option to our rapidly growing Hispanic community."
Martinez Tucker believes this is a win-win combination for both Latinos and California.
"There is an economic benefit to the state to give priority to our students. Unless enrollment and graduation rates improve substantially, California's economic demand will come short of one million college graduates by 2025," she said. "Ameritas College hopes to address this educational disparity by providing Latinos with an accessible, high-quality and affordable option to earning a college degree and contribute to California's economic future."
Tuition at Ameritas is below most private universities. The current cost is $360 per credit at the associate level and $500 per credit for the bachelor's degree level as compared to the University of Southern California (ISC), which charges more than $1,400 per credit. However, it is higher than the state's two- and four-year public colleges. The Los Angeles Community College District charges $46 per credit.
Michelle Hernandez was one of the first group of students to enroll at Ameritas. Her profile is typical of individuals the college hopes to serve. Hernandez did not go to college after high school; instead she worked for 10 years while also raising a young daughter. When her father spotted an ad for Ameritas in the local paper, Hernandez decided to check it out.
"I walked in and met with a counselor, was approved for financial aid and signed up for classes," she said. "Everyone was very supportive."
That is exactly the reaction administrators such as Dr. Carmen Lamboy-Naughton, dean and the college's chief academic officer, want to hear. She helped create the new academic model for Ameritas that is based on research and feedback from Latino adult focus groups. Ameritas staff members are now promoting the college through media outlets and by going out to Hispanic community groups, which have responded positively.
"We use a very grass-roots approach to recruiting," said Lamboy-Naughton. "We work with community leaders because they are role models for our students, We want to build credibility and trust, winch sometimes means students hear about Ameritas from local leaders who understand that this is a good thing."
Ameritas administrators also acknowledge the important role Hispanic families play in the decision to attend college.
"When prospective students come in to the office to learn about Ameritas, they often bring their children and spouses," said LamboyNaughton. "It is a commitment the family needs to understand."
During the preliminary consultation, advisors work with the student to develop an educational plan so it is clear what level of time commitment and work load is involved and how long it will take to earn a degree. Students can take nine courses per year (six eight-week courses plus three 16-week courses) over a 48-week session. They can earn an associate degree in two years, and bachelor's degree in four and a half years, which in both cases is faster than the national average.
The college has enrolled its initial cohort of 60 students as part of the first-year cycle. Ameritas tries to keep students who start together as a cohort because they can support each other and help build a sense of community, says Lamboy-Naughton. She says aspects of the program have undergone some "tweaking"
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