Bill aims to increase college readiness among state’s low-income students

April 12, 2016

State Senator Kevin de León's Senate Bill 1050 would provide grants to schools in low-income communities to improve the rate of college-ready students.

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High schools that increase access to college preparation courses to help more low-income students gain admission to the University of California and California State University could become eligible for additional state funds under a new state bill.

Senate Bill 1050, introduced by Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, would create block grants for high schools with high rates of low-income students to support increasing the number of AP courses and “A-G courses,” the sequence of 15 college preparation courses required by UC and CSU.

“Higher education is a passport for opportunity,” de Leon said Friday at a rally at San Gabriel High, where he discussed the bill, which was introduced in February. “Unfortunately, it’s out of reach for many Californians because the high schools they attend don’t offer all the necessary courses.”

The non-competitive grants would vary depending on the number of low-income students per campus. Aides to de León said the measure would set aside up to $200 million to pay for the one-time grants.

SB 1050 would also tie any funding increases for UC enrollment growth in the 2016-17 state budget to the system’s ability to admit more students from high schools with at least 75 percent low-income students, English learners and foster youth.

The 2015-16 state budget, approved last summer, provided an additional $25 million for UC as part of a deal to grow systemwide enrollment by 5,000. It’s not been determined yet if lawmakers will approve additional funds to further boost UC enrollment.

“This legislation will help ensure that regardless of what zip code students live in or what school they attend, they’ll have the same opportunity as everyone else to go to college,” said Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity.

Last year, the graduation rate at California’s public high schools was about 81 percent. But only about 42 percent of graduates completed all necessary coursework to qualify for admission into UC and CSU, according to state Department of Education figures.

Many advocacy groups, including the Campaign for College Opportunity and the Advancement Project, have pointed to data showing that high schools with more affluent student populations generally tend to have a wider range of advanced placement and other college preparation courses compared with schools with higher concentrations of low-income students.

“This legislation will help ensure that regardless of what zip code students live in or what school they attend, they’ll have the same opportunity as everyone else to go to college,” said Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity.

Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Michelle King, who participated in the San Gabriel High rally, said SB 1050 “will help make the dream of college possible for many of our youth. It will also ensure that once students meet these admissions requirements, there will be a spot for them at a UC campus.”

The senate’s Committee on Education is scheduled to hold a hearing on SB 1050 April 20. If approved by the Senate and Assembly, the bill could reach the governor’s desk late this summer.

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