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First day of school in San Diego

 August 22, 2023 at 5:37 PM PDT

S1: It's time for Midday Edition on Kpbs. Today is the first day back to school for many students across San Diego , from K-12 to higher education. We'll talk about what's new. I'm Jade Hindman. Here's the conversations that keep you informed , inspired and make you think. San Diego Unified superintendent talks about the benefit of opening more community schools.

S2: Really , it's about bringing the resources of the community into the school as a hub.

S1: Plus , we'll talk about efforts across the state to get more students into community colleges. And we'll talk about the programs being offered by San Diego's community colleges. That's ahead on Midday Edition. After a one day delay due to Tropical Storm Hillary. The first day of school is here for much of San Diego , including San Diego Unified School District. It's the largest school district in the county and the second biggest in California with nearly 100,000 students. Kpbs education reporter MJ Perez sat down with the San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Lamont Jackson to talk about the new school year and how the district is prioritizing a new approach to education by opening more community schools in the district this year. Here's some of that conversation.

S3: So this is the first day of school. I remember the excitement of my first day , especially in elementary school supplies , new teachers , smell of the workbooks. Tell me about your favorite first day memory.

S2: Dr. Jackson This is an incredible day. As I we graduated a class last year. I said , this is the second best day. The first day of school for me is brings a great deal of hope and excitement. And I guess my greatest memories of first day is brand new clothes. I know I don't have hair now , but the the hairstyle , right ? Just getting everything just right so that you can show up and the hope of doing well in school. Right. It's a restart rejuvenation and to be in classrooms with with other students , with new students. So those are the best memories. It was also for us not having a lot of money the time when you you went school shopping , as you mentioned , school supplies. You had school supplies. Right. The new backpack , the new pencils that there was some excitement around that and some nervousness. I think there was some nervousness as well. Being new to a grade level , being new to a new school. When we went from elementary school to middle school and then the high school. So I can't pick out one memory. I think it's a combination of of all the memories.

S3: So in this moment , it is back to school in person , which by itself is an accomplishment. We've been through a lot.

S2: It is. And this is our second full year of in-person learning. And we saw an increase of our attendance over last school year and we're really excited to see greater increases this year. There is nothing like in-person learning. There is nothing like the humanity that a connection brings between an educator , a campus security staff member , a classified staff member , the attendant staff greeting a student. There's nothing like the connection of a bus driver to a student getting on the bus. There's nothing like the connection of an ed specialist with a student with disability. There's nothing greater than that human connection and the love that happens when when that goes well , our students thrive. And so I'm looking forward to it. And I'm a big believer of the personal connection that there is something to online learning , there is something to virtual learning. But for for public education. And for us in San Diego , you know , we want to show up for our students. We want to be what they need us to be. And we can only be that truly when we're in person. And so I'm very excited for this. This year.

S3: We have talked before about the mental health crisis that we have seen in young people in recent years.

S2: I think many people lived in silence. They weren't expressing themselves. They didn't have the resources. They didn't have the space to show up as their full selves. And in many cultures and climates , mental health was was not something that was talked about and and other other than military and returning from war. PTSD was mental health wasn't spoken about. I think we're doing a much better job of exposing individuals , human beings to what they have been suffering with in silence. And it's much more public. And with that comes self referrals , right ? So we're getting more referrals , you know , students articulating. What they're feeling. And I think that's really special. When students can find their voice and be able to share with us and trust us with how they're feeling and we're able to provide those resources. First and foremost , hats off to our our educators. Who are the first counselors I know they're not certified counselors or credentialed counselors. They don't have degrees , but they are the first person that a student can turn to. Our front office staff folks on the campus , the the trusted adult , our adults are creating spaces for students to tell them how they're feeling. And then we're able to connect them with our in school counselor , staff , counseling staff. We also have mental health clinicians , and then we're also able to refer students to resources outside , connect them with their own insurers , write their own medical coverage , or we can get them coverage if they meet certain criteria. So we have both internal and external supports for our students. But first and foremost , it's educating students. It's listening to our students and making sure that we can provide the right supports to them. And we committed last year , my first year , I should say , going back two years. This is the third year , $30 Million to Mental Health , because it was that important. And thank you to Nicole DeWitt , who is leading the effort and our counseling team of really bringing in partners , mental health partners to provide the supports to our students. And we saw an increase in referrals. We saw an increase in supports last year , and we're looking forward to being able to provide them. While we we are not saying , you know , we want to have spaces in places where students are feeling desperate. We want to make sure that we are there to support them before they try to solve problems on their own.

S3: So in order to provide that , you need staffing. And one thing Covid did was it impacted your staffing.

S2: We certainly have some difficult challenges filling all of our resources for students with disabilities. That has been a challenge. But in terms of our hard to staff like math and sciences , we're doing very well. And I want to publicly thank all the educators who are committing to San Diego Unified. And , you know , we focus on recruiting and retention. First and foremost , we need to pay people. And I'm so proud of what our team did this year with our labor partners and getting a 15% raise in wage for our educators , our classified staff , our bus drivers , our custodian. So that's first and foremost. The other thing is teach lead pipeline and really working to recruit our students , our 11th graders and our 12th graders who are interested in becoming educators and also working with our community college to make sure that they can start on the path to teaching. We also have a partnership where we're recruiting some of our paraprofessionals who are currently supporting in a different area to get them credentialed so that they can be certificated. Educators as well. And other part of Teach Lead is our student intern programs where we actually have high school students through our Extended Learning Opportunities program going into our classrooms during the summer and teaching side by side with a credentialed educator teaching our young students. It happened at Canyon Hills and it also happened at Mira mesa this year. And we're going to be expanding next year in San Diego.

S3: So let's not gloss over that. That was quite a feat to negotiate with the teachers union. What did that negotiation do for the relationship and the trust ? And quite frankly , how did you get there ? 15% is a significant pay increase. That having been a former teacher of yours , you know , they.

S2: Deserve they deserve that and more. And we have said we want to be the highest paying district in this county and we are very proud of our 100% benefits package that we have. You said it best. It's trust with labor partners. But at the core , it's a belief that our educators , our staff members deserve it. That's first and foremost. We as a district have to see our employees as valuable and to be able to pay them. What their their worth. And so for me , it's it's not a matter of , you know , can we afford this ? The question is , can we afford not to ? And the answer is no. You know , the question before was we have a staffing shortage , right ? We can't afford that. Our students , our parents , our families , our community , this great city deserves us to show up for our students. And if we don't have the staff to do that , we have a problem.

S3: I want to talk a little bit about your budget. Covid funds are running out and there's a $200 million budget shortfall.

S2: We welcome all four year olds. And so we've been able to utilize funding in those ways. And as those funds go away , we are going to find ourselves searching for ways in which we cover the shortfall. So as we plan for the out years , we have to be thoughtful of that. Again , our commitment first and foremost was to ensure that our staff had a wage , a living wage that provided them some comfort so that they don't have to work multiple jobs if they don't want to. And that was our priority. And it is going to be for us as a community to call upon the state to advocate. And we'll continue to do that. Right now it's out years. It's a couple of years out. We'll start preparing. We'll start tightening up our belts. But first and foremost , the resources have to be at the schools. That is our commitment. And our students , supported by their families are going to get the supports that they need.

S3: Let's talk a little bit about what's happening in the classroom on campuses , community schools. You are taking a huge leap this semester in opening more community schools. First of all , tell us what is a community school ? I've discovered people are like community school.

S2: You know , when I was hired as a superintendent , the community spoke and the community said , we need to support the whole child. When we talk about the whole child , we're not talking just academics. The social emotional needs , the mental health needs , really , it's about bringing the resources of the community into the school as a hub. So when you talk about mental health , you have supports there. When you talk about physical health , we have a clinics on site clinics with if you look at Hoover , they have dental medical facilities right on campus. You talk about food and nutrition , where you have gardens , you have pantries , you have a place where people can come. And so you really have partners. When you say , how do you do it as a school district around mental health , it's community partners , right ? Bringing the community partners in and really having a dialogue about what the community wants for their school. This is their school and really having the resources right where it needs to be with students supported by their families at the center , at the heart , with the staff closest to the students right there. And the other thing is we have coordinators , community school coordinators at each site , and they're the ones that can coordinate all of these community partners to come in and play a role in the service of our students. And so moving from five community schools to 15 , tripling that number and really investing in our communities that need us most , you.

S3: Get help from the. State.

S2: State. We do get help from the state. But again , the partnership with our labor groups is critical and really having a strong governance group so that the site is really making the decisions that it is not top down that is really grassroots. And that's really what we want for all schools. But oftentimes , as you mentioned , we don't have the resources always to coordinate the partnerships. And , you know , for the last 20 years , we've seen reductions in public education. And what are the things that go first ? The community coordinator. Right. The liaisons. We've made reductions furthest away. From the schools and now we're able to bring these resources back and really commit to that. And and it takes leadership. You know , I hats off to the leaders of of these community schools because they're really saying I am not the way. Right. We are the way. And it is in that spirit of Ubuntu that they lead with that they recognize that they are who they are because of the community. And that's , that's really foundationally what a community schools model is. It is about health , it is about safety , it is about academics , it is about wanting the best , it is about the whole child.

S3: So the flip side of kids being in class and working hard is chronic absenteeism. Yes , Covid chased a lot of students away.

S2: We we know that we saw our attendance rates were low and through our first year back in a hybrid model. And then last year , we've seen an increase , particularly with our our chronic absenteeism. We also had the great privilege to welcome our earliest learners , universal transitional kindergarten students. And they that enrollment , our commitment to our earliest learners allowed us to sustain our enrollment because across the nation we don't know where students are going. But across the nation , we're seeing a decrease in enrollment. And so for us , we are seeing an increase of daily attendance. And I believe that number is going to go up and we have a keen focus on on that. In fact , last year we hired 12 , I believe , 12 positions. It could be 15 positions that are going out door to door , meeting with families , asking them what do they need in terms of support so their children can get back into school on a regular basis and attend on a regular basis. And that's the way , you know , a robocall , an email or even a text message is somewhat archaic , and yet it's the new way. But I'm going to say even more archaic. And the way that we need to be , we need to be we need to bring more humanity. We need to go back door to door and we need to knock and say , we love you , we care about you , we have some resources. How can we help you ? Because here's the reality. There's not one reason for all the students who are out , it's different. And we need to be differentiated in our approach.



S1: That was San Diego Unified Schools Superintendent Lamont Jackson speaking with Kpbs education reporter MG Perez. What resources do you think students need as they head back to school ? Give us a call at (619) 452-0228. Leave a message or you can email us at midday at Kpbs. Org. Coming up , the conversation continues with a look at how community colleges are working to get students back in the classroom.

S4: So this is the biggest drop in enrollment that we've seen since 1992.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. Welcome back to Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. From schools to colleges now in particular San Diego's community colleges , which are starting a new semester today. They're doing so with the challenge of getting enrollment back up after it's sharply dropped during the coronavirus pandemic. In fact , the same can be said for community colleges across the state. But the challenge is being met with new marketing efforts and new program offerings. Here to tell us more is Adam Engelman. He's been covering California's community colleges for Calmatters in partnership with Open Campus. Adam , welcome to Midday Edition.

S4: Thanks for having me , Jade.

S1: So glad to have you here. In your reporting , you write that California's community colleges lost nearly 20% of students since the pandemic began. That seems like a lot.

S4: So the earliest data that we have comes from 1992. So this is the biggest drop in enrollment that we've seen since 1992. I mean , a lot of things happen , but you can basically say the pandemic , you know , a lot of students , their lives just got totally uprooted. Things happened. They had to go stay at home. People didn't want to be an online school. A lot of students realized that they needed to step up and work , that they just couldn't be at school right now. That's a major trend that we've always seen with community college enrollment. When there are jobs in the market , people leave community college and they work. When the economy drops , students flock to community college. The pandemic was a little odd , you know , because there were jobs , but the economy was doing poorly. It was a weird mix , but we generally just saw a huge drop in community college enrollment and now it's starting to trickle back.


S4: But you know , that transition from in-person to online , it's a disruption. Anytime that there's a shift , you lose students. So , you know , the transfer from community college to a four year , you lose students whenever you have to from one year to the next , you lose students. There's just these drop off points any juncture. It's a point for somebody to say , you know what , I'm going to go back to work , or , Oh , I see a $15 an hour job at a local convenience store. I'm going to work there for a little bit and save up some money and maybe I'll go to college later. And all of those little choices add up to major statewide drops in enrollment.


S4: The CSUs have seen an enrollment drop. It depends on what year. I mean , at one point during the pandemic , the CSU's actually had the highest enrollment ever. But over time now they're down by about a few percentage points. The UC system has not seen the same drops. In fact , there was bigger demand because , you know , in general , these are selective institutions. A lot of people want to go to. The U.S. system has some of the most selective institutions in the country. And so because of that , it's not seeing the same drops. However , when you look at the number of in-state students at CSUs and UCS , you know , the numbers have not gone up in the same ways that they perhaps could or that some legislators might want them to.


S4: One of the high profile jobs of a community college is to prepare people for four-year institutions. You can get a two year associate degree and then you can use that to transfer to a CSU. Or you see , it's a cheaper way of getting a four year bachelor's degree and it's a more local way. You know , those community colleges , there's just more of them than there are CSUs or UCS. There's 116 community colleges across the state , but community colleges also do a lot of other things. You can get a career certificate , like if you wanted to be an EMT or if you wanted to , you know , get a certificate , a certificate in automotive mechanics or something like that. There's a lot of career training. Also , community colleges offer English language learning classes. I mean , really , there's a lot of different missions and goals. And so it's a general problem when you're trying to evaluate the success of community colleges , you have to ask yourself , well , you know , what are we evaluating them on here ? Because there's a lot of different kinds of students. There's a joke that community colleges say and they say it. So often it's not really a joke anymore. They like to say that they admit the top 100% of students. And it's true. Everybody gets in , which means you're serving a really , really diverse population.


S4: There's a lot of research that shows that these two are always inversely correlated. More jobs means fewer students at community college and vice versa. Like during the financial crisis , You know , in 2008 , community colleges saw a spike in enrollment because there were fewer jobs. People said , All right , time to go back to school when there are more jobs. And right now there are still a lot of jobs out there. Students say , you know what , I'll defer going to college. I'll do that later , especially when we see in certain industries like logistics , for instance. So places like Amazon that have pretty high starting wages , you don't need a you don't need an associate or a bachelor's degree to work as an associate at Amazon. You can make 16 , 17 , even 18 or $19 an hour , depending on where you are. That's a pretty good wage for somebody without a associate or bachelor's degree. And a lot of students say , You know what , I'm going to do that for a while. But community colleges will say , you're going to hit a ceiling , you need education or to move up in your career. So there's always this back and forth.


S4: One big thing is something. It's called dual enrollment. So the new community college chancellor , she is looking to high school students and saying they should start community college. Now , we should be offering community colleges to every community college classes , I should say , to every high school student in California. And they're doing that. And so a lot of the community colleges this year are seeing enrollment gains. Students are coming back , but the students are actually high school students. That's the big thing that we're seeing. But there's other stuff that community colleges are also doing. For example , the state has put quite a bit of money towards marketing and helping community colleges put ads out and you'll see them walking around. So San Diego has this really funny ad campaign. It's basically they're trying to kind of mix things up this time. You know , normally when you think of a of a college ad , you're going to see a student with a book saying you can go to college or something like that. Not in San Diego , the San Diego Community College District , they have this whole set of campaigns. And like one of the ads , for instance , says San Diego is famous for its tacos or famous for its food , I think is what it says. And they have the word food crossed out. And instead it says community colleges. So it reads like San Diego is famous for its community colleges. And there's a photo of tacos next to it. And there's a little line , Are you ready to talk about your education ? I mean , it's so cheesy , but like , hey , if it gets your attention , it gets your attention.

S1: Food has a way of doing that.

S4: Food definitely does. They have another ad with a surfer on it. Same idea. You know , San Diego's famous for its surfing. Cross that out. It's famous for its community colleges. So the state has put a lot of relief dollars into community colleges to help them get people back to school , because we know that's good for the economy in the long term. And many colleges said , all right , we're going to do a lot of things. We're going to put billboards up all around. San Diego , colleges are calling students left and right. So somebody who maybe filled out an application but never showed up in the first day of class colleges are calling them. They're texting them , saying , hey , what happened ? And there's research to show that in some cases that might be the prompt that somebody needs to say , oh , yeah , I should go to college.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. I'm speaking with Calmatters reporter Adam Eshelman about California's community college efforts to increase enrollment. So , Adam , in addition to the problem of shrinking enrollment , your reporting also says that California's community colleges are also failing to meet the mark when it comes to the number of students who end up transferring to four year colleges and universities.

S4: There's a lot of different ways to measure the transfer rates. But , you know , in one analysis that we did , they were under 10% statewide. In other words , under 10% of the students who. You are enrolling in community college. Actually ended up transferring to a four year institution. Part of the reason why those numbers are low is because students have a lot of things going on. Many students are working full time jobs. Students have kids. It takes a long time to get to to just get through school. The other thing is , in the data set that we looked at , you know , we looked at students who said at the get go of community college that they wanted to transfer to a four year like UC San Diego or just like another four year institution. And some students change their mind in the middle of in their community college journey. So there's a lot of different reasons why the numbers are low. I think that number itself , the under 10% , is I mean , it's alarming , but at the same time , it it doesn't fully reflect the picture. So another example of other things that you see in community college is that a lot of people go to community college just for career training. And so they might , you know , be there to get a certificate in automotive mechanics or to get a certificate as a sign language interpreter. So there's a lot of things going on. One of the things that we were most interested in was not just the fact that transfer rates are low because that's generally a known thing. We were really looking at disparities among community colleges because while as a whole , you know , very few students ultimately end up transferring from a community college to a four year. We noticed there were some disparities. Rural community colleges in particular had really low transfer rates compared to urban schools. We also noticed that even in the same community college district , like in Orange County , for instance , we saw some areas where like one community college would have a much higher transfer rate than a community college that was just a few miles away.


S4: A lot of students at community colleges just can't seem to figure out how to get through the right loopholes and all go through all the right hurdles to make sure that they actually get admitted to and that their classes meet the right requirements. At the majors , at the CSU , where you see campus where they ultimately want to go. And so lawmakers and higher education administrators have been working together now for a while , trying to just streamline the process. This is the key word , streamline , streamline. They're making the numbering more succinct. They're guaranteeing admission to , you know , CSU and some UC campuses. So it's kind of this whole effort to just streamline and make it easier so that those junctures where a student might drop out are fewer and far and further between.

S1: A recent law passed last year , allows community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees in certain areas. And San Diego Community College offers a bachelor's in cybersecurity , for example. But there are some limitations on what programs can be offered.

S4: And it really goes back to 1960 , actually. So in 1960 , the state of California laid out this plan that basically explained what each part of the higher education system was supposed to do. The community colleges were supposed to award two year associate degrees and to provide professional and career training to CSUs. We're supposed to award four year bachelor's degrees and master's degrees and the U.S. are supposed to do research and doctorate work , among other things , of course. Now , over time , those specific roles have kind of started to blur a little bit. The CSU system has started to award a few PhDs or doctorates or whatever you want to call them. And the community college system has a really , really limited way. Started to offer for your bachelor's degrees. Basically , last year , a law went into effect that allowed more and more community colleges to award bachelor's degrees. So this has been a pretty slow change , but it's a really substantial one because it gets that the real purpose of a community college , of a CSU or UC and what kind of degree is what kind of education these institutions are supposed to offer. Now , in San Diego there , there's that cybersecurity program you mentioned. You know , the total number of students in these bachelor degree programs at community colleges. It's pretty small. We're talking like 20 , 30 , maybe 50 students , max , although I don't even think it's that high. So the volume of students affected not super high yet , But what the community college system would argue is that slowly over time , they want to offer more and more of these degrees so that at some point it is going to affect a lot of people.

S1: All right. Adam Ackerman , he covers California's community colleges for Cal Matters in partnership with Open Campus. Adam , thank you so much for joining us today.

S4: Thanks for having me , Jade.

S1: Coming up , hear about the new programs being offered in San Diego's community colleges.

S4: We're very excited as.

S5: We start the 2023 , 2024 school year. Enrollment is over 12% for this time last fall.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. Welcome back to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. Today we are talking schools. We've just heard about some of the recent challenges facing California's community colleges as they try to recover from enrollment declines over the past few years. We continue that discussion with Gregory Smith. He is the acting chancellor with San Diego Community College District. And Luke Munchak , he's dean of Outreach for community affairs at the San Diego Community College District. Welcome to you both.

S5: Thanks for having us. Thanks for having us.

S1: Glad you both are here. Greg , I'll start with you. We just heard from Calmatters reporter Adam Engelman about how California's community colleges are looking to get enrollment back to pre-pandemic levels.

S5: Enrollment is up over 12% from this time last fall. What we have seen is that during the pandemic , especially among working adults who had to prioritize health and safety , taking care of children , family members and work demands , they were not able to continue their education. Now that they are there coming back to us and we're seeing that enrollment increase. So overall , we're very excited as we come into this year to see a lot of students resuming their academic journey and new students coming in , starting.

S1: In Luke , Other than enrollment.

S6: Obviously , being back in person has opened the door for students to be on campus. Big welcome events , celebrations. But it's also allowed us to meet the students who don't have access to transportation , and that gives them equal access to online classes , even in in-person classes or even online services. And this has been a huge , huge asset to our students when coming back to to the San Diego Community College District. Right.

S1: Right. And on this program , we've talked a lot about how workplaces have shifted from in-person to fully remote and everything in between since 2020. And flexibility really seems to be something that's important to a lot of working people.

S6: I think , you know , going out to the community and hearing the common concerns of , well , I can't go to class in the morning because I work or I can't do class at night because I have children. Sometimes we see these working adults needing to do homework on the weekends. And that really lends to our multiple modalities of learning where we have online coursework , online live coursework , where students can consume content on their schedule. So it's been a huge asset to students and these are things that students haven't even heard about before. So in our outreach practices , as we're going out and meeting new students , reaching these students in our community , this has been a huge , huge leg up for students. And also our campuses are doing a tremendous job offering nontraditional hours of services just as last weekend. A lot of our campuses are open on the weekend servicing students to get ready for the fall semester as well.


S5: And then we have a core of students who are exclusively doing online that want that asynchronous flexibility to engage in their studies , on their schedule. What we see the majority doing , though , is enrolling in certain types of classes in person , for example , science labs , which are more difficult to transition to an online environment , whereas they're looking at more traditional lecture classes as a better experience for them to be able to do that online on their own schedule. So we're really seeing students tell us the types of courses they want to have online , the types they want in person. And as we expand our modalities and consider how can we engage students using new technologies , that's going to be a key driver for us as we look at how we can integrate virtual reality. Augmented reality artificial intelligence is making sure that it fits with the modality of class that students really feel they can best succeed in taking , and that balances with their their work and personal life needs.


S6: And I think by supporting students through the enrollment process of finding those 12 units that work with their schedule , it really helps them alleviate the anxiety when it comes back to coming to college for the first time or returning back before the pandemic. I think along the lines of those things as well. I think the support services that are available to these all these folks that are coming to our campuses is second to none right now , whether it be mental health services , you know , support for basic needs , whether it be clothing , food. We're trying to eliminate every single barrier that's out there for the student so we can keep them in the classroom , keep them learning so that way they can reach their goal , ultimately graduating from the San Diego Community College District.

S1: You know , earlier we heard from San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Lamont Jackson. And in that conversation , Kpbs education reporter MG Perez asked the superintendent about dual enrollment , how San Diego Unified Schools are bringing in college courses into its curriculum. Here's a little of what he had to say about that.

S2: It is a belief that we have that students are better prepared when they're able to have access and get ready for college by taking a college course. And so dual enrollment is a great way for us to provide access to for our students to college courses.

S1: So , Greg , why is bringing community college courses into San Diego ? High School's important.

S5: They have a higher level of support around them. And for anyone who has been told college is not for them or has life experiences that would suggest that higher education is not a pathway , it can help them understand that it absolutely is. And so I agree completely with Superintendent Jackson that our ability to come in and work with our K-12 partners to offer high school students the opportunity to earn college credit , to be exposed to college level work , and to understand that they are absolutely capable of succeeding in this environment helps so many people in communities that have been underserved by higher education for far too many generations.

S1: And Greg , also San Diego community colleges have recently started offering limited four year degree programs.

S5: Our educational master plan defined our systems as the community colleges , primarily being an extension of the K-12 experience that prepares students who aren't ready to transition straight to a four year college or university. We've seen in a lot of other states tremendous success with offering baccalaureate degrees and community colleges. So many of our students are place bound. So getting to a four year university that offers a degree program in their interests may not be a possibility for them due to work and family needs. We've seen a number of programs that we can offer the community colleges that are more immediately responsive to local industry needs and changing dynamics in the workforce. So students need to maintain relevance in their field. We can put together a package of curriculum and start a degree program with a lot of flexibility. And finally , I would say that we can do it at a cost that is much lower than traditional four year college and universities. So when we think about access to a bachelor's degree for some of our students most directly impacted by poverty , we are a pathway unlike any other. And we do so , as Luke was mentioning earlier , with a lot of students support around basic needs. And we're working very hard to partner with local nonprofit government and private industries in order to address the full scope of needs , student space , address all the barriers to persistence that they may , may incur , and then ensure their success on the other side.


S6: I would say plug in and what I mean , plug in plug into our social media outlets , plug into our websites. There are so many amazing support programs and services professionals , faculty members , administrators that are looking to help. And for any issue , any problem that a student could face on the first day , the first month or first week , there's going to be someone there to help. So my best my best piece of advice is plug in , check in , ask for help , raise your hand , and there's going to be someone there to help you. There's so many smiling faces , willing faces to to really take you and really support you with anything you need. So you're successful at the San Diego Community College District.

S1: All right. Much success to everyone attending college right now. I have been speaking with acting chancellor of the San Diego Community College District , Gregory Smith , and Luqman Chaka Dean of outreach for community affairs at the San Diego Community College District. Thank you both for joining us today.

S5: Thank you for having us. It's been a pleasure.

S6: Thank you again.

S1: What programs would you like to see community colleges offer ? Give us a call at (619) 452-0228. You can leave a message or you can email us at midday at We'd love to share your ideas here on the show. If you ever miss a show , you can find the Midday Edition podcast wherever you listen. I'm Jade Hindman. Thanks for tuning in.

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Students at Hoover High School arrive on campus, Tuesday, to begin the fall semester, in San Diego, Calif., on August 22, 2023.
M.G. Perez
Students at Hoover High School arrive on campus, Tuesday, to begin the fall semester, in San Diego, Calif., on August 22, 2023.

Tuesday was the first day of school for the San Diego Unified School District, the second largest in California. This year the district opened more community schools as a strategy to better provide for students. Plus, some San Diego community colleges are trying to recover from enrollment declines brought on by the pandemic.


Lamont Jackson, Ph.D., superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District

Adam Echelman, reporter, Cal Matters

Gregory Smith, acting chancellor, San Diego Community College District

Andrew "Luke" Menchaca, dean of outreach, San Diego Community College District