By Julius Sokenu
Out of nearly 1,000 institutions, Moorpark, Oxnard, and Ventura colleges were recognized by the Aspen Institute Community College Excellence Program as being among the top 150 community colleges in the nation. Moorpark College ultimately received fourth place for the national Aspen Community College Prize, which President Obama has referred to as “the Oscars for community colleges.”
This is more than an award—it reflects a dedication to the promise and value of a college degree, and then delivering on it. It shows how community colleges can change lives through the power of education.
The nonprofit Aspen Institute honors institutions for achieving student success in five key areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s degree attainment, workforce success, and equity for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.
Aspen’s rigorous criteria reflects a shift in the function of community colleges. Amid evolving job markets and increased economic barriers, community colleges need to employ innovative strategies to meet their communities’ diverse needs.
Moorpark College strives to embody the transformative power of education by uplifting our community through strategic programs and partnerships that ensure the vitality of our shared future. We are very proud that all three colleges in the Ventura County Community College District (VCCCD) received acknowledgment from the Aspen Institute.
However, the true reward of this experience is the opportunity to share the ways in which Aspen’s criteria highlight Moorpark College and VCCCD’s efforts to support our community.
I’d like to share how our campus and the District deliver on the promise of a college education, which aligns with the organization’s five key areas:
Teaching and Learning
Of all the Aspen finalists, Moorpark College’s students have the highest first-year completion rate for math and English courses, an academic success benchmark often linked to successful transfer and graduation rates. What sets Moorpark College apart are the specialized academic programs we offer, such as our dual enrollment program, which provides K-12 students the opportunity to take tuition-free college courses. These students gain a headstart on their higher education goals, which plays an important role in decreasing equity gaps for low-income students and students of color.
Certificates and Degree Completion
Our college was also recognized for awarding more discipline-based Associate Degrees for Transfer than any other community college in California. In addition to degree opportunities, we offer certificates focused on career training, such as accounting, business administration, hospitality, data science and paramedic studies. This enables us to meet the needs of all types of students, from the high school senior who dreams of transferring to UCLA, to the single father pursuing a certificate that will help him achieve a promotion at work.
Transfer and Bachelor’s Degree Attainment
For the university-bound student, Moorpark College adopts a holistic approach, not just supporting them through the transfer process, but ensuring they are equipped with the skills, knowledge and guidance to succeed far beyond their time with us. Fifty-nine percent of students who transfer from our college earn their bachelor’s degree, which is significantly higher than the 47% national average.
Developing pathways from education to career is a core mission for VCCCD, as this benefits not just our students, but our industry partners and local workforce as well. The Moorpark College “Work-Based Learning Program” facilitates this goal by connecting students with local employers in their desired field through paid internship opportunities.
This program annually employs over 150 students. It received $225,000 of federal funding through the support of Congresswoman Julia Brownley’s office, which was encouraged by the City of Moorpark to support this initiative. By partnering with public and private employers in Ventura County, we provide our students with workforce training and support business growth and retention countywide.
Equity for Students of Color and Low-Income Students
Ensuring equity in achievement for all students is integral to the District’s mission. At the heart of student support is the need to eradicate all barriers to student success, including access to basic resources that will help students truly thrive.
All our colleges have programs to support this mission. At Moorpark College, ensuring equitable outcomes for students is at the forefront of our strategic vision. Our dedication to achieving this goal was recently recognized by “The Campaign for College Opportunity,” which named our college among the top community colleges in the state making monumental strides to decrease equity gaps in academic achievement.
The Aspen Institute found what we already know: Together our colleges can build a bright future for our students, our families and our community.
Julius Sokenu, Ed.D., is the president of Moorpark College. To learn more about Moorpark College, visit MoorparkCollege.edu.