Photo: CSU, UC, CCC, CDE
These education leaders are among those who will serve on new advisory panel. CSU's Timothy White (left), UC's Janet Napolitano, California Community Colleges' Eloy Ortiz Oakley, and Tony Thurmond, state supt. of public instruction.

The first order of business for a new higher education advisory board appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom will be to look at ways to improve the low college graduation rates in the Central Valley and the Inland Empire and counter the effects of poverty and geographic isolation there, officials say.

The “Council for Post-Secondary Education,” which includes the state’s top education leaders as well as representatives of business and labor, will meet for the first time on Monday in Sacramento. It is supposed to get the state’s various public and private education systems out of what Newsom called their separate “silos” and to cooperate on issues of college access, success and costs. 

But even before its first gathering, the panel is triggering anticipation that it might one day grow into or be replaced by a formal state-wide coordinating council for higher education with more authority and resources. During his election campaign last year, Newsom said he would support such a coordinating board.

The Legislature is considering establishing a coordinating panel to research higher education issues and issue public reports. That proposed council would be a public body with a budget and staff, unlike Newsom’s advisory board which will hold only closed-door discussions and has no staff.

The new advisory panel will allow education officials “to start to have some conversation about what they and their systems can do across those lines, rather than just within their own circles,” according to Lande Ajose, the governor’s senior policy adviser for higher education. A council member, she will run the meetings if Newsom cannot attend.

The council plans to meet four to six times a year. Its appointed members include: UC President Janet Napolitano; California State University Chancellor Timothy White; California Community College System Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley; Kristen Soares, president, Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities; Tony Thurmond, California state superintendent of public instruction; and Linda Darling-Hammond, president, California State Board of Education.

Other appointments to the council are meant to connect education to the economy, the workplace and state finances. They are: Allan Zaremberg, California Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer; Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation; Lenny Mendonca, Newsom’s chief economic and business advisor; and Keely Bosler, director, California Department of Finance.

Among the advisory council’s first goals is to find “new innovative ideas for possibly increasing higher education completion” in the Central and San Joaquin Valley regions and the Inland Empire, which includes the counties of Riverside and San Bernardino, east of Los Angeles. These areas have some of the lowest educational achievement rates in the state, Ajose said. To counter that, advocates want to get more high school students prepared for college and then ensure they have enough admissions counseling, financial aid and colleges that have room for them.

Recent research showed, for example, that high school graduates in those areas significantly lag the rest of the state in taking the high school courses that could make the students eligible for public university entrance.

One topic for the council will be the possible sharing of facilities among the education systems, Ajose said. Perhaps some university-level courses or programs can be offered at more conveniently located community colleges, making it easier for people to juggle school, family and jobs, some experts suggest.

The panel does not have a budget and will not have authority over campuses and budgets. (The council will receive borrowed staff time from the College Futures Foundation, an Oakland-based nonprofit, to help organize its meetings.) Nor will it conduct its own research and issue reports as the now-defunct California Postsecondary Education Commission did. Then Gov. Jerry Brown killed that agency in 2011, saying it was ineffective.

Current legislation, AB 130, would revive a form of such an agency and empower it to “publish an independent annual report on the condition of higher education in California” and become a clearinghouse for postsecondary education information. The bill passed the Assembly and is awaiting action by the Senate.

Ajose said the new advisory group would not preclude the establishment of such a coordinating council. But she said their functions would be different. There “are no plans to take this and turn this into the coordinating board.”

Some higher education experts said they welcomed Newsom naming an advisory board for higher education, but they hoped it grows into a more powerful agency with its own staff and statewide planning mandate.

Andrea Venezia, executive director of EdInsights, an education research center at California State University at Sacramento, said she thought it was a “great idea” to start such a council spanning the state’s education segments. However, she said she hopes that this does not substitute for or stall the creation of a real coordinating entity that studies issues of enrollment capacity and costs and has some power over “the enormous issues facing us in higher education in California.”

The new board “is a step in the right direction,” said William Tierney, higher education professor at the University of Southern California and founding director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education, which researches student access and success. But he added that such a statewide advisory group should develop a detailed strategic plan for higher education and be provided a staff to conduct research. Otherwise, “a board is just window dressing where members get together for lunch and they don’t accomplish very much,” he said.

The advisory nature of the new board allows its meetings to be closed to the public and any minutes to be kept confidential under state public meeting rules, officials said.

In the upcoming discussion about the inland regions of the state, the panel is expected to steer clear of expensive building projects even though some advocates say more campus buildings or more campuses are needed. Instead, it is expected to first look for more cost-effective ideas such as sharing classroom buildings.

The advisory board is not expected to participate in a $4 million study recently funded by the legislature to consider the possible addition of two new CSU campuses, looking at Stockton, Concord, Chula Vista, Palm Desert and San Mateo County. CSU already has 23 campuses.

When he named the group, Newsom made clear that he wanted the state’s education leaders to talk with each other.

“The university and community college systems in the state operate in silos,” said Newsom in a statement. “To develop best practices and help our students reach their full potential, we need to work together across institutions. I look forward to working with our state’s higher education leaders to set bold statewide goals and partnering together to achieve them.”

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  1. Jeffrey Stopple 3 months ago3 months ago

    The article is clear on the issue: "Recent research showed, for example, that high school graduates in those areas significantly lag the rest of the state in taking the high school courses that could make the students eligible for public university entrance." "The university and community college systems in the state operate in silos,” said Newsom in a statement." This is simply false. UC, CSU and the community colleges are better coordinated than any … Read More

    The article is clear on the issue: “Recent research showed, for example, that high school graduates in those areas significantly lag the rest of the state in taking the high school courses that could make the students eligible for public university entrance.”

    “The university and community college systems in the state operate in silos,” said Newsom in a statement.” This is simply false. UC, CSU and the community colleges are better coordinated than any comparable system. Look at assist.org Google ‘UC Transfer Pathways’

  2. el 3 months ago3 months ago

    I know that some schools have more success than others with this, and I know that there have been some specific logistical initiatives around this, like encouraging freshmen to live on campus, incentives around specific classes, various support services, and efforts to deal with ancillary, unfunded expenses. A difference I've also seen is in scheduling - some schools seem to do much better than others in creating scheduling blocks that are more friendly for students … Read More

    I know that some schools have more success than others with this, and I know that there have been some specific logistical initiatives around this, like encouraging freshmen to live on campus, incentives around specific classes, various support services, and efforts to deal with ancillary, unfunded expenses. A difference I’ve also seen is in scheduling – some schools seem to do much better than others in creating scheduling blocks that are more friendly for students who are commuting or working. I would be interested in reading more about what those initiatives have been and whether the results were positive.

  3. Ann 3 months ago3 months ago

    Continue to lower the bar for K-12 graduation and college entrance and then convene a panel to ‘find a way’ to graduate the unprepared, under-educated with fake degrees to match their HS diplomas. What a dismal future this state has coming….

    Replies

    • Bo Loney 3 months ago3 months ago

      This is basically the same comment I made, but it didn't get posted. Now they need to do away with the SAT because it reflects the fact that the students aren't prepared. Next will be lowering and slowing down the university curriculum. Also, why the closed door meetings with no minutes? Doesn't the public have a right to hear what they are discussing? Can we get a recording or a live stream of … Read More

      This is basically the same comment I made, but it didn’t get posted. Now they need to do away with the SAT because it reflects the fact that the students aren’t prepared. Next will be lowering and slowing down the university curriculum. Also, why the closed door meetings with no minutes? Doesn’t the public have a right to hear what they are discussing? Can we get a recording or a live stream of the meetings please?

    • el 3 months ago3 months ago

      IME, there are three main categories of reasons that kids flail out of college. 1. Academic struggles and unreadiness. Sure, the work can be hard. Also it can be especially hard freshman year in ways that don't make sense to the students, meaning they don't see its connection to a career they think they're interested in. 2. Social/financial struggles. If your family is struggling back home, it can be hard to focus on studying and may feel … Read More

      IME, there are three main categories of reasons that kids flail out of college.
      1. Academic struggles and unreadiness. Sure, the work can be hard. Also it can be especially hard freshman year in ways that don’t make sense to the students, meaning they don’t see its connection to a career they think they’re interested in.
      2. Social/financial struggles. If your family is struggling back home, it can be hard to focus on studying and may feel selfish compared to working to support them. If your family doesn’t have cash flow, every little expense can be a big blow. I know a talented student who tried to get through freshman year by not eating on weekends (free food from employment on weekdays), or maybe eating one can of super cheap food. No surprise that there was an academic cost.
      3. Adulting struggles. Transitioning to being on your own in the late teens is stressful, and some kids don’t get it right the first time. Mental and physical health struggles can also be a factor.

      There are always smart, prepared kids who don’t finish college on their first attempt, even some with stratospheric SAT scores.

      • Bo Loney 3 months ago3 months ago

        Everyone faces adversity. I've been there, in many different ways. People don't need encouragement to stay stuck in a mentality that keeps them down. They don't need to be taught to wallow in obstacles but to challenge and find ways around them. When talking about food insecurities, we need to start teaching people to fish in the "if you give a man a fish" metaphorical way. I have been experimenting on … Read More

        Everyone faces adversity. I’ve been there, in many different ways. People don’t need encouragement to stay stuck in a mentality that keeps them down. They don’t need to be taught to wallow in obstacles but to challenge and find ways around them. When talking about food insecurities, we need to start teaching people to fish in the “if you give a man a fish” metaphorical way.

        I have been experimenting on creating recipes from scratch. In this way, I have found that you can get so much more for your money working from scratch with dry ingredients (beans, flour, etc). You can eat healthier than you ever have (proven by blood work). You can make just about anything better than you can buy in the store. The problem is we don’t teach people that they have the ability to take food insecurity under control. Instead, we tell them that we feel sorry for them and teach them to become dependent on people that feel sorry for them. We would empower people more if we first “taught them to fish.”

  4. Charles R Hoff 3 months ago3 months ago

    If you want better graduation rates the first step would be to raise the qualifications for graduation from high school. We can’t keep postponing the obvious!