California

California community college leaders face aggressive responses to Capitol statements

At least three community college leaders in California have received backlash against statements about violence at the U.S. Capitol. The system chancellor is standing by them.

Progress Slows on California Remedial Education Reform

Some colleges are falling behind on making progress in remedial education reform just two years after California enacted legislation on the issue.

The latest report from the California Acceleration Project and Public Advocates shows that only three of California's 116 community colleges have achieved complete implementation of the changes listed in Assembly Bill 705 for both English and math.

The bill, which took effect in 2018, requires community colleges to use high school grades for placement, restricts colleges from requiring students to take remedial courses and requires colleges to place students in the English and math courses that will maximize the likelihood of students completing transfer-level coursework in those areas within a year.

Research has shown that students are more likely to complete transfer-level English and math courses if they begin in transferable courses, rather than remedial courses that tend to not earn students credit.

In a review of fall 2020 courses, the California Acceleration Project found slight progress in some areas but regression in others. Statewide, 93 percent of English courses and 75 percent of math courses were transferable, as opposed to remedial, which is a modest improvement over last year, when 87 percent of English and 71 percent of math courses were transferable. However, 28 colleges increased the number of remedial courses they offered in math, and 19 colleges did the same with English.

More colleges also replaced remedial course models with corequisite models, which let students enroll in transfer-level classes that offer additional support.

The report also found that Black and Latinx students disproportionately attend the colleges with the largest remedial math offerings. More than 80 percent of the colleges serving more than 2,000 Black students continue to offer more remedial sections than corequisite sections.

In the fall of 2019, nearly 30 percent of Black students and 24 percent of Latinx students were enrolled in remedial courses, compared to 20 percent of white students.

Reform in math offerings varies widely by location. No colleges in the south central coast have strong math reform implementations, according to the report, and those in the Inland Empire have the most cases of strong implementation.

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California debate over ethnic studies requirement continues

California State University will require students to take ethnic studies, but the faculty and system remain divided over how to put the new requirement into place.

$100M for California Community Colleges

California's community colleges just received the largest donation to community colleges in history, according to a news release from the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office.

The Jay Pritzker Foundation, named after the founder of Hyatt Hotels, has pledged $100 million to the Foundation for California Community Colleges to be spent over the next two decades. The money will go toward scholarships for students who are close to completing a degree or certificate or who are transferring to a university. It will also provide funds for emergency financial aid for students.

"This historic gift changes the landscape for community college philanthropy. It is not only an act of incredible generosity, but also a clear statement that our community colleges are worthy of this level of investment," Geoff Green, president of the Network for California Community Colleges Foundations and chief executive officer of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation, said in a news release. "It will serve as a signal to donors across the country that community colleges are perhaps the best tools we have for increasing social and economic mobility, addressing economic barriers to higher education, and tackling equity issues in our communities."

During the first five years, the foundation will deliver grants to 34 community colleges in three regions of the state. These regions -- the Inland Empire, Central Valley and Far North -- have the lowest percentage of adults with college degrees. The first year of these grants will be $150,000 per college and may be used in full for emergency financial aid due to COVID-19.

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Cal State taps Fresno president Joseph I. Castro to be system's next chancellor

Fresno State president Joseph I. Castro will lead the 482,000-student system starting in January, taking over for Chancellor Timothy P. White, who delayed retirement amid the pandemic.

UC Santa Cruz Reinstates 41 Fired Grad Students

The University of California, Santa Cruz, has reinstated 41 graduate student workers after firing them in March during a wildcat strike.

In December of 2019, 233 graduate student teaching assistants and instructors at UCSC declined to turn in fall grades for their students. That wildcat strike (meaning unauthorized by the student's union affiliate, the United Auto Workers) expanded to other campuses in the UC system and in some cases became a teaching and research strike. Students demanded an increase in stipend or cost-of-living adjustment, saying they were overburdened by rent due to a lack of affordable housing in California.

UCSC eventually gave strikers an ultimatum, saying they could turn in their fall grades or be fired from their teaching assignments. In early March, the university followed through with the threat and fired more than 70 graduate students who had not turned in grades.

The reinstatement of 41 graduate students is a result of a settlement between the university and the graduate worker's union, UAW 2865. In July the two parties reached a deal in which the union agreed to drop an unfair labor practice charge with the California Public Employment Relations Board in exchange for providing a path to reinstatement for fired teaching assistants and instructors.

A previous version of this article stated that the union had filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board. The charge was instead filed with the California Public Employment Relations Board. 

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Kamala Harris Has Battled For-Profit Colleges

While Senator Kamala Harris, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's choice for vice president, doesn't have an extensive record on higher education issues, she is known for having sued Corinthian Colleges while she was California's attorney general, accusing the for-profit chain of false and predatory advertising, intentionally making misrepresentations to students, securities fraud and unlawful use of military seals in advertisements.

The 2014 lawsuit helped contribute to ECMC Group, a nonprofit organization, not including Corinthian's California properties when it purchased 56 campuses from the crumbling chain in 2014. And in 2016, Harris won a $1.1 billion federal court judgment from the now-bankrupt Corinthian.

While that lawsuit was underway, she asked a federal court to prevent Corinthian from enrolling new students. As attorney general and a Democratic senator from California, Harris has pushed for debt cancellation for former Corinthian students.

"I would imagine identifying relief for students who were victims of unlawful practices by for-profit colleges will be a priority for her," said Clare McCann, New America's deputy director for federal education policy. "That's obviously good news for the more than 100,000 borrowers who have pending claims, some of which have been sitting untouched by the Department for years."

Indeed, Harris wrote about her suit against Corinthian in her memoir last year, "The Truths We Hold." She wrote, "There have been a rash of corporate predators who have taken advantage of -- and often ruined -- vulnerable people. Among the worst examples of these predators are the for-profit colleges that became the darlings of Wall Street during this time."

In April, she and 16 other Democratic senators urged congressional leaders not to allow for-profit colleges to receive coronavirus aid aimed for higher education.

Harris in 2017 also endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders' College for All plan, which would make public colleges and universities tuition-free to students with family income up to $125,000; make community colleges tuition-free; cut student loan interest rates in half; and triple funding for the Federal Work-Study program. She also endorsed a proposal by Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, which would have made room and board, books and other college expenses free.

Harris last year also proposed with Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, and Dianne Feinstein, of California, the Basic Assistance for Students In College Act, which would have created a $500 million competitive grant program for institutions to fund the basic needs of students, including food, housing, transportation, child care, health care and technology.

Harris, a graduate of Howard University, last year proposed giving Historically Black Colleges and Universities $60 billion, with $50 billion going to fund scholarships, fellowships and research grants at HBCUs and another $10 billion to build classrooms, labs and other facilities at the schools. She also included in a plan on raising teachers' salaries this spring additional money for HBCUs to address the underrepresentation of teachers of color.

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Cal State Approves Ethnic Studies Requirement

The California State University system's governing board on Wednesday approved the inclusion of a course on ethnic studies and social justice as a general education requirement. The one-course requirement will go into effect in 2023 and can be fulfilled by a wide range of course offerings on historical, current and emerging ethnic studies and social justice issues, the system said in a news release. It was the first significant change to Cal State's general education requirements in 40 years.

“Our goal is for CSU students, from every major and in every workplace, to be leaders in creating a more just and equitable society,” Timothy P. White, the system's chancellor, said in statement. “This action, by the CSU and for the CSU, lifts Ethnic Studies to a place of prominence in our curriculum, connects it with the voices and perspectives of other historically oppressed groups and advances the field by applying the lens of social justice.”

The California Faculty Association criticized the move, saying the requirement was diluted and created without consultation with the CSU Council of Ethnic Studies.

"How the board can look at anyone with a straight face and say that an Ethnic Studies requirement can be fulfilled without ever having to take a course in Ethnic Studies is beyond believable," said Charles Toombs, the association's president. "Given how oppressive the CSU’s resolution is, no one will be surprised to hear that the CSU refused to consult with the CSU Council of Ethnic Studies."

(Note: This article has been updated from a previous version, which included an erroneous assertion by the California Faculty Association about Cal State's consultation with the CSU Academic Senate.)

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Online-Only Fall for Scripps and Pomona

As coronavirus case numbers climb in California, Scripps College and Pomona College announced Wednesday they would close their campuses and conduct instruction completely online in the fall.

In her announcement, Scripps president Lara Tiedens said the college had been planning to reopen campus to students this fall before the pandemic worsened in the state.

“As we planned for the return to campus, we have continued to monitor the current public health situation in Los Angeles County, which over the last couple of weeks has worsened dramatically,” the announcement read.

Pomona also reversed its plans, citing the rising case counts in Claremont.

“Here in the nation’s most populous county, the virus is taking off among young people, who account for half of the new cases, and the numbers bring growing concerns about more spread to the most vulnerable,” wrote G. Gabrielle Starr, Pomona's president, and Samuel D. Glick, chair of the college's Board of Trustees.

The decisions to go ahead with an online-only semester are complicated by the recent Department of Homeland Security rule that prohibits international students from remaining in the United States if their colleges are online only. In its announcement, Pomona acknowledged this complication and said it will reach out to affected students in the coming days.

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U of California Picks Michael Drake as Next President

The University of California system's Board of Regents has picked Dr. Michael Drake as its next president. Drake was president of Ohio State University for six years and stepped down last week. Next month he is slated to begin leading the 10-campus UC system, which includes five medical centers and three national laboratories, enrolling roughly 280,000 students and employing 230,000 faculty and staff members.

Drake formerly was chancellor of UC Irvine and the systemwide vice president for health affairs. He also was a professor of ophthalmology at the UCSF School of Medicine. Drake will be the system's first Black president.

"I look forward to working with the regents, chancellors, students, faculty, staff, alumni and our broader community as we, together, guide the university through the challenging times ahead," said Drake.

He succeeds Janet Napolitano, who became the system's president in 2013, after four years as secretary of homeland security during the Obama administration. She previously was a two-term Arizona governor.

Napolitano frequently clashed with the Trump administration, including over its attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The system grew more than planned during her tenure, during which she guaranteed admissions to academically eligible community college students and created a new system to attempt to prevent admissions fraud.

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