SMC remains steady, but not spectacular

Despite recent reports of California community colleges lagging, the latest annual Institutional Effectiveness Reported conducted by the Office of Institutional Research at Santa Monica College shows promise. The results fluctuated across the board in the multitude of areas covered in the report, but grades proved solid, while transfers and degrees declined. The report dictates that SMC's average cumulative GPA is a 2.85, or a C average.

Part of the convenience of community colleges is that they are a place to begin or continue your education with the freedom of low costs without the commitment to a four-year university and completing an entire list of required classes.

SMC's persistent rates remained steady to previous years. Although about 70 percent of first-time students who enrolled in the fall returned the following spring semester. However, less than 60 percent returned the subsequent fall.

In October of this year, the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy at Cal State Sacramento reported that only four out of ten students had completed 30 units, whereas seven out of ten SMC students earned 30 units or more within six years.

Although the statewide total of certificates awarded have significantly increased, SMC's numbers lowered with both certificates and degrees achieved.

From 2004-2008, SMC granted over 200 certificates per academic year, but in 2009 only 158 certificates were awarded. Also in 2009, awarded degrees declined by nearly 150 students – totaling 1,329.

Out of those students obtaining a degree or certificate, the approximate time to reach completion was about 2.6 years for each even though the degree requires more units.

While overall grade success is high, the majority of SMC students are struggling with mandatory math and English courses. Only one third of SMC students were successful in basic math skills enrolled in and successfully completed a higher-level math course within three years.

English scores were considerably higher than previous years. Success in English courses jumped from nearly 49 percent in 2006 to about 56 percent in 2007.

As technology progresses, the success rate is growing for online courses. The report shows only a slim margin in the difference of achievements for online and on-ground classes.

In the fall of 2009, about 67 percent of students successfully completed on-ground courses, while online success reached 63 percent – nearly eight percent higher than in 2005.

The alarming news caught attention last month when a study showed only 30 percent of California's community colleges' students obtained a degree or successfully transferred to a four-year university. SMC's total nearly doubles that with 58 percent successful transfers.

SMC places heavy priority on transfers to the UC and CSU school systems and remained consistent in transfers for the past five years listed in the report.

"We reflect the students of SMC," said Transfer Counseling Coordinator Daniel Nannini. "Those are the schools students want to attend." He also mentioned relationships with multiple out-of-state-schools as well, including schools like University of Nevada and Arizona State University.

From 2004-2009, SMC had about 1,000 students transferring to Cal State Universities and roughly the same amount to the UCs.

According to Nannini, after this report was released earlier this month updated transfer rates for the 2009-2010 school year were released. The findings show a decline in transfers to those schools.

"We were consistent with the school-wide system," said Nannini. "We reflected their drop rate. It's difficult to determine and compare transfer rates. There are a number of ways to find it. You have to ask: what is the best denominator you use to find [transfer rates]?"

Where CSU transfers from SMC remained consistent from 2004-2009, the 2009-2010 academic year dropped by over 200 students. In 2008, over one thousand SMC students transferred to a Cal State. During 2009-2010, SMC only sent 780 transfers.

UC transfers from SMC were more successful. From 2009 to 2010, the transfer rate grew from nearly 920 students to about 1,050.

"SMC outperformed the rate," said Nannini. He says the college holds the second highest number of transfers to UCs, second to the Bay Area's DeAnza College.

SMC accounted for nearly seven percent of UC's transfers from California community colleges. With the latest tuition hikes for both university systems, the transfer rates are likely to decline.

To view the entire report, visit