College Track Applauds California Legislation Increasing Equity in Higher Education
On September 30, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed multiple pieces of legislation that will dramatically affect not only students at community colleges (through programs to boost graduation and transfer rates as well as cancel debts), but also all those attending higher education institutions in the state, by banning the practice of scholarship displacement.
“Increasing the college-completion rates for the 2.5 million students currently enrolled in California colleges and universities — and the millions more across America — absolutely demands this kind of bold thinking and real investment by our state and national policymakers and our higher-education leaders.”
—Dr. Shirley M. Collado
Boosting Enrollment, Transfer, and Graduation Rates at California Community Colleges
Among the community-college-related bills that Gov. Newsom signed Friday are:
- AB 1705, introduced by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) and designed to further strengthen the probability that students will enter and complete transfer-level coursework in English and mathematics within their first year. (AB 1705 builds on Assemblymember Irwin’s 2018 AB 705, which has drastically increased access to credit-bearing courses at community colleges across all racial and ethnic groups.)
- AB 1187, also introduced by Assemblymember Irwin, provides a mechanism for funding supervised tutoring for foundational skills and for degree-applicable and transfer-level courses at community colleges.
- AB 1958, The Community College Student Access, Retention, and Debt Cancellation Program, is aimed at enticing students who have dropped out of community college to finish their education by wiping out unpaid fees.
College Track has 187 scholars currently enrolled at 34 community colleges and another 1,043 at four-year colleges and universities in California. There are many reasons that some of our scholars choose to start their paths at a community college and then transfer to a university: the opportunity to raise their GPA, earn credits, explore majors, help with family responsibilities, earn money for college, and more. But this choice does present some risks. Data show that college completion rates nationwide are significantly lower for first-generation students from low-income communities who start their careers at a two-year college rather than a four-year (6% to 40%). This is why California’s legislation aimed at smoothing the way for community college students to transfer to a four-year university is critical.
“We applaud these groundbreaking moves toward educational equity by Governor Newsom and the California legislature, which recognize the value of higher education for students from all walks of life and attempt to address some of the enormous barriers confronting first-generation college students – those who are the first in their families to attend college,” said Dr. Shirley M. Collado, President and CEO of College Track. “Increasing the college-completion rates for the 2.5 million students currently enrolled in California colleges and universities — and the millions more across America — absolutely demands this kind of bold thinking and real investment by our state and national policymakers and our higher-education leaders.”
Banning Scholarship Displacement in California
- Governor Newsom also signed AB 288, the California Ban on Scholarship Displacement Act of 2021, introduced by Assemblymember Lisa Calderon (D-Whittier).
“Scholarship displacement” refers to when a university reduces or cancels one form of institutional financial aid because the student has won another form such as an outside scholarship. Experts estimate that 50% of scholarship recipients experience displacement, and it has a disproportionate impact on those from low-income communities. Most universities are not transparent about their scholarship displacement policies. Sometimes students only learn that their aid package has changed by noticing different numbers on a tuition bill as they are preparing to start school, which can have devastating consequences.
By prohibiting all public and private institutions of higher education in the state from reducing certain students’ institution-based gift-aid offers below their financial need, California joins Pennsylvania, Washington, Maryland, and New Jersey in banning scholarship displacement.
“This is such wonderful news and a great start to addressing how scholarship displacement impacts all students who receive scholarships to help pay the exorbitant costs of college,” said Nadja Jepsen, College Track’s Senior Financial Programs and Scholarships Director, who has written op-eds about scholarship displacement in general and AB 288 in particular. “This bill will support not only College Track students but also all the Pell recipients in California who have worked hard to earn their scholarship dollars. We eagerly anticipate the details of how this new ban will be implemented by college financial-aid offices in the upcoming academic years and look forward to continuing the conversation of how to make a college degree more attainable for students from low-income communities.”
About College Track
College Track is a national nonprofit whose mission is to equip students confronting systemic barriers to earn a bachelor’s degree in pursuit of a life of opportunity, choice, and power. Ninety percent of College Track scholars are or will be first-generation college graduates; 96 percent are students of color and 84% come from low-income communities.