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A program aimed at helping San Francisco City College students to transfer more easily to four year universities was officially launched Tuesday at the city college’s Mission campus.

According to institutional research by the school, 55 percent of City College students drop out within the first two years of enrollment.

“The narrative is ‘I’m not supposed to be here’ – so many students simply give up,” said Beth Freedman, a coordinator Metro Transfer Academies and chair of the health education department at city college.

Freedman explained that underrepresented and first-in-family students, a group the program is designed to help, often face the most hurdles in their first two years of college. These struggles, she says, include knowing the right classes to take, or how to even enroll in those classes. “If no one in their family went to college, there’s no one to help them navigate,” said Freedman, who was the first in her family to go to college.  

Metro Transfer Academies, a coordinated effort between San Francisco City College and the state-level university systems, aims to support students during their first two years of City College by offering academic planning, tutoring, counseling, and the opportunity for students to form close bonds with their teachers and peers—ultimately leading to a successful transition to a four-year school.

On Tuesday, officials and faculty members from City College and the Metro program cut the ribbon on the transfer academy’s new branch at the Mission campus. The Metro program started in 2008 at the college’s Ocean campus as “Metro Academy of Health,” focusing on health-related transfers and broadening over the years to every major. The event at the Mission campus marked the relaunch of the program as “Metro Transfer Academy.”  

“This is a beginning,” said Susan Lamb, interim chancellor of San Francisco City College. “I hope from here we have a foundation — whether we’re talking about services at the centers … transfer pathways … whatever the needs are for this community and all the communities across San Francisco.”

Freedman said Latino and African American students have lower rates of transfer than other students. Nearly 75 percent of all Latino and two-thirds of all African American students who go on to higher education in California go to community college. Yet, in 2010, only 20 percent of all transfers to four-year schools were Latino or African American, according to a 2012 study by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project.

“What’s happening in school is reflecting what’s happening in society,” Freedman said. “There’s inequity, and the schools that they come from are not as well-resourced as schools that other students come from.”

The transfer program helps students complete their associate degrees in a timely manner by co-enrolling students in themed general education courses with a “cohort” of their peers over four semesters. The theme, which at the Mission campus is “diversity and social justice,” adds focus to otherwise boring and disjointed general math and English courses.

“The idea is that they’re themed pathways,” Freedman said, explaining that the program will add new themes, like science and art, in the coming years.  

The student cohort is a community of students that offer each other peer support and mutual empowerment. “If you don’t show up your fellow students are going to be concerned about your coordinator is going to be concerned about you,” Freedman said of the student cohort.  

Additionally, the program offers “wrap-around” services such as academic counseling, tutoring, financial aid advising, early intervention services, and more intimate connections with campus services.  

The Mission academy will take 140 students over the next year. The program recruits students from high schools, especially underrepresented schools, such as Mission High. All students who show an interest in transferring to a four-year college are accepted, according to Carlos Martinez, Metro Director of Expansion and Diffusion. “No students are turned away,” Martinez said.  

CCSF Metro Student Noé Roman addresses students and faculty at the Mission campus. Photo by Julian Mark

CCSF Metro Student Noé Roman addresses students and faculty at the Mission campus. Photo by Julian Mark

“I probably wouldn’t be enrolled in college [without the Metro program],” said 18-year-old Noé Roman, who was born and raised in the Mission and who recently started his first semester at city college. He said he discovered the program through a counselor at his high school when he felt he had no options for college. Now, he explained, “I pretty much set myself up for the next two years, so then I’ll be ready to transfer to a different university. It’s making sure I’m on the right path.”

“When you get to college, people expect you to be able to handle yourself, and I think that’s not always the case,” said 26-year-old Christopher Soria, who’s been at city college for two years and is hoping to transfer to UC Berkeley.

Soria, who found out about the Metro program only minutes before the ribbon cutting, said he could have benefitted from the program had known about it earlier. He said that some of his friends dropped out because, “they didn’t have a mentor; they didn’t have a support system; they didn’t have anyone who cared whether they failed or passed.”

“We all have our struggles, but it is up to the community to help us get through those struggles,” Noé Roman told an audience of students, faculty members, and administrators, before helping to cut the ribbon on the new center. “…Just know the slightest encouragement is enough to change someone’s life, and that is what I see from CCSF and Metro.”