Introducing Hartnell College


Preparing to celebrate its centennial in 2020, Hartnell College has a rich history of educational excellence, innovation, and life-changing service to the individuals and communities it has served for nearly a century. The College is located in Monterey County, on California’s Central Coast, where it serves a highly diverse population of approximately 17,000 students each year, of whom 56 percent are in their families’ first generation to attend college. All are drawn by Hartnell’s academic excellence and record of success for students in its transfer, nursing, and technical programs, as well as a proud tradition in intercollegiate athletics, with 12 men’s and women’s teams. In 2018, the College reaffirmed its commitment to this aspirational population by adopting a set of values that begin with “Students First”:

“We believe the first question that should be asked when making decisions is ‘What impact will the decision have on student access, learning, development, achievement, leadership, and success?’”

That perspective has been an institutional touchstone for numerous initiatives, programs, services, activities, and strategies, which together have produced unprecedented outcomes. Over the past six years, the College has achieved a 127% increase in degree completion, a 231% increase in certificate completion, and a 63% increase in transfer to four-year institutions, with just a 1.6% increase in full-time equivalent students (FTES) enrollment, which now stands at about 7,500. Hartnell has twice been named a “Top 100 Producer of Associate Degrees for Minority Students” by Diverse Issues in Higher Education. For the 2015-2016 academic year, the College had the ninth-highest percentage (89%) of minority student graduates for community colleges among more than 1,400 community colleges across the nation. It had the fourth highest percentage of minority student graduates among all 114 community colleges in California, with the largest percentage increase (28%) of minority graduates among the top 10 in that ranking.  

In collaboration with the Hartnell College Foundation, the College has established strategic partnerships with employers and other educational institutions in the District’s most vital employment sectors, including the agricultural industry, health professions, computer technology, and teacher education. The Foundation’s demonstrated commitment to increased educational attainment and improved quality of life throughout the district has motivated generosity that in 2017-18 made it the most successful of any community college in the nation. A five-year plan to raise $14 million achieved $45 million in four years.

These initiatives and outcomes, combined with demonstrated success in fulfilling its mission of excellence and service, has Hartnell on a path for a seven-year renewal of its accreditation by the Accrediting Commission of Community and Community Colleges. Based on a review of the College’s Institutional Self-Evaluation Report, further investigation, and a four-day visit in April, an external team found in its preliminary report that Hartnell fully met all accreditation standards and made no recommendations for compliance. The visiting team’s chair, Willy Duncan, superintendent/president of Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif., concluded in his preliminary oral report on April 7:

“We are very impressed by Hartnell College, and we commend you on developing a culture of professional excellence. … You know who you are as a college and as a community, and this sense of meaning and purpose permeates the entire organization. We were able to feel it. We found it from your staff, from your faculty and from your administration, and most importantly from your students and the community members we were able to talk to.”

District and Student Demographics

The students of Hartnell College reflect both the racial and ethnic diversity and the social and economic challenges of the District. The service area is predominantly Hispanic/Latino (82%) in comparison to Monterey County’s total Hispanic/Latino population of 60%. Twelve of the 15 communities served by Hartnell College have a median income lower than the Monterey County median, including many that fall below the federal poverty line. Of the residents in the College’s service area 25 years or older, 36% have not graduated high school, 23% have a high school diploma or equivalency, 17% have some college, 8% have an associate’s degree and only 16% have a bachelor’s degree or more.

Sixty-seven percent of College students self-identify as Hispanic/Latino, and 18% self-identify as white. A significant number (approximately 800) are so-called DREAMer students, whose unique needs with respect to documentation are served by a DREAMer Center, known as Mi CASA, that in 2016 was the first of its kind established at a California Community College. Fifty-six percent of the District student body is 24 years of age or younger, and 45% of the students are between 25 and 50 plus years of age. Part-time student account for 66% of the student population. The percentage of students with an educational goal to transfer has increased by 11% over the past five year. The majority of students (68%) reside in Salinas.

Approximately 7,000 high school graduates have enrolled at Hartnell College in the past six academic years, with a 44% increase between 2011-12 and 2017-18. More than 3,000 high school students graduated from local high school feeder schools in the 2017-2018 academic year. This represents a 15% increase in a five-year period. On average, 40% of students from the local high schools enroll at Hartnell. The prospect for future enrollment stability or growth is strengthened by the relative youth of the service area population, with 31% under 19 years of age and 67% under 45.

District Area and Services

The Hartnell Community College District comprises approximately 2,300 square miles, an area with a population of about 245,000, primarily in the fertile Salinas Valley of Monterey County and extending into southern San Benito County. In addition to Salinas, with a population of nearly 158,000, the College serves the communities of Castroville, Prunedale, Moss Landing, Spreckels, Chualar, Gonzales, Soledad, Greenfield, Jolon, King City, Lockwood, San Ardo, San Lucas, and Bradley as well as adjacent rural areas. The Salinas Valley, often referred to as the “Salad Bowl of the World,” is one of California’s most important agricultural production areas, growing vegetables and fruits that stock supermarkets throughout the nation and around the globe.

Hartnell College has a Main Campus in west-central Salinas at 411 Central Avenue. Its large Alisal Campus, opened in 2011, is located on the city’s eastern edge, delivering career and technical education. The Agricultural Business and Technology Institute, located there, emerged from a dynamic partnership between the College and the region’s growing agricultural industry, which has strong demand for a workforce able to help it employ emerging technology and innovative production practices. The King City Education Center, opened in 2002, serves the people of King City, 47 miles south of Salinas, and other communities in south Monterey County. It also offers on-site instruction at high schools throughout the District.

With strong public support, the HCCD has responded to economic needs and population growth within its large service area through bond measures for construction and modernization. In 2002, voters approved the $132 million Measure H facilities bond measure, enabling a number of additional construction projects that expanded and modernized the College’s learning and support facilities. In 2016, District voters passed Measure T, a $167 million facilities bond measure that will again transform the College’s learning environment and expand its reach over the next three years by doubling the size of the King City center and building outreach centers in Soledad and Castroville. In addition, Measure T bonds will fund renovation of classrooms in two main buildings on its Main Campus in Salinas, an extensive makeover of its central plaza, and construction of a new home for its nursing and allied health programs.

Educational Programs

Hartnell College recently was awarded two major Title V grants to improve student access and success for underrepresented groups in the STEM disciplines, and it has been lauded by NASA, the NAACP, and the University of California, Santa Cruz as being among the nation’s top community colleges in promoting and achieving success for its underrepresented students in the STEM disciplines. The College has done this, in part, through outstanding facilities and intensive mentoring and internship programs with academic and research partners such as the UC-Santa Cruz Baskin School of Engineering, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Hartnell’s Alisal Campus, in east Salinas, is home to a NASA Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy for K-12 students and their families.

Hartnell offers the first and second years of a college program, basic skills courses in English and math, and workplace and career training. Included among its associate of arts and associate of science degrees and certificates of proficiency are strong and accredited programs in nursing and allied health, whose graduates become LVNs, RNs, EMTs, and respiratory care practitioners. For several years running, Hartnell’s nursing graduates have achieved NCLEX pass rates of at or near 100 percent. The College maintains an innovative three-year bachelor’s degree program in computer science, called CSin3, and a 2+2 teacher-preparation pathway, both in partnership with California State University, Monterey Bay, just 15 minutes from Salinas. Three cohorts have graduated in the computer science program, with 86% completing an associate degree in 1.5 years and 76% completing a bachelor’s degree in three years. In the teaching pathway, 82% of students in the first cohort completed associate degrees in two years and transferred.

The College’s state-of-the-art Learning Resource Center, opened in 2016, provides access to electronic databases and is the hub of information and learning technologies. Hartnell has committed to ongoing technology enhancements, including virtualization and server enhancement projects that will increase productivity and access for its students and employees, giving them technological advantages that most college and university students and personnel do not yet have.

Hartnell’s vibrant visual and performing arts programs includes a regional theatre arts company called The Western Stage, which is consistently among the most respected arts institutions on the Central Coast. Its programming is both traditional and experimental, including world premieres of works by contemporary Latino playwrights. Hartnell theatre arts faculty partner with the Alisal Center for the Fine Arts to engage and encourage area youth in their artistic pursuits. The College hosts a student-community orchestra and chorus, and the Hartnell Gallery regularly presents exhibitions of painting, sculpture, and photography.

Day, evening and weekend courses are offered in both classroom and online settings. Hartnell is sensitive to its diverse community and offers classes in modified formats to meet the needs of students who work or have other outside commitments, such as those that begin after the regular semester does or are offered in a condensed format. The College offers a full complement of academic and other support services to assist students’ educational progress in a one-stop student services format, available online, by phone and in-person. These include personal counseling, financial aid and scholarship services, international student services, re-entry services, veterans services, sports counseling, programs and services for disabled students, assessment testing, and career and transfer assistance. In addition, students are encouraged to become involved in the many clubs on campus and student government through the Associated Students of Hartnell College.

Strategic Planning and Initiatives

During the 2018-2019 academic year, Hartnell College has been making a transition from completion of a 2013-2018 Strategic Plan to launch of a new plan for 2019-2024, which awaits final approval. The completed plan contained six institutional priorities: student access; student success; employee diversity and development; effective utilization of resources, innovation, and relevance for programs and services; and partnerships with industry, business, agencies, and education. Fulfillment of this plan’s 11 goals has been achieved through many of the outcomes cited above. The new plan builds on this progress, with five new goals: increase student completion, increase student completion efficiency, increase student transfer to four-year institutions, and improve student employment subsequent to training or completion.

Critical to success in the forthcoming strategic plan, which is anticipated to receive approval by the District’s Board of Trustees in April 2019, are two major reform initiatives being pursued in concert with the California College System’s Vision for Success, which establishes a number of academic and workforce objectives to be met by 2022. One of the two major initiatives integral to Hartnell’s continued advancement in the success of its students involves implementation of California Assembly Bill 705. AB 705, which took effect on January 1, 2018, requires that a community college district or college maximize the probability that a student will enter and complete transfer-level coursework in English and math within a one-year timeframe and use, in the placement of students into English and math courses, one or more of the following: high school coursework, high school grades, and high school grade point average. Hartnell has been preparing over the past year to implement AB 705 in Fall 2019. Efforts have included development of an online placement tool that allows students to enter their academic information and receive a recommended math and English placement, rather than being placed based on results of assessment tests. Academic administrators, math and English faculty, counselors, and others are preparing to make this implementation a success through professional development, tutoring, intensified advising and counseling, and development and sharing of messages about the opportunity for students to access and succeed in transfer-level coursework.

In concert with the AB 705 initiative is an undertaking that Hartnell is calling College Re-Design, a multi-year effort to establish guided pathways for all students within meta-majors. This reform is intended to help students identify and pursue a rewarding career path while reducing their years to completion and the number of credits they accrue before earning a credential. The 2018-19 year has been one of inquiry by five College Re-Design teams, each centered on a different stage or aspect of implementing guided pathways: pre-enrolled students, entering students, continuing students, completing students, and facilitation. During the 2019-2020 year, the College is scheduled to begin providing feedback and approval for team plans, with some initial implementation. Finally, in years 3 and 4, initial designs will be adopted and implemented.