Bonilla, Carrasco: East San Jose needs college investment 
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted student decisions on attending college.

    An astounding 51% of Latinx college students are considering not returning to college or shifting to part-time status while 37% already have stopped taking college classes altogether.

    These are the heartbreaking decisions that Latinx college students — in California alone — are making this fall due to the pandemic’s devastating and disproportionate impact on them and their families.

    This alarming trend is now evident in East San Jose, the epicenter of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County. We may lose scores of current and future college students and never get them to come back.

    We will not stand by and let this happen. And that is why, today, we are calling on our trusted relationship with the San Jose Evergreen College District to bring a college presence into the heart of East San Jose, similar to its recent investment in Milpitas.

    Other cities and communities have benefited from community college partnerships that serve the needs of residents outside of main campus grounds. These investments offer equitable educational opportunities and outcomes for local communities.

    To the north, San Francisco Community College’s Mission Campus serves more than 7,000 students (68% of whom identify as Latino) with academic, vocational and other programs to advance college, employment and career achievements.

    More recently, countless partnerships between community colleges and high schools have increased high school degrees, full-time enrollment in an institution of higher education and college persistence for low-income Latinx and other underrepresented populations.

    Students and families in the Central Valley, a rural community with very low college-going rates, are the benefactors of a college partnership with Bakersfield Community College District.  Built on a model of “Early College,” an initiative originally funded by the Gates Foundation in 2002, high school students start college level coursework in 9th grade and by the end of 12th grade have earned both their high school diploma and an associate degree at no cost to students.

    Sixty percent of recent, mostly Latinx graduates, in just one high school from this partnership completed 2 years of college credit, saving families thousands of dollars and students 2 years of time.

    This pathway not only demonstrated success by increasing the college-going rate for underserved students, but it had the added benefit of a 70% retention rate after students enrolled in college.

    As the largest city in the Bay Area, and the 10th largest in the United States, we will not be able to truly reach our full potential until every part of San Jose has access to investment and growth.

    A San Jose Evergreen Community College District presence in East San Jose is an investment that will not only strengthen East San Jose but will provide the city as a whole with access to new workers that can continue moving our city forward.

    Rolando Bonilla is vice chair of the San Jose Planning Commission. San Jose Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco represents District 5.

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