AB 928 and Transforming Transfer for California Students

On March 18th, in partnership with the Campaign for College Opportunity, I introduced AB 928, the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act of 2021. This comprehensive student-centered legislation will streamline and improve the transfer process, making it easier for California students to accomplish their goal of earning a bachelor’s degree.

The 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education promised an accessible, affordable, and high quality higher education for California students. The transfer pathway, from community college to four-year institution, is an essential component of the Master Plan’s commitment to access and affordability. The majority of students attend community college with the hope of transferring to complete a bachelor’s degree.

As Chair of the Select Committee on the Master Plan for Higher Education, I have focused on the issue of transfer and convened a conversation centered on the student transfer experience. The message from students was loud and clear: the transfer process is too complex, confusing, and difficult to navigate.

Transfer is often seen as a maze, a journey which ends up costing students more time and money than needed to reach the next step in their higher education journey. At a time of significant financial pressure brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for lower and middle-income students, ensuring that more students can transfer and obtain a bachelor’s degree is a critical piece to California’s recovery. To ensure recovery with equity, AB 928 draws on the state’s commitment to racial equity by supporting underserved student populations who often face unnecessary obstacles on their path to a bachelor’s degree.

Key legislative efforts, such as the Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT), have laid the groundwork for streamlining transfer, supporting thousands of students to transfer in a more timely and cost-saving manner, and guaranteeing admission to the California State University (CSU). In listening to students’ transfer stories and in talking with California’s higher education leaders, the need for continued improvements in transfer became an urgent call to action. Students continue to report confusion with transfer requirements, excess unit accumulation, and inequitable support in accessing the ADT. AB 928 addresses these issues head-on and reimagines the transfer process from the student perspective.

AB 928 would transform the transfer process by:

    1. Creating an Intersegmental Implementation Committee to provide a permanent venue to facilitate intersegmental coordination, greater state-level accountability for ADT implementation, and focus on improving transfer outcomes for all students.
    2. Setting a target date for the CSU and UC to come together and establish a singular lower division general education pathway that meets transfer admission to both. Going from two general education pathways to one makes it easier for students to apply to both CSU and UC and keeps their options open.
    3. Requiring community college students be placed on an ADT pathway, where one exists for their major, which will maximize the probability that a student will transfer and complete a bachelor’s degree in a timely manner. Importantly, students can opt-out and are empowered to choose what is best for them and their educational goals.

The status quo is failing our students. Only 28 percent of students with a transfer goal successfully transfer within six years. This is shocking and unacceptable. Students deserve better, and California can do better. I urge you to join students, higher education leaders, and advocates across the state in this effort to transform transfer.

Join the conversation on Twitter with #TransformingTransfer, or use the toolkit below in support of AB 928.

Download the toolkit


Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-24)
Author of Assembly Bill 928

Upcoming Publication: The Possibility Report – From Prison to College Degrees in California.

“Coming out of prison, I was indigent, and I had to rely on the various social service agencies for housing and practically everything else. Every housing program that could offer me a place to stay considered it problematic that my intention was to be enrolled full-time in college. Every program administrator I met with during that transitional period – including my assigned parole agent – attempted to discourage me altogether from continuing to pursue an education. Every program or agency I sought assistance from distinctly frowned upon my stated plan of working toward a university degree.”
– Tim, UC student

California’s criminal justice and education policies have cemented a school-to-prison pipeline that has impacted far too many historically marginalized communities of color, particularly Black and Latinx men. The state has a responsibility—if it is serious about tackling racial injustice—to dismantle that system. Ensuring that incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people can access and succeed in higher education is one way the state can step up to end the school-to-prison pipeline.
 
Today, there are nearly one-quarter million individuals incarcerated in federal, state, and local institutions in California. More than 95% of incarcerated people will eventually come home one day, as evidenced by the nearly half a million people on parole/probation today. Ensuring college opportunity means that hundreds of thousands of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals will have greater employment opportunities, lower recidivism rates, greater social mobility, and the transformation and empowerment of individuals, their families and communities that comes from a college degree.
 
In February 2021, the Campaign for College Opportunity will release a new research brief titled, The Possibility Report: From Prison to College Degrees in California. The brief will include descriptive demographics of California’s incarcerated and paroled populations, a landscape analysis of the policies that make college-going opportunities available for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students, and an inventory or programs offered by the state’s colleges and universities. Most importantly, the brief includes the voices of formerly incarcerated students from all three of California’s public higher education system segments—the University of California (UC), the California State University (CS), and the California Community Colleges—describing the barriers students encounter in pursuing a college degree. Finally, a series of recommendations for campuses and the state are presented to address the systemic barriers in California’s education system and create more opportunities for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students to improve their lives and California’s economic health.
 
I had the distinct honor of facilitating the three virtual regionally, racially, and gender diverse focus groups that informed our brief. With a healthy cross-section of students representing the California Community Colleges, UC, and CSU, we focused our time together on the following two questions: How do formerly incarcerated students experience their transition from incarceration to California’s public colleges and universities? What barriers and opportunities are formerly incarcerated students encountering in California’s public colleges and universities?
 
What we learned is that regardless of when or where a formerly incarcerated student attended college, common experiences emerged that present serious challenges to higher education persistence and success. The following five findings from our focus groups must be addressed by California’s higher education system and criminal justice system if the state is serious about breaking the school-to-prison pipeline and strengthening the state’s economic health by increasing degree attainment for hundreds of thousands of individuals:
 

  1. The parole and probation systems in California do not prioritize higher education and often prevent formerly incarcerated Californians from achieving their educational goals.
  2. Requirements to access housing leave formerly incarcerated Californians with unstable living situations, creating an environment inconducive to going to or staying in college.
  3. Formerly incarcerated students straddle two employment problems: Finding work and balancing the need to work with attending school.
  4. Targeted student support services are key to college retention but are inconsistent across campuses, and in some instances, the responsibility to create relevant support services falls on formerly incarcerated students themselves.
  5. Campus advisors lack the specific knowledge and understanding to properly advise students with criminal records on career opportunities.

When the report is released, I urge you to read what we learned from these brave students and take action, from wherever you stand, on the policy recommendations we put forward. Like all qualified students, currently and formerly incarcerated students deserve access and support to go to college, persist, and graduate.

If 2020 was a re-awakening from the historical legacy of racial injustice in the United States, 2021 needs to be a year of concrete action. This new year brings opportunities via budget allocations and policy recommendations that can improve the quality of life for currently and formerly incarcerated people, their families, and their communities in California.

“In 2016 when I started [college], I felt out of place, alone. Nobody wanted to sit next to me, I was the oldest one in the classroom. I was kind of out of place. So, I asked my teacher, this woman that literally changed my life. I asked her where the parolees at? And she goes, ‘I don’t know. Let me find out.’ We managed to find somebody that could get the parolees together. And I managed to start a club.”
– California Community College student

Danny Murillo
Danny Murillo
Author, The Possibility Report
Co-Founder, Underground Scholars
Former Program Analyst, Campaign for College Opportunity

Virtual Event: Voices of Freedom

Join us and the California Community College Rising Scholars Network for “Voices of Freedom” to hear from currently and formerly incarcerated students and their stories of resilience on their pathway to a college degree. Danny Murillo will also join to present the findings of this report.

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Community college leaders urge voters: vote YES on Prop 16

Pamela Haynes
Cassandra Jennings

The California Community Colleges Board of Governors voted recently to endorse Proposition 16 on the November ballot, doing so unanimously and with clear understanding of what it means to create more equitable opportunities for all people. This endorsement is a critical step toward achieving long-sought equity in higher education, especially for people of color.

But such clarity is not seen by all. In fact, there is a great deal of confusion – dare we say, denial – around exactly how the necessary passage of Prop. 16 would help correct years of inequitable practices and historic injustices this country was built around:

Didn’t we erase inequality in California when we banned consideration of race, sex and ethnicity in 1996? No. Will there be quotas in college admissions? No; quotas have been illegal since 1978. Will this ultimately help improve student outcomes and access to social and economic opportunities? A resounding yes.

In this era of social unrest due to racism and the outcry over the murder of George Floyd, many lessons continue to be learned, a primary one among them is we have a chance to get it right. We can start right here in California with measures that consciously promote programs, initiatives and policies that embrace community and inclusion.

Prop. 16 will repeal, Prop. 209, that began misfiring when it went into effect in 1996, making California one of only eight states in the U.S. that disallows consideration of race or gender in decisions on hiring or accepting students into public higher education institutions. We have backslid ever since, and equity in higher education has suffered greatly.

Within the community colleges system, which doesn’t have admissions restrictions, 73 percent of our 2.1 million student population are students of color, immigrants or both. Compared to their white counterparts, Black and Latinx students have low transfer and completion rates because the means to support them don’t exist in the way they should.

The reasons why we need to open paths to opportunity seem obvious. Blacks have below-average health outcomes directly due to a lack of equal opportunity; three percent of physicians in California are Black even though they comprise six percent of the population; expanding access through equal opportunity initiatives and investment will pave the way for young Blacks to potentially become physicians and researchers.

Prop. 209 put 30 years of affirmative action on ice in California in 1996, prohibiting consideration of race, sex and ethnicity in admission to public employment, public education and public contracting. The argument for that move was to eliminate such consideration in the interest of equality.

But, it didn’t work. Prop. 209 hindered equality by deterring higher education systems like the California Community Colleges, University of California and California State University from implementing race-conscious programs, such as those designed to ensure equitable access.

Prop. 16 would begin to correct and repair the damage done by perpetual discriminatory practices and policies. In higher education, Prop. 16 would have the effect of reinstating affirmative action to permit colleges and universities to implement race-conscious strategies to communities of color in terms of student recruitment, counseling, and other supports, as well as hiring of administrators and faculty.

The treatment of countless other people of color gives new urgency to this correction for California. Prop. 209 has actually reduced the percentages of underrepresented students admitted to public higher education institutions in our state, it is in direct conflict with our community college Vision for Success and efforts to close equity gaps.

Transfer and completion rates are startling. The fact is, UC and CSU students are our students at community colleges, too. If our students of color are provided with important race-conscious programs to encourage enrollment and transfer so they can complete a degree, their transition to a four-year institution will be smoother. Even though community colleges do not have admissions requirements and accept the top 100 percent of students, a holistic approach that includes race-conscious policies across all levels of the higher education journey is imperative.

It’s time to do so and it is right in line with the California Community Colleges recent Call to Action, urging system leaders, faculty, staff and students to join together to fight systemic racism within higher education. Such CCC programs, bolstered by the passage of Prop. 16, would include much-needed targeted recruitment and enhanced outreach to communities of color.

Another impact of Prop. 16 will be the increased hiring of faculty and leadership of color. It is empirically proven that decreasing racial and gender gaps among our instructors and administrators will improve student outcomes. Seeing yourself in those you are being guided by is vital and can be achieved with diversity, equity and inclusion.

Our social unrest demands we do things better. The economic uncertainty in these strange pandemic times has led us to where we are today. We need not be uncertain or confused at all about equity. Characteristics of our humanity, our race, gender, ethnicity and more make us who we are. Why would we not consider the whole person as we work toward an equitable coexistence in this land of opportunity?

by Pamela Haynes, Vice President of the California Community Colleges Board of Gorvenors,
and Cassandra Jennings, President and CEO of the Greater Sacramento Urban League and Co-Chair of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Black and African American Advisory Panel

An Open Letter to California Voters from California Students: Vote #YesonProp16

Dear California Voters,

The California Students Higher Education Advocacy Round Table (HEART) is a coalition of student-led organizations, associations and partners from across California dedicated to cultivating and empowering the next generation of student leaders by providing an ongoing venue for community college and university students to have statewide conversations and collaborate on key priorities in public higher education.

The California Students HEART coalition recognizes that our higher education system does not reflect the racial, ethnic or gender diversity of California in its student body, faculty, staff, and leadership, hurting our students and the state economy. This is largely due to California’s ban on affirmative action which prevents California’s prestigious colleges and institutions from considering race as a factor in contracting, hiring, and admissions.

As a coalition representing students from across the state’s public higher education segments, we are asking you to join us in voting Yes on Prop 16. It is time for young people to come together: the fight to dismantle systemic racism is on the ballot in California.

In California, we believe in giving everyone, regardless of race or gender, an equal shot at fair wages, good jobs, and quality schools. But the truth is we’re not yet living up to those values; systemic racism and sexism still hold too many young Californians back in hiring, employment, promotions, and educational opportunity.

As a result, students of color are underrepresented across all sectors of higher education in California. Although Californians between the ages of 18-24 are 47% Latinx, only 42% and 27% are enrolled in a California State University or University of California school. Black students are also heavily underrepresented in the California State University and University of California where only 9% and 3% of students are Black. Additionally, women in California earn less than 80 cents on every dollar compared to white men. For women of color and single moms, it’s far less. In states that allow affirmative action, women and people of color earn higher wages and are able to compete on equal footing for state contracts. But right now, California is one of only 9 states that bans affirmative action. That’s why businesses owned by people of color in California receive only 57% of the contract dollars that they would if opportunities were equal, and women receive only 29%.

We all do better when everyone has a fair chance to succeed. For too long, the wealthy and well-connected in California have controlled access to lucrative careers, top universities, promotions, state contracts, and other opportunities.

They keep picking people like themselves over well-qualified people from different backgrounds. Prop 16 is our generation’s chance to dismantle California’s inequitable systems.

We ask that you join us in voting #YesOnProp16, repealing the ban on affirmative action and leveling the playing field for young women and people of color to access our college institutions.

For more opportunities to get involved in the Yes on Prop 16 campaign, click here.

Sincerely,
The California Student Higher Education Advocacy Round Table (HEART)
Comprised of leadership from the three segments of California’s public higher education’s student associations


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In Memoriam: Dr Alma Salazar

In Loving Memory of Dr. Alma Salazar

Just over a week ago, Dr. Alma Salazar died after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

Alma was a trailblazer leading efforts to ensure the business community was engaged in supporting the DREAM Act for undocumented students and financial aid for all as an executive at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and UNITE-LA. We were lucky to have her wisdom on the California Community College Board of Governors, but I was especially fortunate to call her my friend.

Alma was a quiet but strong force, who carried herself with grace, seriousness and an incredible amount of wit that came in handy after a long day’s work. She directly impacted the lives of millions of California students – most of whom may not know her name, but who have access to financial aid and a quality higher education because she helped fight for it. She championed good public policy, but also knew that wasn’t enough, so she made sure that California students had access to one-on-one financial aid application support. Even as she did all of this important work, she never sought the limelight or any credit – even though she deserved tons of it.

Alma was my friend. We met as collaborators over 15 years ago united by our common passion to ensure access to higher education for our most vulnerable students. I was always grateful for the times our work intersected. We would work long hours together, rising frequently for 4am call times to promote financial aid and Cal Grant awareness, or lobby in Sacramento or Washington DC, and thankfully, often ending late into the night with a soul-filling Happy Hour and lots of good laughter.

She was an amazing advocate, a consummate professional, a beautiful friend, and a loving mother to Noah and partner to Eugene. My heart breaks for her family, but her memory is indeed our blessing, and her friendship was a gift. As Governor Newsom said, “We hold her partner Gene and son Noah in our hearts as we continue her legacy of expanding opportunity for all.”

If you would like to join me in contributing to Alma’s legacy by helping more students go to college, you can send a check to UNITE-LA with “Alma Salazar Scholarship” in the memo to 1055 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1750, Los Angeles, CA 90017.

To donate directly to her six-year-old son Noah’s Fidelity 529 college savings account, please click here. Please note, the Fidelity account only accepts e-check donations (requires bank/routing information), no debit/credit card accepted.

Thank you for gracing my life with your presence dear friend. You will never be forgotten.

Michele Siqueiros
Michele Siqueiros, President