfield) area. Like L.A., its community college participation rate is 5% below the state average and 26% below Orange County.

  • If the San Joaquin Valley had the same participation rates as the San Diego region, the region would have 13,000 more students. If it were the same as Orange County, the San Joaquin Valley would add 42,000 students to its community college system. Almost the entire region is made up of equity areas where few adults have degrees. Merced has the highest enrollment.

Orange County: Orange County is the second most educated region in the state behind the Bay Area. Orange County has the highest community college participation in the state and per capita participation is 29% higher than the state average. Most of the region’s equity areas (where few people already have degrees) have high participation. Many areas where most adults already have degrees also have high participation.

Sacramento/Tahoe: The Sacramento Region’s overall community college participation is 6% below average and 27% below Orange County. Despite below-average participation overall, many of the Sacramento region’s equity areas have relatively high community college enrollment. If the region had the same participation as Orange County, it would have 27,000 more students.

Bay Area: The Bay Area is a highly educated region and community college participation overall is just above the state average. The Bay Area has several wealthy communities with high participation: Santa Rosa, Cupertino, Pleasant Hill, and Aptos. There are also equity areas with low participation in San Leandro, Hayward, Richmond, San Jose and elsewhere, including immediately adjacent to the high-participation area of Pleasant Hill.

Central Coast: This area from Monterey and Hollister south to Ventura has the second-highest community college participation of the state’s major regions. Unlike most other regions, the ZIP codes where more people already have degrees overall enroll more students than do the equity areas. This phenomenon is most pronounced in Santa Barbara County.