Our History


The beginning of Change

• Campaign co-founders David Wolf and Steve Weiner embark on a statewide college leader listening tour to assess the state of higher education in California and publish Keeping the Promise, a summary document of their findings.
• Cross sector organizations come together to found the Campaign for College Opportunity – California Business Roundtable, Community College League of California, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

2003 CCO Official Incorporation


The Campaign for College Opportunity is officially created

• In November 2003, the Campaign is officially incorporated and funded by the Hewlett Foundation, the Irvine Foundation, and the Packard Foundation.


The work begins

  • The Campaign hires its first Executive Director and Associate Director.
  • Offices open in Oakland and Los Angeles.
  • Founding Board sets out a policy agenda focused on:
    • Expanding college access – focusing on meeting capacity as budget cuts were very much limiting the amount of students served
    • Efficiency and innovation – focusing on what colleges could do to help serve more students and get them to complete
    • Tuition policy – recommending a set tuition and fee policy that would provide both families and colleges with a predictable and stable expectation of costs and revenue.
CCO founding board members
2005 Listen Up Cover


Laying the groundwork

• The Campaign launches a statewide listening tour visiting 66 cities to discuss the challenges facing higher education and the policy ideas listed above and publishes Listen Up¸ a summary of the main findings.
• During a youth engagement tour, the idea arises for a Save Me a Spot in College Scholarship Contest (SPOT) and the College Access Foundation agrees to seed the contest with a $50K.


The Campaign moving at full speed

• Save Me a Spot in College Scholarship Contest launched with 8,000 entries received. Through SPOT the Campaign identifies regional coalition partners.
• The first research publication is released assessing the value of a college education, Return on Investment.
• The College Opportunity Plan omnibus bill is presented to the legislature.
Keeping CA’s Edge, a workforce study, is released.

2006 Spot Students at Capitol
2007 Closing the Health Workforce Gap


Continuing steadily

Closing the Health Workforce Gap is released shedding light on the crisis facing the healthcare industry.
• AB 668 (Portantino) introduced and passed– ensures that California Community College Students have the opportunity to apply for financial aid, particularly the federal Pell Grant, the Board of Governors Fee Waiver and the CalGrant.
• Know How to Go College Knowledge events launched to raise attention on helping families and students understand their options for preparing, attending and getting aid for college. This was an initiative of the Lumina Foundation and began to set the stage for Early Commitment to College work in 2008.


An independent voice for students

• Major game changing research by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy (IHELP), The Grades Are In, puts a focus on California’s declining performance in higher education compared to the nation.
• Michele Siqueiros is promoted to Executive Director.
• Office opens in Sacramento to solidify constant presence in the legislature and truly deepen policy work.
• Early Commitment to College (Scott) bill is passed to assure students who sign a pledge to work hard, stay in school, and take the steps they need to make it to college, have a spot in college and financial aid available when they get there.

2008 Early Commitment to College
2009 Budget Advocacy 2


The Great Recession

• New policy priorities established that focus on student success is critical.
• The Campaign releases its first budget statement calling on the Governor to prioritize limited resources to minimize the impact of deep budget cuts to access, prioritize student outcomes, and hold colleges accountable for putting students first.
• Campaign sponsors AB 440 (Beall) in first attempt to reform broken community college to California State University transfer process.
• Release of Technical Difficulties: Meeting California’s Needs in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) Fields, report commissioned by the Campaign from the Sacramento State Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy (IHELP) and co-released with the Bay Area Council to assess STEM needs in California.


A major victory & momentum

• SB 1440 (Padilla) historic transfer reform package legislation passed simplifying the process for community college students to enter the California State University system with guaranteed admission, junior standing, and an Associate Degree for Transfer.
Divided We Fail commissioned by The Campaign from The Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy (IHELP) at Sacramento State University and released with 15 partnering organizations, highlighting the incredibly low rates of completion for community college students by race.
• 1 Million More Campaign to raise awareness of the state’s looming workforce shortage launched.

2012 SB 1456 passed


From access only to success

Divided We Fail: 13 regional profiles are released as well as a Gender Profile. 9 regional roundtables to discuss the findings are held with over 250 leaders. 42 organizations sign up to call for increased accountability for institutional performance.
• Early Commitment to College in Los Angeles: Los Angeles Unified School District launches Early Commitment to College in 65 schools with the goal of having all incoming 8th graders sign the Save Me a Spot in College pledge.
• Calling all Experts: The Campaign solicits proposals from six distinguished higher education experts on possibilities for community college finance reform in California. The Campaign hosts a Capitol briefing and presents to the Student Success Task Force to share the findings of the proposals and ways the state could improve community college access and completion through changes in the finance structure.


Student Success Front & Center

• Campaign works to support the passage of SB 1456 (Lowenthal), The Student Success Act of 2012. The bill is signed into law by Governor Brown enacting some key recommendations of the Student Success Task Force.
California’s Economic Payoff  is released. The report documents the economic return to the state of California for every $1 it invests in public higher education
Missing the Mark analysis of transfer reform implementation efforts is released drawing attention to uneven progress across the state.
• The Campaign begins to deepen its attention on college affordability issues given the rise in college costs and student debt.

2012 Student Stories
2013 The State of Higher Ed in CA


Groundbreaking research informs action

The State of Higher Education in California series begins with the Latino, Black, and Gender Addendum reports.
Working Hard, Left Behind research report sheds light on California’s working poor families and the opportunities, or lack thereof, that exist in the state to help move them out of poverty through higher education.
• SB 440 (Padilla), follow-up legislation to strengthen transfer reform is passed setting deadlines for compliance.


10 years of increasing college graduates to strengthen California

• Campaign sponsors SB 1425 (Block) Degree Audit and Retroactive Awarding of Degrees to ensure students who earn an associate degree actually receive it. STATUS: Assembly Higher Education Committee
The Real Cost of College: Time and Credits to Degree in California is released bringing to light the importance of time in the college affordability crisis.
• The Campaign embarks on a 14 City Listening Tour across the state to receive input from stakeholders on a new higher education plan for the state.
Borrowing for College report is released, provides an overview of student loan debt in California.
Average Won’t Do, New Vision, and State Policy Leadership reports (conducted by IHELP) released, provides a landscape of the state of higher education in California, sets goals and outlines priorities for a public agenda, and identifies leadership tools to facilitate implementation.
• First national briefing in D.C. to educate California Congress members on the State of Higher Education in California.