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Student at Chabot College; photo courtesy of the California Community Colleges Chancellor's OfficeCalifornia Community Colleges (CCC) students earned a record number of certificates and degrees in the 2014-15 academic year, while Associate Degrees for Transfer nearly doubled in number from the previous school year.

The CCC Chancellor’s Office 2015 State of the System report, released last week, points to a number of positive trends in student outcomes, and an improved outlook for the CCC, as a whole.

The annual report highlights student success initiatives across the system, and provides a comprehensive look at these programs as well as a number of promising new undertakings and what they could mean for college students in the state.

Statewide Technology Initiatives

Featured in the report are three statewide technology initiatives aimed at increasing student success: the Common Assessment Initiative (CAI), Education Planning Initiative (EPI) and Online Education Initiative (OEI). According to the report, the three initiatives are “charged with improving student outcomes by providing centralized access to technology tools for practitioners as well as applications that can better guide students to the support services they need to reach their educational goals.”

In all, the Chancellor’s Office reports that more than 65 of the CCC’s 113 colleges are contributing to the efforts of the CAI, EPI and OEI, and 40 colleges are participating in pilots of products or services developed by the initiatives.

Awards, Enrollments Trending Up

In the 2014-15 academic year, community colleges awarded 200,795 certificates and degrees, an increase of more than 10,000 from the previous academic year, according to the report. It was the second straight year of record-high awards earned.

Students at Los Angeles Pierce College; photo courtesy of the California Community Colleges Chancellor's OfficeMore than 20,600 of degrees earned were Associate Degrees for Transfer, which streamline transfer to the California State University system. Nearly twice as many students earned these degrees as in the previous year.

Meanwhile, as total community college funding rose 7 percent in 2014-15 to $6.8 billion, colleges continued to restore many course offerings that had been cut during the recession. The number of course sections increased to 366,944, up 4 percent from the previous year. Total enrollment also edged upward by 22,889 students, or about 1 percent, to reach 2,102,318, according to the report.

Increasing Access To College

The report calls out several new developments in the past year that promise to increase access to California higher education. Among these is a program that allows 15 community colleges across the state to offer bachelor’s degrees, giving students affordable degree options in fields of study not offered by the California State University or University of California systems.

Additionally, agreements with the UC system and nine Historically Black Colleges and Universities set up new transfer pathways for CCC students. At the same time, new state legislation allows California high school students to take college-level courses for credit at their high schools, giving them an early boost toward career technical education or transfer to a four-year university.

Workforce training initiatives, inmate education and expanded veteran support were also cited as creating or streamlining pathways from college to careers.

Crista Souza is the TechEDge News Editor