National award for campus program boosting Latino degree completion

UC Berkeley’s Transfer Alliance Project was honored yesterday (Tuesday, Sept. 27) at the U.S. Capitol as one of the top programs in America that increases degree completion among Latinos. TAP, which prepares California community college students to be more competitive transfer applicants to UC Berkeley and to other four-year colleges and universities, was a finalist in the community college category.

Sonia Gutierrez

UC Berkeley student Sonia Gutierrez, presenting research at a summer TAP research colloquium. (Peg Skorpinski photo)

The 2011 Examples of Excelencia awards went to 16 national finalists, who emerged from a pool of 195 competitors. Excelencia in Education is a national initiative to identify and honor institution-based programs and departments that boost Latino enrollment, performance and graduation.

“For America to achieve President Obama’s goal of becoming the world leader in college degrees by 2020, it is vital that we increase degree completion among Latinos,” said U.S. Undersecretary of Education Martha J. Kanter, who announced the finalists with Jon Whitmore, CEO of Excelencia in Education. “The successful and innovative programs recognized today are examples of instititions working to do their part.”

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said that, since TAP’s founding in 1999, the program has nearly tripled the rate at which the low-income community college students it serves successfully transfer to UC Berkeley. TAP, which works with more than 1,000 community college students annually, uses a combination of multi-year, one-on-one advising and special academic enrichment opportunities including conducting full-time summer research with UC Berkeley professors and taking summer classes in a wide range of fields.

“We are very proud of our Transfer Alliance Project,” said Birgeneau, adding that one-third of UC Berkeley undergraduates are transfer students, and admission is as competitive for transfer applicants as it is for freshman applicants.

The program has been greatly helped since 2006 by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which provided it with a four-year, $1 million grant as part of its Community College Transfer Initiative. The funds allowed TAP to serve an additional 500 students, and to expand its reach from Northern California to Southern California. It also enabled the creation of its summer enrichment programs.

“Most TAP students are the first in their families to attend college and they are highly motivated to give back to their communities,” said Gibor Basri, UC Berkeley vice chancellor of the Division of Equity & Inclusion. “In recent years, almost 20 percent of all underrepresented students – and nearly 30 percent of Latino students – who transfer to Berkeley are alumni of the Transfer Alliance Project.”

TAP has provided direct services to more than 4,200 community college students since 1999 and today has strong partnerships with 22 Northern California and seven Southern California community colleges. Its alumni thrive at UC Berkeley and have been admitted to graduate programs at schools including Yale University, Brown University, University of Michigan, Stanford University and Oxford University.

TAP “is at the forefront of meeting the challenge of improving higher education achievement for Latino students, and we congratulate them for their continued and current efforts,” said Sanita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education.

For the competition, 195 programs were nominated at three academic levels: associate, baccalaureate and graduate.

Top honors for supporting associate degrees went to programs run by El Paso Community College, Texas Tech University, and Carlo Albizu University, San Juan campus.

To read the press release from the Excelencia in Education news room go to EdExcelencia.org. At the bottom of the release is an attachment that includes examples of the finalists.

For more about TAP, see http://cep.berkeley.edu/TAP.