Don't leave your heart in San Francisco's
Community Colleges. They're among the worst in the nation, according to Haley Sweetland Edwards and The Washington Monthly.
Using federal data sets tracking the percentage of students who graduate or transfer within three years and the total degrees awarded per 100 students—the same metrics used by the well-respected Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence—the Washington Monthly ranked 1,011 community colleges in the country and found that nearly all the schools in the Bay Area are bottom-feeders.
San Francisco City College ranked 842. In the East Bay, Laney College slid in at 882. The College of Alameda was an abysmal 971 and nearby Berkeley City College was, astoundingly, even worse, at 982—just twenty-nine spots away from last place.
In the region just south of San Francisco—the cities that Facebookers and Googlers pass every day on their morning commutes from the city—the picture was equally grim. San Bruno’s Skyline College scored a relatively sparkling 772, but neighboring College of San Mateo, where a director of information technology was recently charged for selling the school’s computer equipment and embezzling the cash, ranked 845. Cañada College ranked a pitiful 979.
North of the city, the College of Marin, where the community college foundation board dissolved last fall and are now involved in a lawsuit over “spending improprieties,” ranked 839. That picture was confirmed when we added to those rankings a second metric: how the schools performed on the most recently available Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE), a respected measure of how well institutions follow research-based best practices for learning—the number of books and papers students are assigned, for instance, or the amount of interaction with faculty. Almost all the Bay Area schools were again clustered at the bottom of the list. San Francisco City College, with below-average CCSSE scores in all five categories, clocked in at forty-second worst nationwide. And the College of Alameda—just a quick ferry ride from those humming streets of SoMa—has some of the very worst combined CCSSE and graduation statistics in America.
So the question here is clear: How is it that a region of the world that prides itself on its booming growth and vibrant market—on “growing the jobs and companies of the future”—presides over a system of higher education that is so broken for so many?