Practical boost in college readiness

Practical boost in college readiness

(Calif.)  Legislation scheduled for a Senate hearing this week would provide schools additional funding for academic materials and counseling aimed at boosting the postsecondary success of low-income and minority students.

The bill, authored by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, would establish a block grant to prepare high school students for the college application and admission process by purchasing college readiness materials, subsidizing student fees for advanced placement exams, providing college admissions and financial aid counseling and supporting teacher and counselor professional development.

The bill also provides incentives for the University of California system to increase its enrollment of students from high schools with high percentages of low-income and minority students and expand retention efforts.

“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,” de León said in a statement about SB 1050.

High-achieving students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to take AP courses than their white or more advantaged peers, a 2014 Education Trust report found. Passing such coursework can ultimately save students thousands in tuition costs by allowing them to earn college credits in high school.

More than two-thirds of all four-year public colleges and universities increased graduation rates between​​ 2003 and​​ 2013, according to the study but the gap between underrepresented minorities and white students remained relatively the same.

Those who do earn college diplomas often have more earning power and increased financial stability, and are less likely to live in poverty, rely on government aid or be incarcerated.

To address some of the barriers students face, SB 1050 would provide funds for schools to focus on improving A–G course completion rates in an effort to help more students meet the academic requirements needed to apply for college.

The bill would also incentivize UC campuses to increase admissions of those enrolled in high schools where 75 percent of students are English learners, foster youth or eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

As of 2014, approximately 60 percent of students enrolled in K-12 public schools are considered low-income, according to a Public Policy Institute of California study.

De León said his bill builds off of last year’s successful legislative effort to provide funding for an additional 10,400 student slots at the California State University System and 5,000 more at UC.

SB 1050 does not appropriate any funding for its mandates, however, and would rely on allocations in the state’s annual budget.

A number of legislators and advocates for low-income, Asian, Latino, Black and Pacific Islander students have expressed support for the bill.

“A college education is a ladder to success, yet, too many high schools don’t offer the coursework and counseling services necessary to help more California students find a pathway to college,” Sen. Isadore Hall III, D-Compton, said in a statement. “Our students and our future economy deserve better.”

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Wednesday, April 20.

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