Bridging the Gaps: Community-University Partnerships as a New Form of Social Policy

Bridging the Gaps: Community-University Partnerships as a New Form of Social Policy

Caroline Collins (Center for Academic and Social Advancement, USA), Olga. A. Vásquez (University of California San Diego, USA) and James Bliesner (University of California San Diego, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-623-7.ch029
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Abstract

The following case study chronicles the activities of a community-university partnership that supports the University of California, San Diego’s threefold mission of teaching, research, and service while directing educational resources to underrepresented communities. This partnership, instantiated in a research project widely known as La Clase Mágica, involves a broad spectrum of institutional units seeking to bridge the digital, cognitive, and employment gaps that exist between middle-class mainstream communities and those at the margins. The case study examines the project’s history and philosophy, theoretical framework, commitment to collaboration, assessment, and impact over the past two decades.
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Introduction

The State of Education in California’s Underserved Populations: Why Intervention is Necessary

Countless minority, language-minority and low-income youth encounter various systemic and independent barriers that impede the quality of their P-12 public educational experiences, and these circumstances hinder many of these children from continuing on to higher education. This differential access of minority and low-income youth to postsecondary education begins long before they come of age (Chavez & Arrendondo, 2006). The gap begins in early childhood with a lower number of Latino and language-minority youth attending pre-school (NCLR, 2009; Rumberger & Tran, 2006) and continues up the educational ladder (Vásquez, 2007). In 2004, for example, Latino, African-American, and American Indian students represented only 44% of the state’s 343,484 graduating seniors; yet they constituted 74% of the 74,824 students who graduated from the state’s lowest performing high schools—i.e., the bottom 10-30% (Chavez & Arrendondo, 2006). These schools bore higher enrollments of students from lower socioeconomic statuses, as 60% of their students were eligible for free or reduced lunch and only 18% represented families with at least one parent possessing a college or professional level education. Compounding this situation is the fact that fewer numbers of fully prepared teachers and levels of per-pupil funding exists in these schools as compared to higher performing campuses (Chavez & Arrendondo, 2006). In fact few, if any, of these schools are among the privileged 17% of California’s high schools that offer the complete A-G course selection1, one of the most important means of achieving competiveness for admission to the University of California (UC) and other top-tier higher education institutions (Chavez & Arrendondo, 2006 and Vásquez, 2008).

Though there have been increases in the number of minorities entering higher education in recent decades, a gap remains in college matriculation rates (Cook & Códova, 2006). The likelihood that this disparity will continue to grow without intervention is evident in several developments. First, the diminishing funding to P-12 schools (EdSource, 2010) continues to impact an education system that is already bearing increasing dropout rates (Lansberg, 2008). Second, the 1996 dismantling of Affirmative Action, a policy that considers race, gender, or ethnicity as a benefit, has made it more difficult to admit talented minority youth who had the misfortune of attending under-resourced schools. Third, increased tuition and the importing of highly elevated number of paying out-of-state and foreign students into California’s public universities will make it even harder for the state’s low-income youth to gain access to affordable public higher education.

The University of California acknowledges these challenges and charges itself to “serve society as a center of higher learning, providing long-term societal benefits” (The University of California Academic Plan). In order to remit these long-term societal benefits to the largest degree possible, the UC system seeks to be accessible to diverse statewide populations. This distinct mission lends itself to a promising new form of intervention in which universities partner with underserved communities in order to meet the specific educational needs of under-represented populations while concurrently broadening the university’s reach.

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