Equity in College Placement

Landmark equitable placement reforms have supported thousands of Black and Latinx community college students to enroll and complete transfer-level courses, putting them on track to achieving their college dreams.

In 2017, groundbreaking legislation, Assembly Bill 705 (Irwin) passed, requiring California Community Colleges to utilize high school coursework to determine the placement of students instead of relying on inaccurate and inequitable placement tests, additionally restricting colleges from denying students access to transfer-level courses. This has forged a new era of opportunity for community college students across the state: research continuously indicates that direct enrollment in transfer-level coursework is maximizing student success and closing racial/ethnic equity gaps.

Prior to the passage of AB 705, 80% of incoming community college students were placed in a maze of remedial courses—courses that covered mainly high school-level material and had no transferable credits. This meant that students were losing valuable time and money, in turn cutting their likelihood of completing degree and transfer requirements nearly in half. Black and Latinx students were overrepresented in remedial courses, meaning that many Black and Latinx students were derailed from their goals of fulfilling transfer requirements and completing a degree.

“I remember thinking it would only take me two years to transfer. It took me seven. It made me feel like I hadn’t done enough in high school OR college, like I had done something wrong somewhere in the process. I even felt guilty for working and not being able to go to school full-time at times, but regardless, I was stuck in community college until I was able to take the math class required to transfer.”
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Neyda Umana
Former Student, East Los Angeles College and Rio Hondo College

Continuing the Promise of Equitable Placement

The passage of equitable placement policy, AB 705 (Irwin), has been a game changer for student success. Access to transfer-level English is now nearly universal, and math access has more than doubled for Latinx and Black students. Success rates in transfer-level math and English have likewise transformed, increasing dramatically for all students. Students see real benefits: less time to transfer or certificate/degree completion and savings of up to $20,000 by not having to spend additional time in remedial course sequences.

The Campaign, along with a committed coalition of advocates, continues to advance efforts strengthening equitable placement and completion policy. Our cosponsored legislation AB 1705 was passed in 2022 to close loopholes to truly ensure that all students are enrolled directly in transfer-level math/English. In 2022, the Governor & Legislature also doubled down on their commitment to students by investing $64 million to support colleges in implementation.

“I’m so grateful that I didn’t get trapped in remedial courses I didn’t need. I got an A in College Statistics, and now I am on my way to earning a degree... Every student deserves this kind of opportunity.”
Andres Salazar
Former Student, College of the Canyons

To continue better implementation of equitable course placement, campuses can: 

  1. Ensure that all students begin English and math coursework in transferable, college-level courses that position them to satisfy requirements for their degrees, programs, or majors. 
  2. Provide concurrent academic assistance (and other assistance) to support students’ progress toward their goals
  3. Prioritize race-conscious and equity-minded practices inside and outside of the classroom.

Recognizing Excellence in Placement

Since 2022, we recognize California Community College campuses removing remedial barriers for students, ensuring that their students directly enroll in and complete transfer-level English and math courses in our annual Excellence in Placement award ceremony. We additionally honor those campuses that are supporting their Black and Latinx students to enroll and succeed in transfer-level coursework.