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March 26, 2013 > Coalition pushes for student centered reforms

Coalition pushes for student centered reforms

Submitted By Stephanie Romero-Crockett, Campaign for College Opportunity

A broad coalition of education, business and civil rights organizations from across California have delivered to the incoming Chancellors of the California Community Colleges and California State University Systems an aggressive agenda for 2013 intended to overcome years of budget cuts and ensure that reforms are pursued and completed.

In letters to Dr. Brice Harris, who took over the California Community Colleges system as Chancellor on November 6, and Dr. Timothy P. White, who was installed as California State University system Chancellor at the end of December, the coalition said the new chancellors must strengthen coordination and cooperation between the two systems and the state's K-12 system.

"We recognize that the Chancellors inherit the systems during a tumultuous time," said Michele Siqueiros, Executive Director of the campaign for College Opportunity, which led the coalition. "In this era of budget cuts which have resulted in enrollment caps, impacted campuses, impacted programs and majors, heightened affordability challenges and unplanned tuition hikes, strong leadership is needed from you and each of us are ready to work hard alongside you."

The coalition specifically called on incoming CSU Chancellor White to expand and deepen efforts to implement the CSU Graduation Initiative requiring local campuses to improve graduation rates and close equity gaps for Latino, Black and Asian Pacific Islander students. The CSU Graduation Initiative is a part of a national effort to raise graduation rates, with special attention to underrepresented minority (URM) students. The CSU's commitment is to raise the 6-year graduation rate for the whole system by eight percentage points - from 46 percent to 54 percent - and to cut the achievement gap between URM and non-URM students in half- from 11 percent to 5.5 percent - by 2015.

"Given our demographics, California's future prosperity will depend on the success of our higher education systems adequately serving our Latino and African American students," said Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust-West. "I am confident that under the leadership of both chancellors, a commitment will be made to graduate more students who will possess the meaningful skills and credentials necessary to join the workforce, have successful careers, and grow our economy."

At the Community College system, the coalition stressed the need for not just providing access but helping students achieve degrees, certificates or transfer to a four year institution by starting all incoming students with a common assessment linked to K-12 standards and accountability testing, mandatory orientation, education plans, programs of study, and student success courses for under-prepared students.

Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF, said, "The predominant mission and challenge for both chancellors is to close the college completion gap and ensure that California is preparing all of its youth to contribute at a high level to the economy and community of tomorrow. We look forward to working with them to pursue policies to meet this challenge."

A priority for both systems, the coalition said, must be completing implementation of SB 1440, the Student Transfer Achievement Reform (STAR) Act. SB 1440 requires that California Community Colleges develop and offer Associate Degrees for Transfer and that California State Universities accept students who earn these degrees with a junior-standing. Students that earn Associate Degrees for Transfer would shorten their time to graduation on a pathway with fewer impediments.

The Campaign for College Opportunity last month released a report -- Meeting Compliance, but Missing the Mark - that found that although great progress has been made statewide by California Community Colleges and California State University system leaders, many individual campuses lag in creating the necessary pathways for students to transfer, and significant work remains to be done.

"It is essential that these leaders work collaboratively to ensure college is accessible and to improve student completion rates, particularly through strengthening the transfer pathway from community colleges to the CSU, in order to provide California with a competitive workforce," said Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Gary Toebben.

The 20-member coalition includes the California, Los Angeles and Sacramento Chambers of Commerce, NAACP, MALDEF, The Education Trust - West, Los Angeles Urban League, Inland Empire Economic Partnership, Bay Area Council, Excelencia In Education, National Council of la Raza, San Diego Economic Development Corporation, Institute for College Access and Success, Advancement Project, Orange County Business Council, Public Advocates, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Hispanas Organized for Political Equality, and California Competes.

"We trust that like us, you will not be satisfied with preserving the status quo and will demonstrate a commitment to building the political will to move forward student centered reforms," the coalition wrote to the Chancellors.

The Campaign for College Opportunity is a California non-profit organization focused on a single mission: to ensure that the next generation of California students has the chance to attend college and succeed in order to keep our workforce and economy strong. For more information, visit www.CollegeCampaign.org.

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