News & Commentary, Spotlights

Grantee Perspectives: What Will 2020 Bring For Student Success?

In the new year—and the new decade—College Futures looks forward to working with our grantees and partners to ensure that all California students have the opportunity to succeed in college and beyond. As we look ahead to 2020, we asked some of our partners for their perspectives on the most critical challenges to address as well what developments inspire them, both for their work, and for the state as a whole. Here are their thoughts.

Dr. Carlos Cuauhtémoc Ayala, CEO, Growing Inland Achievement

Our vision for California’s education system in 2020 and beyond is having an efficient, modern, and economic system where students can achieve their educational and life aspirations independent of the color of their skin and the educational and income level of their parents.

The top concerns for this year must be about completion and alignment. This year California Community Colleges, CSU, and UC must continue to make progress on their respective timely graduation initiatives. There must be bold action on campuses to free up spaces, reduce financial burden for students, and make sure they complete their certificates or degrees. This is especially true for underrepresented students like those found in the Inland Empire, where 24.5% of the adults have some college and no degree. Second, this year we must educate decision makers about the troubling income inequality gap associated with college degrees. According to a senior economist with the Federal Reserve bank who presented to the California Future of Work Commission, whites with graduate degrees make almost twice as much as Blacks or Hispanics with graduate degrees. If we believe that education transforms individuals economically, we must recognize and get at the root of this troubling finding.

While the challenges facing us are formidable, there are great opportunities in 2020, including the hiring of new leadership at the CSU and UC, the launch of a statewide integrated data system, and the Governor’s Regions Rise Together initiative to promote economic mobility in Inland California. There is a lot to be excited about and a lot of work to do.

Debbie Cochrane, Executive Vice President, The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS)

Today’s college students face not only increasingly high costs and the realities of student debt, but also have demanding lives outside of school. Many are parents themselves, and many support their own parents. Many are juggling one or more jobs, with shifting schedules, to keep on top of the bills. Yet the state’s financial aid systems and structures have not evolved along with students’ realities. Addressing equity gaps in college attainment demands that we better address students’ financial needs. College coursework should be the hardest part of being a college student, not meeting basic needs and staying afloat financially.

After decades of higher education policy debate dominated by colleges and universities, I am excited that the voices and experiences of students—as communicated by students—have been increasingly prominent and valued in recent years. So many purport to represent and advocate for students, but understanding their needs requires we truly understand their goals and challenges. From college enrollment, to affordability, to graduation and beyond, stronger policy results when student voices are uplifted.

Katie Hern, Co-Founder, California Acceleration Project

For the California community college system, the most critical challenge of 2020 will be ensuring strong statewide implementation of AB 705. The law, which went into full effect in fall 2019, gives students the right to bypass traditional remedial courses and begin in classes where they have the best chance of completing the English and math required for transfer. While some colleges have powerfully implemented AB 705 and are now offering just less than 10% of their introductory classes at the remedial (non-transferable) level, many colleges are continuing to hang onto traditional remedial structures, despite overwhelming evidence that these classes make students less likely to reach their goals. This is especially true in math. Weak implementation of AB 705 will depress the completion and equity gains California will see under the law and erode the system’s ability to reach the important, student-centered goals of the Vision for Success.

As we start a new decade, I feel hopeful because the state’s community college system—under the leadership of Chancellor Oakley and his team—is pushing hard to address critical, long-ignored student issues, such as remediation, food and housing insecurity, and the need for financial aid reform.

Dr. Su Jin Gatlin Jez, Executive Director, California Competes

California’s postsecondary system must be more responsive to workforce needs to better support the state’s robust economy. To do so, cross-sector collaboration between institutions and employers must emerge as a top priority. Many students—and especially those from underserved racial and ethnic groups—don’t have the luxury of using higher education primarily for the pursuit of personal growth or cultural enrichment. Higher education should launch students into better-paying jobs and help alleviate disparities in access to opportunity. Institutions must also adapt to the reality that most students are already in the workforce and have a host of responsibilities to juggle as they complete their postsecondary education. It’s time to not only recognize but also embrace that today’s typical student is not a traditional student.

The need for postsecondary success in California has never been stronger. Our leaders face a critical juncture in 21st-century higher education policymaking. We’re enthused that policymakers have begun to recognize California’s stark imbalance of wealth and opportunity is threatening the longevity of our robust economy. California leaders have shown a commitment to improving higher education in recent years by devoting new attention to building student success. My colleagues at California Competes and I are eager to help advance meaningful change that will restore thriving communities across our diverse state.

Marian Kaanon, President and CEO, Stanislaus Community Foundation

The coming year—and the new decade—will mark an expansion of Stanislaus Community Foundation’s leadership efforts around student success and economic mobility. Every child in Stanislaus County should have a plan, a path, and a purpose. That’s the goal of the Stanislaus Cradle to Career Partnership. We will publish the Partnership’s first-ever baseline report in early 2020, followed by the Cradle to Career Summit in March. We’ll also debut a Cradle to Career Partnership Promise, which will seek pledges from local leaders to commit to the success of ALL students in our community. Each of the collaborative Action Teams focused on the five critical gateways of a child and young adult’s life will move to actionable work in 2020, and we’ll be tracking our progress towards population-level outcomes.

We’re also inspired by the statewide Regions Rise Together initiative. This initiative catalyzes regional inclusive economic development plans in partnership with the California Governor’s Office of Business & Economic Development and California Forward. Regions Rise Together has focused specifically on the Inland Region of California. Increasingly, Stanislaus Community Foundation is exploring the necessary conditions to drive economic opportunity in our community. We’re working with Locus Impact Investing on a resident-engaged workplan that we’ll debut in mid-2020.

At the dawn of a new decade, Stanislaus Community Foundation is increasingly clear on what it will take to lift our community. It’s going to be a heavy lift, that will require all of us. Our work is deeply relational, data-driven and outcomes-focused. But our leadership initiatives are also embedded with something timeless and universal: a deep, abiding love for our community. We look forward to working alongside our local, regional, and statewide partners in the decade ahead.

Michele Siqueiros, President, The Campaign for College Opportunity

California’s workforce demands more prepared and skilled labor—put simply we need more college-educated workers and that cannot happen without our attention to ending racial/ethnic inequality in college preparation, access and success in college. To meet this challenge our state leaders should set clear goals to increase college attainment for a growing number of Californians and must invest in funding our public colleges and universities while providing strong student financial aid. Voters must approve Prop 13 in March to ensure $15 billion in additional funding for K–12 and higher education facilities. And college leaders and faculty must keep students at the center of every decision they make and courageously tackle how to close racial equity gaps in student outcomes.

In 2020 we will see if the the University of California considers dropping the use of the SAT/ACT in order to finally recognize the failure of the test to do more than predict a student’s wealth and exacerbate racial inequality in California higher education.

I am inspired by the talented, smart, and courageous student leaders and education advocates whose advocacy is paving the way for future generations. I am hopeful that there is growing understanding that California can and should lead the nation in college access and success, especially for Latinx, Black, Asian, first-generation and low-income students whose college graduation will change the course of history for their families, their communities, and our state forever.

I am excited about Governor Newsom and the legislatures investments in higher education and student financial aid.  Their interest in searching for solutions to strengthen college affordability is promising and their work to establish a statewide student data system and the creation of a Council for Post-Secondary Education are critical.

I am optimistic that a new CSU Chancellor and UC President will inherit the best and most inclusive public universities in the world. I am confident that these leaders will recognize that the future of our state depends on their courage to put students first and change practices on campuses to better support students and close racial/ethnic gaps—regardless of the resistance they will face from those who simply don’t believe in the talent of all students.

Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga, Executive Director, The Education Trust–West

California’s students, regardless of background, deserve the right to a future they envision for themselves, their families, and their communities. For these futures to take form, ensuring equitable education opportunities for all students is critical. College affordability is one of the largest barriers to higher education. Access to financial aid is critical for low-income students and students of color who wish to pursue a college education. More can be done to ensure schools and districts have the resources to better support families and students with accessing and completing financial aid applications. Education Trust–West’s Allin4FinancialAid campaign aims to address barriers to college affordability by uplifting best practices and pursuing policy solutions at the local level.

As Ed Trust–West enters our 20th anniversary year, we’re affirming our commitment to advocating for students of color and low-income students in California. After years of advocating for Data4ThePeople in partnership with fellow advocates and community leaders, we’ve seen important advancements towards educational justice, including Governor Newsom’s investment in the development of a Cradle-to-Career data system. As 2020 unfolds, we are encouraged to see equitable considerations and steps to build a clear and accessible data system that ensures education and workforce opportunities work for students and their communities.