Community college chief touts access for low-income students at D.C. summit

January 16, 2014

California Community College Chancellor Brice Harris pledged before the president, first lady and the nation on Thursday to press forward with policies aimed at opening the doors to college for more students, especially low-income students, and boosting their graduation and transfer rates to four-year colleges.


California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris

Harris attended the White House Summit on College Access for Low-Income and Disadvantaged Students at the invitation of President and Mrs. Obama. The event brought together more than 100 college and university presidents, advocates and business leaders to share ideas for improving college access and graduation for low-income and other underserved students.

He discussed the Student Success Initiative, which requires the state’s community colleges to take a more personal approach to helping students succeed by encouraging them to participate in orientation and to develop an education plan. As an incentive, those students will receive priority registration for classes.

It’s an honor “to tell the summit attendees how the California Community Colleges are leading the way in accountability, accessibility, assessment and remediation,” said Harris in a statement. “All of the hard work that has been done through our Student Success Initiative directly benefits low-income students, and helps them to complete their educational goals faster and at a lower cost. It’s a win-win for everyone and nice to be able to share our best practices with higher education leaders from around the country.”

Harris also described the Student Success Scorecard, an interactive online program launched last year that lets prospective students look up demographics, completion rates, the percentage of students who make it through remedial classes, and how many students complete career technical education programs.

A number of studies have found dismal success rates at California community colleges. According to the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy at Sacramento State University, 70 percent of students who said they planned to earn a degree, certificate or transfer to a four-year college had not reached their goal after six years. The numbers are even worse for Black and Latino students.

The White House released a 91-page report outlining commitments by public and private colleges across the country, including California State University and the University of California. CSU said it would allocate $8 million to hire more student advisers, another $8 million to expand a summer programs designed to get students ready for college-level work so they won’t need remedial classes, and $12 million to “ramp-up” practices that keep students engaged in college, such as student research, internships and study abroad programs.

Various UC campuses said they’d do more outreach to local middle and high schools to let low-income and first-generation college students know what they need to do to prepare for college. UC Merced is investing $460,000 specifically to provide more academic advising and other assistance for undocumented students. UC Davis announced that it would expand its program to help community college students “seamlessly” transfer to the university.

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