Resources and Next Steps for Supporting College Opportunity and Success Through the COVID-19 Crisis

There is no playbook for how to best respond to a global pandemic, but the extraordinary efforts of our public college and university leaders as they work nonstop to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe while learning continues has been exemplary. We are incredibly grateful to them!

At the federal level, we have joined over 50 organizations across the nation tourge Congress to support students in response to campus closures and restrictions. The Senate has since passed a bill that includes an “Education Stabilization Fund” for states, K-12 districts, colleges, and universities. It is expected to be signed by the President within the next few days.But the work continues, and we will continue to advocate for funding, financial aid, and other resources to ensure that students in California and across the nation can attend and succeed in college.

As one of the state’s leading racial equity advocates in higher education, we want to ensure vulnerable students do not fall off their college pathways as this crisis evolves. That is why we support policy and campus efforts that target support for vulnerable students. We urge policymakers and college leaders to: Read more

Ending Reliance on Standardized Tests to Accelerate Equity in UC Admissions

Dear Chair Perez, Vice Chair Estolano, and President Napolitano:

The undersigned educational equity, civil rights organizations, and K-12 organizations and leaders urge you to take the historic and bold step to eliminate the University of California’s (UC) reliance on standardized tests in eligibility and admission decisions. This change would further align UC practices with its mission of enrolling students that reflect the diversity of the state.

For decades, eligibility and admissions policies requiring standardized tests have given affluent, overrepresented students preferential treatment in college access. The use of standardized tests in current admissions policies yield more wealthy and white freshman cohorts. While those privileged students fill the coveted, at-capacity seats across the UC campuses, highly capable, low-income, Black, Latinx, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander (AANAPI), and other historically underserved and underrepresented students are too often denied access to our state’s premier research institutions.

We applaud President Janet Napolitano for her charge to the Task Force to examine whether the UC and its students are best served by the current use of standardized testing in admission decisions. Read more


Higher Learning Advocates & Fifty Partner Organizations Urge Congress to Support Today’s Students

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader McConnell, and Leader Schumer:

As new cases of COVID-19 exposure and infection arise every day, many of the nation’s institutions of higher education are suspending or moving classes online to do what’s best for the public health and to flatten the curve of the virus’s spread. However, these sudden campus closures—whether they are fully closing a campus or moving all classes to virtual and restricting campus access to respond to the real health issues we are facing—are having a secondary negative impact on many of today’s students. Reports of vulnerable students who may be reliant on their campus for more than just a place to attend lectures are highlighting just how critical access to a dining hall, food pantry, or other accessible food sources; work-study wages; or reliably safe and stable campus housing can be. Read more

For updates, visit Higher Learning Advocate’s Website

Statement on UC Task Force Report on Standardized Testing

Stark disparities in eligibility and admissions to the University of California (UC) by race, ethnicity and income are indefensible, yet unfortunately the UC’s Standardized Testing Task Force came to the defense of well-known race and class stratifiers: the ACT and SAT.

If the UC cannot use race/ethnicity to close persistent gaps in university access, then it should not be allowed to use standardized tests known to exacerbate inequality by race/ethnicity and wealth. Today, nearly 60% of California high school graduates are Latinx, Black or Native American. However, Latinx, Black and Native American students only make up one-third of admitted freshmen to the UC.

For more than a year, the Task Force has been evaluating the UC’s use of standardized tests in admissions and they conclude that the UC should continue to use the tests until a better assessment tool can be devised in nine years.

A careful read of the report makes it clear that there are competing arguments in favor of and in opposition to eliminating standardized testing in admissions. For example, the Task Force recognizes adverse effects of standardized testing, stating, “If group score differences reflect historic injustices, then continuing to use them continues to perpetuate the effects of these prior injustices.” The report then goes on to justify continued use because “UC’s admissions process helped make up for the potential adverse effect of differences between groups.” Read more

California State University Trustees Delay Raising Admissions Requirements After Advocates Rally

Proposal threatening to widen racial equity gaps in admission to the CSU tabled until study proves change is needed and will not create disparate impact.

The Campaign for College Opportunity, alongside the Education Trust—West, mobilized a broad coalition of over 100 civil rights, labor, education, and student advocates to oppose a harmful proposal to raise requirements for admission to the California State University (CSU). Today, after nearly a year of pressure from the coalition, the CSU Board of Trustees vote to delay the proposal until after an impact study is completed.

At the CSU Board of Trustees meeting today, advocates applauded the trustees for taking the necessary pause for an independent analysis, they continue to urge the trustees to ensure the analysis includes:
1. Evidence of the necessity of the policy and reviews of alternative opportunities for raising graduation rates
2. How the policy would impact eligibility, applications, and admission by race/ethnicity, income, and region
3. The capacity of K-12 districts to implement the policy and the costs of implementation

While the Trustees are to be commended, the Campaign for College Opportunity and other advocates will continue to push to ensure any change to admissions does not increase gaps in opportunity for Black, Latinx, Native American and low-income students who attend under-resourced schools.

“The schools that have the fewest number of qualified teachers are also in the schools that have the highest percentage of racially segregated students, and the students who have the highest level of poverty – there are more than 24 school districts in our state who have the highest level of poverty, highest level of racial segregation, and highest percentage of non-credentialed teachers teaching our students,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond during the meeting. Read more

Statement in Support of March 3rd Ballot Proposition: Public Preschool, K-12, and College Health & Safety Bond of 2020

Proposition 13 is a critical measure that directs funding generated by a new bond to schools, colleges, and universities.

Proposition 13 would allocate $2 billion each to the UC, CSU and California Community Colleges to support their facility needs, as well as $9 billion towards K-12 schools. Each dollar that higher education systems spend from their general operating budgets for facility needs means one less dollar to support increasing enrollment, investing in financial aid for low-income students, or expanding services to help students successfully graduate.

Our state’s colleges and universities have reported significant financial need for the maintenance of their facilities. At the University of California (UC), deferred maintenance needs have compounded into a backlog estimated to cost $3.2 – $5 billion, with another $3.7 billion estimated from the California State University (CSU); across the community colleges deferred maintenance costs reach $200 million annually.

Proposition 13 would also ensure that public universities take more proactive steps in creating more affordable housing for students. The measure requires the UC and CSU to develop five-year affordable student housing plans for each of their campuses. Read more

Statement by The Campaign for College Opportunity and The Education Trust–West on CSU Resolution on Admissions Requirements: Quantitative Reasoning

We applaud the California State University (CSU) Chancellor, the Chancellor’s Office staff, the CSU Trustees, the Legislature, and advocates who have all worked together to ensure the process of considering a change in eligibility requirements yields an outcome that preserves equal opportunity to access and success at the CSU.

The CSU Chancellor’s Office has put before the CSU Trustees a resolution that acknowledges and addresses key concerns about the necessity of an eligibility change, future access and disparate impact raised for the better part of a year by over 100 civil rights and education advocates, the California Teachers Association and School Districts, School Boards, and Administrators across the state.

The resolution CSU Trustees will be asked to vote on at the January 28-29 meeting in Long Beach calls for an independent analysis to assess implementation impact, as well as the creation of an implementation steering committee that can help guide the Chancellor’s Office and Trustees as they navigate the next steps of this proposal.

A final vote on changing eligibility requirements will be set for 2022, assuming the independent analysis and steering committee recommend the change moves forward. Read more

Governor Newsom Keeps Commitments to Higher Education in 2nd Budget Proposal

Governor proposes $110 million increase over last year’s budget with historic focus on closing racial equity gaps in college access, success and faculty representation.

(Los Angeles, CA) — Governor Gavin Newsom proposed $36 billion in his second budget for higher education citing the critical role a degree plays for individual economic mobility and in keeping California’s workforce strong. A first amongst governors of the state, Governor Newsom spoke about the need to intentionally address racial disparities in college access, success and affordability and his expectation that budget investments be used to do so.

The Governor’s budget sets an expectation that the California Community Colleges, California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) systems expand access, improve time-to-degree, improve graduation rates, close achievement gaps and meet the needs of students in key underserved regions of the state.

In addition to proposing $32 million for enrollment growth at California Community Colleges, the Governor proposed $15 million for a pilot fellowship program to improve faculty diversity; a program, that when implemented, should have immediate effects on recruitment, hiring, classroom instruction and professional development that results in significantly more faculty that are Black, Latinx, Asian and Native American. In his press conference, the Governor acknowledged the growing racial diversity of our campus student bodies and the importance of students having faculty that look like them as a key student success strategy.

The budget includes a five-percent increase in on-going General Fund support to the UC ($217.7 million) and CSU ($199 million) to support operations, enrollment growth and improving graduation rates. The Governor was explicit about his desire to see the systems grow the number of seats at the most impacted and in-demand campuses while improving degree completion for underrepresented groups. Read more

Statement on the retirement of California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White

(Los Angeles, CA) — The Campaign for College Opportunity wishes to thank Chancellor White for his years of dedicated service to the California State University (CSU) system. Appointed in 2012, Chancellor White has led significant efforts to increase state funding, improve graduation rates for students, and bring greater gender-balance to presidential posts across the 23 campuses.

Chancellor White took the helm of the CSU when state funding had declined by nearly $1 billion. Since then, Chancellor White has led successful campaigns in the State Capitol calling for reinvestment in the CSU. His efforts have led to a state general fund allocation increase of $3.6 billion. Those additional resources have been allocated to expanding capacity to serve more students and toward the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025.

On August 2, 2017, Chancellor White issued Executive Order 1110, which retired the use of assessment exams for English and math placement and eliminated the use of stand-alone remedial education courses. All incoming CSU students are now placed directly into credit-bearing, college-level math and English courses with additional student supports. The policy acknowledges students are ready for college and that it is our colleges and universities themselves that must do a better job of supporting students. The policy is already seeing tremendous success; between 2017-18 there was an eight-fold increase in students who completed a college-level lower division math course in their first year.

Chancellor White has also been an ardent champion of gender equity. Today, twelve of the 23 CSU campus presidents are women; eleven of whom have been appointed during Chancellor White’s tenure. Under White’s leadership, CSU has had the largest number of women presidents in CSU history and is nearly double the national average.

Chancellor White has had a remarkable career serving students as professor, dean, provost, campus Chancellor and systemwide Chancellor and we wish him the best in retirement.

We now look to the CSU Board of Trustees to be diligent and transparent as they select a successor that reflects and understands the diversity of today’s California students and the unique space the CSU occupies in serving first-generation, low-income, racially diverse students. Read more

New Law is Catalyzing Big Changes at California Community Colleges

Colleges in Los Angeles, Inland Empire and Central Valley take key steps to tackle long-standing problems with remedial education, but progress is uneven.

(Los Angeles, CA) – – The Campaign for College Opportunity released a regional progress report, “Getting There: Are California Colleges Maximizing Student Completion of Transfer-Level Math and English?” that looks at how well California’s community colleges are implementing AB 705, a new law intended to reform remedial education.

Beginning this fall, California’s community colleges are required, under AB 705, to utilize a student’s high school grades for English and math course placement. The law also prohibits colleges from denying students access to transfer-level courses and gives students the right to begin in courses where they have the best chance of completing the English and math requirements for a bachelor’s degree. Until now, colleges largely relied on ineffective standardized tests that placed more than 75% of incoming students into lengthy remedial math and/or English sequences where few ever reached transfer-level courses or achieved their college goals.

The progress report, conducted by the California Acceleration Project, looks at course schedules from 47 colleges in Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, and the Central Valley and finds that AB 705 has catalyzed tremendous changes in community college course offerings. Between 2018 and 2019, colleges have doubled the proportion of transfer-level courses they are offering; transfer-level classes have increased from 45 percent to 88 percent in English and from 33 percent to 71 percent in math. Read More