For many low-income students in North Long Beach, earning a higher education degree is a struggle, especially when it means riding the bus for hours to the nearest city college.

In the near future, they might not have to travel too far.

On Tuesday, the City Council will consider working with Long Beach City College,  Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Network and higher education advocates to explore the possibility of establishing a higher education center in North Long Beach.

While Long Beach City College has campuses in the east and central Long Beach areas, there is no higher education presence in North Long Beach.

That could be one reason why the area sees higher disparities in education compared to the rest of the city, says 9th District Councilman Rex Richardson, who proposed the idea.

A community college would be one more step in a “renaissance” for the area that includes a new library, renovation of Jordan High School and the revitalization of the Atlantic Avenue corridor, Richardson said Friday.

“This is unique opportunity, especially with all the public investment and economic activity taking place,” he said. “This is one of the city’s largest, most dense ZIP codes and having a community college with a center here would improve our work readiness and send a strong message to our community.”

In the North Long Beach area, 13 percent of residents between 25 and 34 years of age have a bachelor’s degree and just 40 percent of that area’s youth are enrolled in college, compared to almost half of Long Beach and Los Angeles County, city statistics show.

Richardson said many find it easier to commute to Compton Community College, where about 8 percent of students are from North Long Beach.

About 10 percent of North Long Beach students are enrolled at Long Beach City College, but the commute without a car can be long. The bus ride from Jordan High School to Long Beach City College, for example, can take up to two hours, he said.

Richardson cited studies showing that geographic location is an important factor for determining whether first-generation and low-income students go on to college.

“We know there is a positive impact of having a community college in a neighborhood,” he said.

Richardson said the city will work to determine what would best fit in the area. Possibilities include a vocational college, a community college satellite campus or a workforce development center.

Once students get to college, graduating or transferring is another challenge.

Numbers show that less than 20 percent of Long Beach City College students who started their studies in fall 2014 had transferred or graduated by 2018. And while minority students are showing gains, they continue to face challenges.

Hispanics make the largest group to attend community college, with 46 percent enrolling at a two-year school, compared to 33 percent of blacks and 30 percent of whites. While more Hispanics are getting a postsecondary education, they fall behind other groups in attaining a four-year degree, studies show.

At Long Beach City College, nearly 60 percent of students are Hispanic, while 14 percent are white, 12 percent are Asian/Pacific Islander/Filipino and 11 percent are black.

California has vowed to improve its community college graduation and transfer rates. Starting this year, 40 percent of state funding for community colleges will depend on student success and enrollment numbers for low income students.

 

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