Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.
By: Robyn Gee
Once the leader in public higher education, California’s universities and community colleges have sunk to the bottom of the pool in terms of certain aspects of the education experience they offer.
A recent study done at California State University at Sacramento (CSUS) shows that the California system suffers from neglect. The state ranks 50th in terms of funding per student, and though California’s academic performance is “average,” the achievement gaps between minority students and white students are not accounted for, and are not being addressed. How bad is it?
The LA Times pulled out the following facts:
• Tuition and fee increases exceed the national average rate of increase.
• The college-going rate of high school graduates rose from 53% to 58% between 2003 and 2007, but dropped back to 53% in 2009.
• California ranks 41st in the number of bachelor's degrees awarded for every 100 high school graduates six years after graduation.
Main points from the study are: lawmakers must ensure equity and access to higher education opportunities, the current approach to funding higher education is not effective, and state policy leadership is missing.
More specifically, the study looked at the following broad areas: affordability, preparation, completion, benefits, and finance. Each section contained key issues and key findings. For example, in the Preparation section, the study recommends that California reexamine the policy that mandates algebra for all eighth graders. While algebra proficiency has increased, a growing number of eighth graders are testing below basic skill levels. In addition, Asian and white students are nearly twice as likely to be proficient in math or science as are black and Latino students.
The Affordability section is a whole other beast. California has veered drastically from its Master Plan for Higher Education. According to the report, the state’s "Master Plan" promised “tuition free” college to state residents, charging only “fees” for necessary specialized services. However, recent tuition hikes at UC Berkeley recently had students up in arms -- just one example of the changing role of California’s public universities.
Diane Dodge, director of the East Bay College Fund (EBCF), sees this issue first hand. Her organization provides scholarships to public high school students who come from low-income families and communities with historically low college attendance rates in the Bay Area. This year, they gave out 30 scholarships, but had 300 applicants. “We wanted to give away a lot more scholarships. We’re ready to expand and grow. When people think of investing in a young person, college is the number one way to make a difference in generational poverty,” said Dodge.
EBCF doesn’t just give out the scholarship and turn their back--the organization provides consistent mentoring and support throughout their college experience. “We don’t look for valedictorians... we’re looking for students with a B average, but have shown resiliency and are really clear they want to go to college,” said Dodge.
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