The Role of Transition Services in Moving Students to Postsecondary Enrollment

Submitted By: Emma Diaz

San Bernardino Community College District Consortium


Type of Practice: Learner Transition

Program Area(s): ABE / ASE, ESL / EL Civics / Citizenship, CTE / Workforce Prep / Pre-apprenticeship, Adults with Disabilities

Region: Inland Empire

Consortia Involved: San Bernardino Community College District Consortium

Program Overview

In response to a fragmented network of providers, the Inland Empire Adult Education transitions workgroups developed a vision, strategic direction, specific measurable accomplishments and an action plan to help students transition to postsecondary and employment.

The Program of Practice

AB86 provided the space for regional education providers to come together to discuss and evaluate the program offerings at the time and existing regional gaps in the seven program areas and the seven objectives for the San Bernardino Community College District Consortium. To be more inclusive of its members and partners, the consortium decided to adopt a new name, Inland Adult Education Consortium (IAEC) and use a collective impact approach as the consortium organizational structure. Early in the development and creation of the Comprehensive Regional Plan submitted in March 2015 to the AB86 office, IAEC chose to make student transitions to postsecondary and employment a priority area by having a dedicated workgroup create a vision for seamless transitions across the region.

IAEC hired a professional facilitator to coordinate the communication between Member District representatives by using the Technology of Participation (TOP) methodology to create the Regional Comprehensive Plan. A total of seven workgroups were formed, each meeting four times to contribute to the development of the Regional Comprehensive Plan. The transitions workgroup had four meetings, and the following were the questions used for the facilitation.
Meeting 1: What barriers stand in the way of providing effective transition services throughout our region?
Meeting 2: What do we want to see in place in five years as a result of our actions?
Meeting 3: What practical actions can we take to deal with the contradictions and move toward our vision?
Meeting 4: What will our specific, measurable accomplishments be over the first 12 months?

As a result of the facilitated meetings, the transitions workgroups created a plan to address the barriers that were discussed in the consensus workshop in meeting 1. Below is a list of some of the barriers participants identified as existing in the region that hindered students during the transition process:
• Funding needed to support transition services
• Personal student barriers limit programs’ ability to serve students
• Lack of communication of existing services among agencies limits effective transition
• A lack of comprehensive services for college and career readiness diminishes successful student transitioning
• Overly bureaucratic processes limit student access to programs
• A system disconnect between agencies and employers reduces effective transition to employment

In summary, the previously listed barriers validated the problem of practice the region was experiencing. A fragmented broken network of providers that were not actively recruiting adult education students and offering them resources to seamlessly transition to a postsecondary setting or the workforce.

The Response

As a response to the identified problem of practice, the transitions workgroups developed a practical vision, a strategic direction, specific measurable accomplishments for the first 12 months, and an action plan. The facilitator used the consensus workshop method which is part of the Technology of Participation to generate the practical vision for the transition’s workgroup in meeting 2.

Here is the consensus of the group in developing the practical vision:
• All students develop a comprehensive student education and occupation plan
• Formalized agreements between agencies to facilitate student transitions
• Adequate funding to eliminate student barriers
• Robust, formal interagency structure to support ongoing communication, collaboration, and information sharing
• Well-established network of transitional liaisons between agencies
• Fully developed comprehensive one-stop resource hub

To address objective #3 of the AB104 legislation, “to integrate existing programs and create seamless transitions into postsecondary education or the workforce,” the IAEC Executive Committee (voting board) dedicated CAEP funding to support the hiring of two transitions counselors and one transitions advisor. The three individuals are dedicated 100% to working with transitioning adult education students from the respective adult school sites to the two community colleges. All five K-12 Member school districts are WIOA II funded agencies and currently in discussions with the San Bernardino County Workforce Development Department to create a partnership and refer students needing workforce services to them.

The Unique Features of the Program

Many of the individuals who participated in the regional workgroups tasked with creating the AB86 Regional Comprehensive Plan are no longer employed in those positions. Early in the discussions, it was noted that for the success of an established transition pathway, it would need to outlive the creators. Thus, the focus began on how to create a “going to college” mindset for students enrolled in the respective Adult Education sites.

After AB104 was signed into law and the implementation began, the IAEC Executive Committee voted to allocate CAEP funding to create the counseling and transition advisor positions that exist today. The process took two years to work out the logistics of hiring dedicated individuals who are college employees and travel to the Consortium Member sites to meet with students. As part of their daily activity, the three CAEP transitions individuals divide their time between the five K-12 Adult Schools, meeting adult education students where they are, a focus on equity.

Some of the unique features or the transitions program include having bilingual counselors, 48% of the current students enrolled at the Consortium Member District sites indicated Spanish as their native language. Some of the types of services offered to students in the transition pathway include assistance with filling out the community college application, financial aid, FAFSA, general information, orientation, personal issues, and help with registration. More than half of the students with whom the counselors worked with during the pandemic chose phone contact over email. Additionally, they host workshops both in-person and remote and meet one-on-one with students at the Adult Education sites on designated days and times. Students can schedule time either in-person, on Zoom, or by phone. One side note: while working remotely during the pandemic, counselors discovered that students needed more time to talk and discuss their emotional and mental wellbeing before discussing academic questions. This number was noted in the decrease of 2020-21 student transition data because students needed longer sessions, so counselors worked with a smaller number of students. Additionally, the transition team did report that moving forward in the return to campus, they will continue to use a hybrid approach to meeting with students, using in-person, phone and Zoom to continue to offer transition services.

Another feature of the transition pathway is that the transition counselors and advisor are aware of the types of barriers adult students experience in transitioning and they have developed strategies to overcome the barriers. In the past, the team presented at both state and national conferences in addition to meeting with three other community colleges interested in implementing a similar transitions pathway.

Transition services are the primary activity for the transition counselors and advisor; however, they are also involved in teaching college courses on the Adult Education sites, offering coordination of a summer bridge program, partnered with the Mexican Consulate on offering information sessions on adult education services, and assist with noncredit course enrollment. Additionally, they also leverage the resources that the community college has and refer students to programs such as EOPS, CalWORKs, DSPS, the Dreamer Center and First Year Experience programs.

The Outcome

It is important to use the student data collected to both validate existing program activity and support changes that are needed. According to the CASAS Demographic Summary tables, for the past three years, on average, the following have been the demographics of the students enrolled in the Consortium Member programs:
• 60% are between the ages of 25-49 years old
• 57% are female, 36% are male
• 30% attended school outside of US
• 48% speak Spanish as native language

The demographic data informed the decision making of the leadership and the characteristics of those working with adult education students. All three individuals working with transition services are bilingual, speaking both Spanish and English and have used Google Translate in the past to communicate with students requiring assistance in other languages. We have one female and two males on the team; we refer students who are college-educated immigrants to additional services if they choose to have their degree evaluated and validated in the US; and all three have private sector industry work experience as well as educational experience to offer different workplace perspectives to students.

During the past three years of having the dedicated CAEP transitions counselors and advisor, the number of individuals receiving services has increased. In 2018-19 a total of 925 students received services from the two-person transition team, in 2019-20 that number increased to 1,705 as the transition team increased to three individuals offering services, then with the impact of the pandemic and having services delivered remotely, the 2020-21 number decreased to 1,363. In addition, there are four students that have now successfully completed the AA degree, graduating in the Spring of 2021 and transitioning to a four-year university that are former Adult Education students. As of the Spring 2021, there were 10 students within 15 units of reaching a total of 60 community college units formerly from Adult Education sties, and many more have completed between 2-45 units.