SEPT. 3, 2003
CONTACT: Allen Carden at 559/292-0576 or acarden@csufresno.edu
or Mike Stepanovich at 661/664-2456 or mstepanovich@csub.edu


BAKERSFIELD – A major effort to boost college-attendance rates in Kern County and the San Joaquin Valley was unveiled today at a news conference at California State University, Bakersfield.

Citing figures that showed that Kern County has half the percentage of college graduates as does California, higher-education officials, joined by economic development professionals, stressed the need to encourage valley residents to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“The economic future of the valley is at stake,” said Patrick Collins, president of the Kern Economic Development Corp. “We are losing jobs to other areas because we do not have the educated work force that many companies need.”

Collins said that more companies, such as professional service and technology related firms, with minimal impact on the valley’s air quality, would come to Kern County and the San Joaquin Valley because of the availability of inexpensive land. But without the requisite labor force, those companies wind up going elsewhere.

“It is imperative that we improve the college attendance rate for this area of the state,” said CSUB President Tomas Arciniega. “Education changes lives. A better-educated populace in Kern County and the San Joaquin Valley will bring those better-paying jobs to our region. And with better paying jobs comes a better quality of life – not only for the individuals who are hired for those jobs but also for the region which benefits from the increased economic activity.”

Allen Carden, executive director of the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium, said his organization, a presidentially led partnership of the community colleges, two private universities, California State University campuses, and University of California sites in the San Joaquin Valley, is committed to getting the word out to students and parents that “college is possible” and “an important next step for many in our valley who are not currently thinking about further education.”

To that end, the consortium has established a website, www.collegenext.org, to provide information on college enrollment. The site provides information for prospective students, for parents, school counselors and others. Information about financial aid is available; links to the three valley CSU campuses are on the website, plus the 11 community colleges in the valley, and UC Merced. Additionally, links to two private universities in the valley, University of the Pacific in Stockton and Fresno Pacific University, are provided. And if none of those schools interests a prospective student, links to the entire CSU and UC are available.

“The point is, go to college – somewhere, anywhere,” said John Welty, president of CSU Fresno and the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium. “If my campus doesn’t offer what you need, then maybe our sister campuses in Bakersfield or Stanislaus will. The valley colleges and universities are collaborating to get more of the people in our region to go to college and earn that bachelor’s degree. If we can improve the college-attendance rate, and hence the college graduation rate in the valley, then this region will begin to enjoy the prosperity other parts of state already enjoy.”

Statistics tell the story in Kern County and the San Joaquin Valley:

  • According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 28 percent of California’s population has a bachelor’s degree or better, while only 14 percent of Kern County’s population has a bachelor’s degree or higher. In the United States as a whole, nearly 24 percent of the population has a bachelor’s degree or higher.

  • According to the California Postsecondary Education Commission, 2.9 percent of Kern County high school graduates in 2001 (the last year for which figures are available) attended a UC campus, 8.8 percent attended a CSU, and 31.3 percent attended a community college. All told, 42.9 percent attended an institution of higher education. That compares with statewide figures of 7.5 percent attending a UC campus, 10.2 percent attending a CSU, and 30.8 percent a community college, a 48.5 percent college-attendance rate.

  • A study by the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium shows that while 36 percent of high-school students statewide complete the “A-G” requirements (the course of college-preparatory study required for admission to either the UC or the CSU), only 29 percent of San Joaquin Valley high school students meet those requirements.

  • That same study showed that while 41 percent of high school students statewide take the SAT-1 college-entrance examination, only 31 percent of valley high school students take it. And of those who do, they score on average 26 points lower than their counterparts in the rest of the state.

    "Residents in our region who are qualified to attend a college or university too often choose not to do so," said Sandra Serrano, president of Bakersfield College. "The future of our communities in the Central Valley depends on increasing the number of educated and skilled residents. Bakersfield College has partnered with the consortium to help effect that change."

    “Our message is ‘College Next,’” said Jane Lawrence, vice chancellor of student affairs at UC Merced. “We want to let San Joaquin Valley residents know that educational opportunities are available for them, opportunities that are near their homes and that are affordable to them. If money is a problem, financial aid is readily available.”

    The Central Valley Higher Education Consortium was established in March 2000 by the presidents and chancellors of the San Joaquin Valley’s colleges and universities “to help build a healthy future for the Central Valley,” Carden said. “By working together, our higher education institutions can make a positive impact on the educational achievement of our region, and can help improve the quality of life in this important and rapidly growing part of California. Our mission is to provide effective leadership that promotes programs, policies and performance designed to increase higher education attainment by the people of the Central Valley.”

    The Central Valley Higher Education Consortium is headquartered on the campus of Fresno State, at 2743 E. Shaw Ave., Suite 118, Fresno 93710-8205. The consortium can be reached toll-free at (877) ITS POSSIBLE (487-7677).