I almost fell through the cracks, but now I’m a PhD student

December 1st, 2014
I almost fell through the cracks, but now I’m a PhD student

As a student in California public higher education, I’m very proud of the Campaign for College Opportunity’s accomplishments. It’s because of the Campaign’s work that other students won’t have to go through what I went through. A little over a decade ago, I was moving through the California system of public higher education. I started at a Cal State, then moved to a community college, and eventually transferred to UC Irvine. It’s important to share that from a young age, I was, by most standards, on track to attend an excellent university after graduating from high school. During high school, I earned A’s in my summer courses at UC Berkeley and my local community college. I graduated valedictorian of my high school and earned multiple scholarships. But as I moved between sectors of our higher education system, I felt lost because there was no structure in place to help me navigate the complicated transfer process. I was floundering and began questioning whether I was college material at all. Luckily, a friend from high school introduced me to a counselor who gave me the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) advising form. The IGETC spelled out the courses required for transfer to a University of California or California State University campus, and I followed the guide, taking a full course load and earning a 4.0 grade point average every semester. I would not have learned of the IGETC advising form if not for my high school friend. I would not have known that there was a transfer protocol to follow, and without it, I would have enrolled in courses at will. A lot of information I got was through word of mouth from other students, and it was sheer luck that I found the pathway from community college to a four-year university.

But thanks to the Campaign for College Opportunity other students won’t have to rely on luck. The Campaign advocates for community college students, many of whom have been marginalized and are often left to fend for themselves and end up falling through the cracks. The Campaign uses policy reform as a lever to take down barriers for those community college students. For example, the passage of historic legislation like the Student Success Act of 2012, Senate Bill 1440, and Senate Bill 440, which created a pathway for transfer students from California Community Colleges and California State Universities and put support systems in place to help guide students along that path are helping students reach their college dreams every day.

I am now a PhD student at the University of California, and can say that the Campaign has played a key role in my development as a scholar. In 2011, I was selected as an intern to work with the Campaign on a best practices report. After talking to different college leaders across the state, I became interested in the relationship between matriculation services and student progress. And this curiosity eventually led me directly to my dissertation topic. I will be graduating in 2015 and my dream is to become a professor of education and continue my research on the barriers that limit the progress for community college students. I am grateful for the Campaign’s work to helps students like me reach their college dreams.

This Giving Tuesday, I invite you to join me in showing your support for the much needed work of the Campaign for College Opportunity. As a graduate student, I’m in no position to make grand philanthropic contributions, but I can still find something to give. My small but important contribution is a way to show my support for everything that the campaign has done and will continue to do for students like me. I see my contribution as an investment in another Campaign intern that will forever be changed and motivated to be a staunch advocate for access to quality higher education. Maybe your contribution will help the Campaign produce compelling research that generates policy reform. Or perhaps your donation will support the Campaign’s work to educate and engage students to advocate on their own behalf. Whatever gift you make to the Campaign, I can assure you it will be put to good use to improve the lives of students in California, and ultimately all Californians.

About the Author:

Carlos Maldonado is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Education at UCLA.

Click here to read more about Carlos.