College of the Canyons credits student success to fewer barriers

The College of the Canyons Cougar mascot leads the 1766, 2016 College of the Canyons graduating class to the Honor Grove during the commencement ceremony held at the College of the the Canyons Valencia campus in June 2016. Dan Watson/Signal

Since 2011, College of the Canyons has seen a nearly 98 percent increase in the number of students graduating.

In fact, the number of total graduates seven years ago, 1,130, is eclipsed by the number of women who petitioned COC for graduation in 2018 alone, which is 1,310.

This year, the college is graduating 2,232 students in total, its largest class ever, which reflects a gradual increase in graduates over the last decade.

COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook said Wednesday the largest factor in the growth in graduates has been the college’s concerted effort to remove barriers for students, which has been essential in helping students achieve their respective educational goals.

College officials have condensed the time it takes students to push through remedial courses, decreased the cost of textbooks through technology and increased the counseling and educational resources for students, which Van Hook cited as the most significant factors.   

“Not knowing where you’re going is a barrier, a fear of getting through English and math is a barrier and the high cost of textbooks is a barrier,” Van Hook said, “when you eliminate those, you can really get students out of the starting blocks.”

College officials also shared a few statistics that indicate the diversity of this year’s graduating class: There are 111 different majors represented, there are six graduates over the age of 60 and the youngest graduates in the class are 61 students who are 17 years old.

“The board supports all of the changes that we have been able to make to remove some of the barriers to students being successful in the graduation requirements,” said Santa Clarita Community College governing board President Steve Zimmer, “in their transition to other institutions and in their career choices.”

One of the more significant costs that has grown in recent years is the price of a textbook, which can range in price from about $250 and up, Van Hook noted, touting the college’s efforts that have resulted in more than 260 courses that don’t require such a purchase. The college’s effort to implement these openly licensed tools through a program called Open Educational Resources has saved students upward of $4 million, she added.

“You have to put all the pieces together,” Van Hook said, “and I think the team at College of the Canyons is able to present to the students a complete package where, if they’re willing to work hard and stay focused and never give up, they’re going to get there, and that’s the exciting part.”


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