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Equal Opportunity to College: The National Imperative

A voice for the voiceless. That’s immediately what comes to mind when I think of Michele’s legacy. She’s a fierce champion for underserved populations and has been committed to making college available to ALL Californians. Because of her persistence and perseverance over the last 20 years, she’s made it possible for thousands of students to go to college. And in the process, she’s transformed the Campaign for College Opportunity into a powerhouse in the higher education landscape in California.
Dr. Sonya Christian
Chancellor | California Community Colleges
“It takes a genuine leader to know when to pass the baton, and Michele Siqueiros is among the best. Michele has built from scratch one of the country’s most influential higher education advocacy organizations razor focused on racial equity. Her unapologetic advocacy throughout her 20 years with the Campaign has transformed thousands of students’ lives for a better California and America. I am eager for the Campaign’s and Michele’s next era of impact, and know that her legacy will resound for generations to come.”
Eloy Ortiz Oakley
President & CEO | College Futures Foundation
“What Michele Siqueiros has built at the Campaign for College Opportunity is extraordinary. Her impact on higher education — not just in California, but nationally — will resonate for decades to come. I was especially pleased to see that Michele received the prestigious Irvine Leadership Award this year. I had the opportunity to chair the selection committee for two years when this recognition first started while I served on The Irvine Foundation’s Board of Directors. It is a full circle moment to now see Michele’s 20 years of impact with the Campaign honored, and I cannot think of anyone more deserving.”
Peter J. Taylor
Former President | ECMC Foundation
“I commend Michele for making this monumental decision and celebrate her transformational role leading the Campaign for College Opportunity over the past 20 years. Michele will no doubt continue to be a trailblazing leader wherever she decides to focus her many talents, and I am confident that the Campaign will continue to champion victories for California students. Congratulations, Michele! You will be a change-driver wherever you go.”
Marlene Garcia
Executive Director | California Student Aid Commission
“When it comes to Michele Siqueiros, two words come to mind: LIVING LEGEND. She has been a gift to educational equity in California and the nation. The Campaign for College Opportunity – now celebrating 20 years of student-centered impact – is in great hands. I look forward to our continued partnership as we work towards a shared goal of improving student outcomes and ensuring that race, ethnicity, and income are not predictors of college success.”
Patrick Mevthin
Director of Postsecondary Success and Interim Director of Pathways | Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
“I join a large chorus of well-wishers in thanking Michele for her leadership of the Campaign for College Opportunity over the last twenty years. Under Michele’s leadership, the Campaign inspired significant policy changes that helped ALL California students obtain meaningful higher education access.”
Amy Costa
President | California Community Colleges Board of Governors
“I know that this decision could not have been made lightly and without a lot of thought by Michele. That is why I applaud her in this decision and congratulate her on so many accomplishments that have always been student centric. Michele Siqueiros has been an unwavering advocate for students, amplifying the voices of those unheard and those that need the most representation. In continued partnership with the Campaign for College Opportunity, I know our policy work and commitment to first-generation students, underserved students, undocumented students, and transfer students will ensure that higher education is equitable, affordable, and achievable.”
Kristen Soares
President | Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
“Michele’s legacy is undeniably a positive one for California students. Over the past 20 years, her leadership and The Campaign for College Opportunity’s work have been instrumental in making college access and success a priority for the state’s leadership and in securing important wins that help more students achieve their postsecondary dreams. Put simply, much of the state’s progress would not have been possible without Michele’s acumen and leadership and the state owes her a debt of gratitude.”
Dr. Christopher J. Nellum
Deputy Director of Research and Policy | Ed Trust–West
“Michele’s legacy cannot be overstated. She is an unflinching advocate for students of color in California and has influenced policy changes that will advance the trajectory of countless lives for generations to come. Her tireless work in California spreads across the nation, inspiring advocates. and learners from all walks of life. We are grateful for Michele’s longtime partnership with Lumina Foundation and look forward to continued excellence from the Campaign for College Opportunity under Jesse’s leadership.”
Dr. Michelle Asha Cooper
Vice President for Public Policy and Executive Director | Lumina Foundation
“Michele Siqueiros leaves behind an enduring mark on California’s higher education landscape. Her visionary leadership at the Campaign for College Opportunity has empowered countless students, making education more accessible and equitable. As a mother who admirably balanced her responsibilities, Michele inspired many women by showing that motherhood doesn’t define limits but rather fuels determination. Her unwavering commitment, even amidst legislative sessions, makes her a true force for students everywhere and a beacon for working mothers. While Michele will be missed dearly, wherever her journey takes her next, those fortunate to have her will undoubtedly benefit from her exceptional leadership.”
Maria Linares
Trustee Emerita '21-23 | California State University
“I am super excited that Jessie Ryan is being named the new president of the Campaign for College Opportunity. Jessie has spent nearly two decades driving the transformational equity-minded policy work that the Campaign is known for. There’s no one more qualified to boldly lead the organization into the future. Jessie has devoted her professional life to making sure Californians have access to higher education and are able follow their dreams. I look forward with anticipation to her leadership in this new chapter for the Campaign.”
Dr. Sonya Christian
Chancellor | California Community Colleges
“Congratulations to the Campaign for College Opportunity for appointing Jessie Ryan to lead this remarkable organization and continue the extraordinary work and leadership in California higher education. Though there are not many people who can follow in Michele’s footsteps, Jessie is one of them. She is an incredible leader who doesn’t cower in the face of adversity. I applaud the wisdom of the Campaign and Michele for prioritizing a smooth transition and pulling in a leader who has the vision, strength, and ability to take the organization to the next level.”
Marlene Garcia
Executive Director | California Student Aid Commission
“I am thrilled that Jessie Ryan will continue her work at the Campaign as the next President. Jessie’s personal story and commitment to higher education ground all of her work. I’m excited to see what Jessie brings for the next chapter of the Campaign’s work.”
Amy Costa
President | California Community Colleges Board of Governors
“Congratulations to Jessie Ryan on her selection as The Campaign for College Opportunity’s next President! As long standing partners in this work, I have no doubt our collaborative efforts will continue to support students under her leadership. I am excited to see what this next chapter brings for the Campaign with such a well-connected and dedicated leader at the helm.”
Dr. Christopher J. Nellum
Deputy Director of Research and Policy | Ed Trust–West
“Congratulations to Jessie Ryan on her well-deserved appointment as the next President of the Campaign for College Opportunity. Jessie’s ability to balance motherhood and work commitments, dedicating time to her family while passionately driving initiatives for student success, truly embodies her commitment to both her personal and professional endeavors. Her warmth and affirmation, evident when I met her in person, underscore her approachable nature and dedication to fostering collaboration. Jessie’s depth of knowledge, passion, and exceptional intelligence will undoubtedly propel the Campaign forward, ensuring continued innovation and inclusivity in higher education. I am confident that under her leadership, the Campaign will reach new heights, positively impacting the lives of California students.”
Maria Linares
Trustee Emerita '21-23 | California State University
“I cannot think of a more capable and passionate leader to take the reins of the Campaign than Jessie Ryan. Her policy expertise and tenacity will guide the Campaign into a new era of impact in California.”
Eloy Ortiz Oakley
President & CEO | College Futures Foundation

By banning race-conscious college admissions, the Supreme Court has outlawed a powerful lever that has been used to address the legacy of racial injustice and advance the inclusion and integration of Latinx, Black, Asian American, NHPI, and AIAN students in higher education. However, this ruling is not a cause for excuse: our institutions will not regress to the pre-Civil Rights Era of exclusion, which closed the doors to opportunity for countless Black, Latinx, Native, and Asian American students. There is no substitute for race-conscious admissions, and while we condemn the loss of this cornerstone to prosperity and the American Dream, we know that affirmative action is not a fix-all solution. That’s why federal, state, and college leaders must leverage every tool and policy that advances racial equity in higher education.

Learning from California

For over twenty-five years, California has had a ban on the use of race-conscious admissions at its public universities, which has seriously affected marginalized students and access to higher education. Since then, the state has developed paths for improving racial equity at our colleges and universities. The Campaign has been proud to lead and join efforts to challenge and end practices that have a disparate impact on Latinx, Black, Asian American, NHPI, and AIAN students. This includes championing historic reforms, such as:

The Campaign for College Opportunity is drawing on the California experience in partnership with national experts and scholars to uplift proactive, evidence-based solutions to address inequities in college preparation, admissions, placement practices, and transfer to ensure minoritized students have a real equitable opportunity to go to college and succeed, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Affirming Equity. Ensuring Inclusion. Empowering Action.

Affirming Equity, Ensuring Inclusion, Empowering Action is a national effort where we seek to promote evidence-based solutions via a series of papers and toolkits that advance more equitable strategies in college preparation, admissions, placement practices, transfer, and more, to ensure those who have been historically excluded and underserved by our colleges and universities have a real opportunity to go to college and succeed amid this court ruling.

This effort is being led by the Campaign for College Opportunity and informed by national experts and scholars who have been leaders and practitioners across the nation advancing equity-minded agendas that have contributed to ensuring underrepresented minoritized students have an equal opportunity to access and earn a college degree.

Make no mistake, race-conscious admissions has been a powerful tool to address the legacy of racism and segregation in higher education, but it was never a panacea. More must and can be done to make college and university admissions truly equitable in opportunity for all Americans, not just the privileged few. Our Affirming Equity, Ensuring Inclusion, Empowering Action briefs focus on what state, college, and university leaders CAN do to lead for students at this critical time.

Read the brief series

Affirming Equity. Ensuring Inclusion. Empowering Action.


“The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, But it Bends Toward Justice.”

Today’s fight for equal opportunity in higher education builds on the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. It was Black, Latinx, Asian American, NHPI and AIAN communities that risked their lives to end segregation in our schools, to protest unequal education funding and racism in our classrooms, and to push for the consideration of race as one of many factors in university admissions. We have all inherited a better America because of their work. Today, we carry their torch forward and refuse to go back to an era of exclusion.

We will continue the march toward justice and will be unapologetic about the economic, moral, and democratic imperative for equity in higher education. Join us!

Thank You to Our Expert Advisors

This effort is guided by the expertise of higher education leaders nationwide, who are together leading the charge to protect equal opportunity in college admissions.

Dominique J. Baker, Ph.D

Associate Professor of Education Policy and Leadership
SMU Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development

Estela M. Bensimon, Ph.D.

USC Center for Urban Education

Maria Blanco

Former Executive Director
UC Immigrant Legal Services Center

Genevieve Bonadies Torres

Associate Director for the Educational Opportunities Project
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Sally Chen

Education Equity Policy Manager
Chinese for Affirmative Action

Stella M. Flores, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Higher Education and Public Policy
University of Texas at Austin

Saul Geiser, Ph.D.

Senior Associate
UC Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education

Lisa Holder

Equal Justice Society

Sylvia Hurtado, Ph.D.

Professor of Education
UCLA School of Education and Information Studies

Christopher Nellum, Ph.D.

Executive Director
The Education Trust-West

Gary Orfield, Ph.D.

The Civil Rights Project at UCLA

Vincent Pan

Co-Executive Director
Chinese for Affirmative Action

Julie J. Park, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Education
University of Maryland, College Park

Jay Rosner

Executive Director
The Princeton Review Foundation

Thomas A. Saenz

President and General Counsel

Sbeydeh Viveros-Walton

Director of Higher Education
Public Advocates

J. Luke Wood, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor & Equity Driven Leader
San Diego State University

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