Richmond — Angelica Garcia faced a tough decision. The 2014 graduate of Eastern Shore Community College could attend the University of Virginia this fall or the aspiring artist could sign the record deal Warner Brothers Records offered her. While everyone’s options are different, Garcia says attending community college is a big part of her success.
“I feel so completely glad that I went to a community college and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I got to do all of this without accumulating some massive debt. Those, overall, are probably two of the best and smartest years of my life,” Garcia said. She is among a group of students that is growing and thriving throughout Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS).
Hispanic and Latino students are attending Virginia’s 23 community colleges in record numbers, achieving greater academic success and earning more transfer-oriented credentials than ever before. That is according to analysis of student enrollment between the years 2009-2013 presented to the State Board for Community Colleges. Hispanic and Latino student enrollment grew nearly 58 percent during that period and the number of Hispanic graduates increased 150 percent.
“This is encouraging news,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the VCCS. “Our community colleges exist to provide every Virginia family with affordable access to higher education and we are here to help them turn that opportunity into a college credential. Virginia’s Hispanic and Latino population has doubled since this century began. Our ability to serve these families will determine their economic future, and Virginia’s, for decades to come.”
“That’s the dream, right?”
Garcia, who is deferring her UVa acceptance for a year, decided to sign the record deal.
“That’s the dream, right? Everyone wants to go to school and get an education but people sometimes feel like it’s not available to them. But the community colleges are great and people are seeing that.”
Garcia grew up in Southern California before moving to Virginia. She was accepted to Bennington College out of high school. She decided against attending what she describes as a “great school,” believing that the private college’s costs “were unfair to my parents.”
“It just made so much more sense to me [to attend a community college.] It just seemed like a way better deal than trying to go away to school. “Garcia said she is not surprised to see more Hispanic and Latino students pursuing a community college education, especially given its convenience and quality.
“For a lot of my Latino and Latina friends, one of the big fears is that if I go away to school then I cannot help my family. A lot of times parents have anxiety about letting their kids go away to school. I’m so glad community colleges are there and they can act like a bridge for these families,” Garcia said.
Serving a Growing Population
Virginia’s Hispanic and Latino population has grown dramatically since 2000, now representing 8.6 percent of the state, compared to just 5.8 percent of the enrollment at Virginia’s public universities. The interesting findings of the 2008-2013 enrollments include:
- Hispanic student enrollment grew nearly 58%, outpacing non-Hispanic enrollment growth.
- First generation Hispanic students increased more than six-fold, from 814 to nearly 6,000.
- More than a quarter (27%) of today’s VCCS Hispanic students is first-generation.
- More Hispanic students today (58%) are enrolling in transfer-oriented associate degree programs than five years ago (51%).
- The number of Hispanic students enrolled in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs has doubled over the past five years. Today, more than one in six Hispanic students are enrolled in STEM.
- Hispanic student GPAs are rising. Three quarters earned a GPA of 2.0 or better in 2012-13, compared to 70% five years ago.
- The percentage of Hispanic students earning more than 30 credits in the VCCS increased from 25.7% to 31.3%
- More Hispanic students are graduating. The number of Hispanic graduates rose from 714 to 1,777 over the past five years, an increase of 150%.
Essential Transfer Opportunities
Armando Vega, Jr. is a 2014 graduate of Tidewater Community College who will be taking advantage of an offer to attend UVa in the fall. The former U.S. Navy sailor said financial consideration forced him to pass on an earlier opportunity to attend American University. The guaranteed transfer agreements between the VCCS and 30 public and private universities kept his dreams alive.
“The price of tuition is great but more than anything, what the VCCS offered was the articulation agreements. That was key for me,” Vega said.
Vega said his professors were first rate and that his community college’s diversity and inclusive nature was good preparation.
“Our country is becoming more and more diverse. Learning how to work well with everyone is becoming key, especially if you’re looking to do anything in business on a larger scale,” he said.
See the Student Success Snapshot detailing these enrollment trends for more information.
About Virginia’s Community Colleges: Created more than 40 years ago, the VCCS is comprised of 23 community colleges located on 40 campuses across the commonwealth. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve nearly 400,000 students a year. For more information, please visit www.vccs.edu.
Photo at top, Angelica Garcia was a featured performer at the 2013 Valley Proteins Dinner, and has signed a record contract with Warner Brothers Records.