By Diego D. Garcia
Riverside City College entered a three round nationwide competition for community colleges and qualified for the second round, placing RCC in the top 10 percentile nationwide.
RCC President Wolde-Ab Isaac and Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees President Virginia Blumenthal along with UC Riverside officials were invited to Washington, D.C. on March 24 by U.S Secretary of Education John B King.
They had a chance to speak for a presentation named championing completion for Pell grant students.
Isaac, Blumenthal and UCR had a chance to speak about some of the strategies they are developing for Pell grants students and communities that are economically challenged.
In regards to the College Excellence Program, the winner of the nationwide competition will be awarded $1 million.
“Two weeks ago (from March 30) we got a letter saying that we are going to be interviewed, so we feel like we are going to be considered for the next level,” Isaac said.
Making it to the third round could mean that RCC will be among the top 1 percent in the nation in regards to community colleges.
According to Isaac, RCC is developing more than 20 pathways that are “two plus two.” These pathways entail that it would take a student two years to complete courses at a community college and two years to complete courses at a university.
“In the UC system, things have been a little bit chaotic,” Isaac said. “The requirements for Berkley are different from Irvine, the ones for Irvine are different for San Diego… which makes it very difficult for a student who wants to go to a UC.
“We cannot prepare for each one separately, so we have been working on that.”
Isaac also stated that together with UC Riverside and the UC system they have collectively created a number of pathways that will streamline students, primarily honor students, toward achieving acceptance into a university of California.
These pathways are still in development.
The Aspen Institute conducts this three round competition for its College Excellence Program.
The Aspen Institute, a policy and educational studies organization that serves as a unbiased venue for discussing critical ideas, encouraging leadership and has two campuses nationwide. One of those campuses is located in Maryland and the other in Colorado, while its headquarters are in Washington, D.C.
The first round includes over 1,000 community colleges from around the United States and is then reduced to 150 community colleges.
The remaining colleges must demonstrate a high level of achievement and success in three categories in order to qualify for the next round.
Some of the qualifications include persistent student success, degrees awarded, completion and transfer rates.
The remaining colleges must also demonstrate equality among their students in regards to a student’s race and economic background.The second round qualifiers must also represent a wide range of programs, including vocational and technical programs.
Upon entering the second round, each college must submit an application outlining what they have done to improve student success at their college. A selection committee, consisting of respected researchers, policy experts and former college presidents then chooses 10 colleges out of the 150 applicants to move on to the third and final round.
RCC students have offered their views about the competition and have given statements about their overall experience at RCC.
“I’m proud to come here. To hear that this school is in the top 10 percent,” said Angel Mora, RCC student and business management major.
“I chose this school over San Bernardino Valley (College) and I live in San Bernardino. I did read a little bit about how (RCC) was better…I am happy, I am prideful to come here.”
Angel MoraRCC’s placement in the College Excellence Program has provoked feelings of pride among student who attend RCC.
Other students stated that they chose RCC college over other community colleges in the surrounding region.
“Originally I was going to go to Valley (SBVC). I went to Valley for a semester and I didn’t like it… I really like it here (RCC),” said Bianca Martinez, RCC honors student.
“I enjoy it here…It has a really nice peaceful atmosphere. Even though it is a community college and it’s not my dream college, I still love it! Its making it easier getting through it (two year education).”
Other students voiced their concerns about RCC.
“The Air Conditioning Department has had trouble receiving more funds for their program,” said Jed Ackerman, RCC student and air conditioning and refrigeration major. “The AC department has had trouble getting more stuff for the students to work on as far as equipment like air conditioners.”
Ackerman went on to comment about RCC’s involvement in the College Excellence Program.
“That’s awesome, I guess I lucked out,” Ackerman said.
Another student expressed his feelings about attending RCC.
“This college is really good right now. Honestly I have no problems with the school so far. They already have done a lot,” said Davin Pheach, RCC student and computer-science major.
Pheach also gave his perspective on the competition.
“It’s really cool; it makes me more glad to say I came to this college instead of Valley,” Pheach said. “I live right next to Valley… I’m pretty happy that I’m not wasting gas, getting a better education… This school has everything a student needs to do good in school and the structures are really nice … The only problem would be the parking.”