Dear Community Colleges…I Love You Feature Story

March 22, 2019

By – Trustee Marcia Milchiker – South Orange County Community College District

Most associate the month of February with Valentine’s Day and connect the day and with public displays of affection, adoration, admiration and of course love.

As a trustee for the South Orange County Community College District, my love for community colleges, is limitless. When I think about the value of education, the location of our colleges, the programs offered, and the bright future of the community college system in California, I have to think…what’s not to love? 

California’s community college system is the largest higher education system in the United States, with 115 colleges and 2.1 million students. It is well-known, that one in every five community college students in the nation attends a California community college.

Our colleges—Irvine Valley College and Saddleback College serve over 42,000 students in 26 communities throughout South Orange County. Classes are offered at three campuses located in Irvine, Mission Viejo, and Tustin, as well as 130 sites throughout the community.

One of the greatest sources of pride stems from the success of our Emeritus Institute, which is offered at the 130 sites throughout our district. The goal of the Emeritus program is to promote lifelong learning by providing academically rigorous, mentally stimulating, socially engaging and health improving courses for seniors across South Orange County.  

Community colleges have a special place in my heart for more reasons than I can count, so this year I am making community colleges my special valentine and here’s why:

  1. The Value

Attending a community college provides an opportunity for students to advance into higher education at an affordable rate. And, since many students do not select a major as freshmen, the option to take general education classes at $46 a unit before deciding to transfer, is ideal.  In-state tuition at Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College are less than $1,500 per year for a full-time schedule.

Someone who purchases a cup of Starbucks coffee every day would pay more than a full-time education at Saddleback or IVC for one year.

There are also several opportunities to cover the cost of tuition, books, and living expenses through scholarships and financial aid. Through the California College Promise Grant, formerly known as the BOG Fee Waiver, eligible California residents can get enrollment fees completely waived.

Thanks to the state legislature, funding has been provided for College Promise programs, which help community colleges align with K-12 districts and universities to provide clear pathways for students to follow in order to achieve their education goals. 

  • The Location

Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College are conveniently located in prime areas of South County. Each college is accessible to public transportation, shopping, restaurants, and large employers. Not to mention the beach and plenty of scenic activities along the coast. The South Orange County Community College District extends 350 square miles with a service area comprised of nearly one million residents.

  • The Programs

Irvine Valley College and Saddleback College offer two-year associate degrees in over 70 majors in the liberal arts and sciences, business sciences, social sciences, and technologies. Both colleges also offer training for specific jobs through 60 career and technical programs.

Did you know community colleges train the majority of California’s nurses, firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and emergency medical technicians? It’s true, and just another reason why I love community colleges.

  • The Future

This is an exciting time for community colleges, as we have seen an increased level of support and interest over the years in our mission to serve all students with a quality education. At the state level, Chancellor Eloy Oakley launched the Vision for Success, which harkens back to our longstanding policy of full and open access and the idea that higher education should be available to everyone. With six goals in mind, community colleges across the state will strive to address the higher education and workforce development needs of California by 2022. Together we will:

  • Increase by at least 20 percent the number of CCC students annually who acquire associates degrees, credentials, certificates, or specific skill sets that prepare them for an in-demand job.
  • Increase by 35 percent the number of CCC students transferring annually to a UC or CSU.
  • Decrease the average number of units accumulated by CCC students earning associate’s degrees.
  • Increase the percent of exiting CTE students who report being employed in their field of study.
  • Reduce equity gaps across all of the above measures through faster improvements among traditionally underrepresented student groups.
  • Reduce regional achievement gaps across all of the above measures through faster improvements among colleges located in regions with the lowest educational attainment of adults.

In addition to the value, the location, the programs and the bright future of the community colleges in the South Orange County Community College District, the main attraction of our colleges is the “community” part.

We are the local, public choice for any member of our community. From the cradle, to the end of career—community colleges have something to offer everyone. Learn more about Saddleback College or Irvine Valley College by visiting a campus near you and I am confident that you will soon join me in a love affair for community colleges.