By Brandon Richardson / Editor in Chief

Six years. The amount of time it will take 42 percent of Community College students to earn an associate degree, certificate or transfer to a university, according to LBCC President Eloy Oakley said during his State of the College Address on Friday, Feb. 6.

“Is six years really acceptable for getting through Community College? For finishing what used to be called a two-year degree?” Oakley said, addressing the crowd of employees, elected officials and top educators from the area. “I can’t accept it and I hope you won’t either.”

He went on to say 27 percent of students will accomplish the goal in four years and a mere 5 percent in two.

For some, graduation gets delayed due to overwhelming demand for classes. With the recent hiring of 53 full-time teachers and the ongoing construction, Oakley hopes to have more classes available to meet the demands.

However, for many students, the reason they are not completing college in a timely manner, if at all, is the ever-rising cost. The cost of college has almost sextupled since 1985 and the “total amount of student loan debt held by Americans surpassed $1 trillion in 2011,” according to a 2012 study by Harvard University.

Albert Romero, 50, an English and culinary arts major, said, “You have to work because Financial Aid is not enough. My experience has been the classes that I need at a certain time are not available.  I see a lot of students get frustrated because they need to work and nothing is available.”

To combat the challenge, President Barack Obama has proposed offering two free semesters of Community College to incoming freshman, a proposal supported by Oakley.

For other students, however, the reason is a lack of basic reading and math skills needed to succeed in college.

Amy Wagner, an Orange Coast College employee working with incoming freshman in the Student Orientation Assessment and Registration program, said, “I am seeing lower test scores overall, especially from lower socioeconomic areas, than I was when I entered OCC.”

According to the 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress, only 26 percent of 12th-grade students scored at or above the proficiency level in math and 38 percent scored at or above the proficiency level in reading.

Now, with the introduction of Common Core to California schools, some teachers said students will fall farther behind.

Danielle Burson, a first grade teacher in the Norwalk-La Mirada school district, said, “If too much time is spent on the Common Core way then basic skills will not be learned and without basic skills the students are going to be unable to produce the Common Core work.”

It will be several years before educators can gauge the program’s effectiveness. More information regarding Common Core is available at corestandards.org.

But, whether it helps or it hurts, Oakley said he is determined to lower the number of years it takes students to graduate or transfer from LBCC.

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