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Senators Announce Legislation to Strengthen College Readiness for Low-Income High School Students

April 18, 2016

On April 8, a group of California State Senators announced legislation to better prepare California public school students from poor and working families for admission to state colleges and universities.

“With this measure, we are hoping to strengthen the pipeline for underserved communities to our public institutions of higher learning to give all students – regardless of their economic status – a chance to succeed,” Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said at a press conference at San Gabriel High School.

The measure, SB 1050, incentivizes school districts and charter schools to provide access to more rigorous coursework with K-12 teacher development in college-readiness subjects and grant money to help low-income students qualify for postsecondary institutions. It also requires the University of California to admit more students from high schools that enroll 75 percent or more low-income, English learners, and foster youth or see its enrollment funding frozen in the 2016 budget year.

Introduced by Senator De León and coauthored by Senators Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), SB 1050 is the result of a lengthy engagement process with higher-education stakeholders and community activists.

During the Great Recession, the state’s public university systems turned away hundreds of thousands of California students. Only recently has the state begun to reinvest in ensuring additional enrollment slots for California residents. As a result, the University of California has reported an increase in California students, particularly those from underrepresented communities, offered admission for fall 2016.

Last year, Senate Democrats secured funding for an additional 10,400 student slots at the California State University System and 5,000 more at UC. Senator De León wants to build on that success by increasing access for Californians to attend UC while providing low-income students a greater opportunity to fill those seats.

Less than half of California’s high school graduates are qualified to attend a four-year university. Too many fail to complete the necessary “A-G” coursework required for admission to CSU and UC.

Placing a greater emphasis on college readiness is critical to better serving California’s low-income students who represent nearly 60 percent of the 6 million enrolled in K-12 public schools. A college degree increases financially stability, improves earning potential, lessens reliance on government aid, and causes a decrease in poverty and incarceration.

“By 2030, California will be critically short of workers qualified to fill jobs that require a college degree,” said Senator De León. “For the sake of our state, for the future of our children, we need to give K-12 students the tools they need to attend college and thrive.”

Senator Hernandez said, “For me, what is most important is that every California resident has access to a quality education and that students who are at an economic disadvantage get the assistance they need.”

“We are committed to give every qualified student the opportunity to obtain a UC education,” said Senator Pan. “Senate Bill 1050 will increase the number of admissions at our UCs for all California students, including Asian Pacific Islander students, and provide high schools in low-income areas with additional resources so their students can earn a UC education.”

Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said, “We are at a disadvantage when our students lack adequate preparation to be college and career ready. This legislation will ensure that our most vulnerable students get the support and resources they need to attend college, graduate and contribute their skills to growing our state’s workforce.”

Source:  Office of Sen. Kevin de León

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