The accountability report released Tuesday, which tracks key performance measurements across the state's 112 community colleges, shows that the six-year completion rate for students seeking to earn a degree or transfer to a four-year institution fell to 48.1 percent last year.
That completion rate, for students who entered in the 2007-08 academic year, dipped 2.6 percentage points from the previous six-year cohort and was down from 52.2 percent among those who entered in the 2003-04 and 2004-05 academic years, even as thousands more students earned degrees or transferred.
California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris blamed the recession, during which time enrollment ballooned to more than 2.6 million while course offerings were reduced by a fifth amid budget cuts.
"These results document the damage done by years of rationing education in California," Harris said in a statement. "Students with goals of transferring competed for fewer seats at California State University and University of California. Sadly, the only transfer activity that increased was for students who could afford to go out of state."
Results were mixed for the Sacramento-area Los Rios Community College District. While most Los Rios schools have six-year completion rates lower than the statewide average, some maintained relatively steady throughout the recession.
Completion rates at Folsom Lake College fell from 48.4 percent to 47 percent over the past three years before ticking back up to 47.2 percent among the 2007-08 cohort. Cosumnes River College fluctuated between 46.8 percent and 50 percent completion over the past four years.
Sacramento City College and American River College have been hit harder. Six-year completion rates at Sacramento City climbed to 60 percent among the 2004-05 cohort, but have since fallen to 51.6 percent. American River has fallen nearly 7 percentage points over the past two years to 43.1 percent completion.
Students who entered community college prepared to do college-level work performed significantly better. Among the 2007-08 cohort, they succeeded at a 70.2 percent rate, compared to 40.5 percent for students who needed remedial education.
Like the overall completion rate, those numbers were down from previous years, though successful completion of remedial math, English and English as a second language classes have all shown consistent gains during the same period.
Community colleges across the state are currently focusing on improving transfer rates with an associate degree program that guarantees admission to CSU.
PHOTO: Eduardo Ramos, center, has his photo id picture taken on the first day of school at Los Rios Community College District expansion in Elk Grove on August 26, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua