Press - 02/22/2016

Building Equity at MiraCosta College

Expanding efforts to recruit and support students of color. Broadening college-readiness programs for the economically disadvantaged at Title I secondary schools. Strengthening outreach to Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander communities.

MiraCosta College is doing all of this and more as it puts its equity efforts into overdrive.

“The focus is on increasing the number of students who complete courses, degrees and certificates, and transfer to four-year institutions for groups that have not seen the same levels of student success as others,” said Dr. Wendy Stewart, dean of counseling and student development.

Guiding the coastal North County district is MiraCosta College’s Student Equity Plan, an ambitious roadmap with goals ranging from intensifying outreach to veterans service centers and organizations to expanding the Umoja and Puente programs, which serve students of color.

Such programs are vital in an increasingly demanding economy requiring more workers with a college degree.

Substantial progress is being made. African-American students participating in Umoja have much higher retention rates in math and English and in earning degrees and certificates. Nearly every one of 56 enrolled high school students participating in MiraCosta College's most recent GEAR UP! for college summer program successfully completed 3 units of college credit, and last year’s Pathways to 21st Century Careers had MiraCosta College music technology students mentoring fifth graders at local Title I schools to use music to explore possible careers.

Last July, MiraCosta College, the Oceanside Samoan Cultural Committee and the City of Oceanside teamed up to produce the Samoan Cultural Festival, with MiraCosta College hosting a kickoff event attracting more than 500 participants. Meanwhile, the college not only hired JP Schumacher as its new director of Student Equity to oversee equity efforts, but also aligned its academic success and equity programs – Puente, Resources & Assistance for Former Foster Youth (RAFFY), First Year Experience, and Umoja – through the hiring of a Student Services coordinator serving all programs.

In addition, plans are in the works to regularly celebrate the diverse communities calling MiraCosta College home through history and heritage month activities. Thirty-one percent of the college’s students are Hispanic (compared to 19 percent of the population within the MiraCosta Community College District), 4 percent are black (compared to 2 percent of the larger population), and 7 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander (compared to 9 percent of the larger population). What’s more, some 13 percent of MiraCosta College students are 40 years old or older, and more than 200 students are older than 60.

MiraCosta College’s latest efforts come together on March 11 with Unity Day. Unity Day is the culmination of Equity X, a celebration of equity initiatives occurring at community colleges in San Diego and Imperial counties, also known as Region 10 – or Region X when using Roman numerals. As part of a series of regional activities, MiraCosta College will feature civil rights leader Dr. Cornel West in two March 10 events, a town hall and a keynote speech.

Student equity is not a new endeavor at MiraCosta College, which long ago established a Student Equity Committee comprising administrators, faculty, staff, students and researchers. The Student Equity Committee meets on a monthly basis to regularly review progress on established goals and activities while also exploring new initiatives.

“Our student equity efforts go above and beyond the blueprint laid out by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office,” said Schumacher.

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