Deficiency in Community College Information

Deficiency in Community College Information


Team Information
Seedling Scholars

Modesto Junior College

Team Member #4 Organization (College, Work, etc.)

Modesto Junior College

Team Member #5 Organization (College, Work, etc.)

Modesto Junior College

Team Facebook Link

About the Problem

About the Problem

One-Line Problem Summary

Obstacles to Locating Academic Resources Reduce STEM Persistence and Success

Context & Problem Description

At MJC, 80% of students are Pell Grant recipients, many working jobs. These students can not be present for synchronous tutoring, which results in inequitable access to tutoring resources and information about opportunities and transfer. Further exacerbating issues of equity is the disproportionate time invested into understanding the transfer applications by first-generation students. There must be online Open Educational Resources at MJC and student-created guides to help underserved students.

Problem Category


How did you identify this problem? (Research, Interviews, etc.)

Through interviewing MJC students and Edsource statistics we confirmed sentiments: educational resources feel scarce (student interviews), and 52% of Edsource respondents believe the transfer process is confusing. As a peer mentor, Kyle counseled many peers unaware of the Honors program at MJC, REUs, or first-come-first-serve policy of FAFSA (financial aid). Additionally, transfer requirements for varied majors confused MJC students surveyed, with over 70% having taken non-transferable courses.

Are you currently enrolled at Modesto Junior College?


Problem Details

Who are those affected by this problem? (Provide detailed information including statistics, demographics, etc.)

Students, and by proxy Modesto, are affected by this problem. At MJC, African Americans had a UC transferable course success rate of 32.9%, Native of 50.7%, and Hispanic of 59.7%. Plus, according to College Factual, MJC has a graduation rate of 28%.

How often does this problem occur?

Students do not know what they do not know. Every day students miss opportunities to enrich their education through research, Honors courses, or supplementary material. It is an opportunity cost that students bear because the information is unclear.

How long has the problem been going on?

The problem of poor academics and unrealized potential has plagued MJC for at least decades. Ranked among the 5 least educated cities in the US, Modesto reels from a lack of academic talent exacerbated by little outreach for enrichment programs.

How is the problem disrupting your community?

Low STEM success decreases the number of people in Modesto qualified for STEM-based jobs. As the biomass industry moves into Modesto, increasing MJC student success in Chem 101, which has a 43% pass rate, becomes increasingly economically important.

Is the issue perceived as a problem by the community at large?

Professors feel students are not made aware of what is asked of them academically as college students. The 102 MESA students surveyed revealed sentiments of confusion regarding transferring and frustration at the lack of useful, clear guidance.

Is the problem limited to certain geographic areas?

The issue addressed is the lack of clarity in college information—transfer, courses, and extracurricular—and accessibility of educational resources at Modesto Junior College (MJC), reflecting a broader challenge within the California Community College (CCC) system. The CCC, as the largest higher education system in the U.S., encompasses a diverse student body with varied needs, particularly at commuter schools like MJC where many students balance education with work or family obligations. This situation hampers their ability to engage with synchronous tutoring and other campus-based resources, exacerbating the problem of inequitable access to educational support. A significant portion of MJC's student population, over 50%, participates in online classes, broadening the scope of this accessibility issue beyond local geography to potentially affect students across different regions. This highlights the critical need for online educational resources that can complement traditional lectures and facilitate learning transfer, aiming to improve success rates for both online and in-person courses. Another key issue is that existing supplementary material online is both unvetted by professors and cost-prohibitive. This guides us to creating an educational resource that is open-source by nature, vetted by professors, and free. Unique challenges surround the community college experience and they extend far beyond the grounds of the classroom. The problem affects community college students, under-represented minorities (URMs), low-income FAFSA (financial aid) recipients, first-generation students, and more in ways inextricably tied to geography. At the intersection of these identities, unique challenges form that students at MJC face. As such, it must be individuals who lived through those experiences that give guidance to students who are going through those same experiences. Information that teachers and administrators have become disconnected from or are “common sense” may not be so common. In other ways, these problems of equity, access, and breaking the cycle by becoming a first-generation college student are global. Yet, the experience of MJC students is unique, shaped by the scarcity of research opportunities in the Central Valley. This also means that raising awareness of these opportunities like Research Experience for Undergraduates (REUs) and the Honors Program become increasingly important. Increasing STEM success is also a particularly important thing for the Central Valley from an Economic perspective. The investment of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the form of seed funds for biomass indicates a need for talent. If students can not pass Chem 101, Calculus I, and Intro to Physics or transfer successfully, the Central Valley will pay a huge opportunity cost. The challenge of disseminating clear information to students has been consistently highlighted by educational bodies and media outlets such as EdSource, the Department of Education, and CalMatters. These concerns are particularly acute among first-generation and low-income students, who often reside in specific city areas facing unique constraints. Low-income students may struggle with limitations related to time and space, while first-generation students might lack the familial or social guidance necessary to navigate the educational system effectively. This underscores the importance of clear, accessible information in bridging the educational equity gap. The geographic dimension of these challenges points to a deeper issue of inequality, where students' educational experiences and opportunities are significantly influenced by their socio-economic backgrounds. For the city of Modesto, the state of California, and the broader educational ecosystem, achieving equity necessitates the development of a responsive, federated system capable of catering to the diverse needs of its student population. Given the CCC system's role as a feeder into the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems, solutions implemented at MJC could serve as models for the entire network of 116 community colleges in California. The geographic reach of this problem is immense, but specifically, in the Central Valley where the need for STEM talent is increasing, this is a matter of utmost importance. A modular solution that combats the issues plaguing MJC not only has the potential to enhance educational outcomes at MJC but could also contribute to systemic improvements across the state, promoting educational equity and success for a wider range of students.

Who are the Stakeholders, those wanting this problem to be fixed?

The stakeholders are students. They need more accessible resources for academic success. 43%, 57%, 54%, these are the pass rates for Chem 101, Calculus I, and Intro to Physics respectively. Of the 20,000+ students at MJC, 2 attended REUs last year.

Solution Overview

Solution Name

Seedling Education Project: Closing the Education Community Circuit

One-Line Solution Summary

Clear Study Resources and Transfer Information from Experiences of Past Students

Solution Pitch (This is your Elevator Pitch)

Students frequently acquire knowledge used briefly, like in transfer applications, which could be more effectively stored in a library. Hence, we introduce the Seedling Project.

Solution Description

In the Seedling Project, students engage with grassroots open pedagogy, creating supplemental academic material that has the benefit of student-led agility and the authority of being Professor-reviewed. Led by students for students, resources are created adaptively with the people who are closest to the ground truth of going to college as a first-generation, low-income, minority student. Furthermore, these open educational resources are free, without paywalls like Chegg that burden our students.

Team Leader Email (College/Organization/Etc.)

Solution Details

How long have you been working on your solution?

Kyle was inspired to give back to MJC due to his experience in conducting research at UChicago. Thus, Kyle created counseling resources for clear information on transfer and internships, expanding his library of resources into the Seedling Project.

How/Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Among our members, Kyle published 2 papers in SC'23 (top international CS conference) which was highlighted in the December YCCD Board Meeting. Harven won the MJC Integration Bee. And, Henry conducted bioinformatic research in the Claremont colleges.

What steps have you taken to understand the needs of the population you want to serve?

We surveyed students in UC-transferable STEM classes and MESA (first-generation, low-income) through interviews. Kyle talked with many new MJC students to see what support they lacked, categorizing them into structural and motivational factors.

Which aspects of the problem does your solution most closely address?

We provide detailed guides on the transfer process collated for various universities and resources like printable practice exams and educational online tutorials. We engage students in high-impact practices like the Honors program and research.

What is your solution's current stage of development?

We have already created supplementary class materials (practice tests & curricular video tutorials) and the website is online as well. We are continuing to add to our library with tutorials for internships, TRIO, and college transfer applications.

Implementing Phase

What is your implementation plan?

We are using ethical web design to create a website that conveys clearly information to students. Agile information dissemination will be accomplished by contacting faculty periodically to send out information on study resources and opportunities.

How many people do you plan to serve in the next year?

In the next year, we plan to serve 20,000 students. If expanded to other CCs, this number could be higher. We plan to make our materials integrated into the existing library tutoring system (at the request of professors) in addition to online access.

What are your 6-month and 12-month goals?

In 6 months, we plan to increase the pass rates of Chem 101 by 9% and increase acceptance rates to research internships by 400%. In 12 months, we plan to increase the number of students who respond that they are confident in transferring by 15%.

What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year?

A Seedling module is in the works to be included in the Canvas shell of STEM teachers, increasing reach. But, this requires permission from the school. Another barrier is the sustainability of the project with students graduating and transferring.

How do you plan to overcome these barriers?

We have been in talks for 4 months with ex-President Redwing to gain permission to create a Canvas module that can then be integrated into the teacher's shell. Also, Kyle has been recruiting and training students for the "transition of power."

How are you measuring or planning to measure your progress toward your goals?

We plan to ask our website users to rate how useful they find the website. Furthermore, the pass rate for various STEM classes collected by the MJC Statistics team, final exam scores, and REU participation surveys will measure progress toward goals.

Do you currently partner with any individuals/organizations?


How are you working with them?

MJC STEM faculty agreed to vet the curriculum created by students. Mentor Pioneer provides mentors that train MJC student mentors. MESA provides local talent and allows Seedling to host REU workshops. MJC Library is given our study resources to use.

SOTL is utilized in the creation of curriculum and development of material, with extensive research on product methodology.