As a first-generation immigrant, John Hernandez knows firsthand the value of community colleges.
“I’m a product of the California community college system,” says Hernandez, who moved to Orange County from Cuba when he was 7 years old and later attended Cal State Fullerton. “I know what it means to be able to have high-quality, affordable education.”
Hernandez is the new president of Irvine Valley College, which leads all OC community colleges in transfers to UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Davis and UC Riverside. He previously served as president of Santiago Canyon College in Orange.
“I’m honored and excited,” he says. “Irvine Valley College certainly has a solid educational reputation. They have impressive student success measures, such as high transfer, completion and persistent rates. The faculty and staff are extremely dedicated to ensuring every student has the best learning opportunity possible.”
What also appealed to him was IVC’s diversity and commitment to equity and inclusion, he says, pointing out a fifth of the students are first in their families to attend college.
Hernandez says he was quiet and introverted growing up, but attending community college and receiving counseling and other support services helped him gain confidence and transfer to Cal State Fullerton.
“A lot of young people don’t exactly know what they want to do,” he says. “Exploring options and learning more about yourself, I can’t think of a better place to do that than in a community college.”
IVC offers two-year associate degrees in over 80 majors ranging from accounting and philosophy to acting and laser technology. You can prepare yourself for a high-demand, high-paying job in a year or less.
And you can do so at a fraction of the cost of attending a four-year university; annual tuition and fees cost around $1,100.
“We have high-achieving students that could have gone anywhere after high school who choose to come to a community college first,” he says.
Hernandez says he wants to grow IVC’s lifelong learning courses for seniors and training programs for working adults.
“We have so much we can offer to a very diverse community,” Hernandez says. “We can almost meet the need of anyone who wants to pursue an education.”
IVC plans to continue online learning in the fall, at least in the beginning.