The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems reports that less than 44% of California's high school graduates attend college within a year compared to nearly 70% in states like New York. This suggests that schools and families are not helping children expect to go to college, or providing the support they need to get there.
CA Senate Bill 890 seeks to reverse that trend by increasing the focus on college for student starting in the sixth grade. From what I gather, it would require schools to give all pupils enrolled in grades 6 to 9 and their parent or legal guardian the opportunity to sign a "Save Me a Spot in College" pledge. In addition, participating school districts would be required to provide college information and college preparation events. The bill would provide that a pupil who signs a pledge declares a commitment to prepare for college, finish high school, and enroll in college and commits, among other things, to meet all graduation requirements, take college preparatory coursework, complete and file a free application for federal student aid, and submit his or her grade point average to the Student Aid Commission by March 2 of his or her senior year.
A pupil who signs the pledge and is certified by his or her school district as having fulfilled the requirements of the pledge would be pre-approved to receive, upon completion of high school enrollment at a community college, a fee waiver under the California Community College Board of Governor's fee waiver program for two or more years of enrollment at a California community college. The bill would encourage the California Community Colleges, the University of California, the California State University, independent colleges and universities, the California Student Opportunity and Access Program, the Student Aid Commission, and other nonprofit, business, or other community organizations to provide support services as needed in coordination with local school districts.
This sounds great, but I think sixth grade is a little late for introducing the concept of college, and the focus seems to be on what the student can do versus what schools can do. Children need to grow up believing that college follows high school and have mentors with college degrees to help them believe they can make it to college. This generation does not have the luxury of choosing to attend college. Without a college degree, it is nearly impossible to raise a family, particularly in the urban areas of our state. I do not think the proposed bill goes nearly far enough to help every child expect to attend college.
I am re-posting this because I want to add a very concrete suggestion for parent education. In schools with large numbers of parents who may not have attended college, parent education should provide information, brochures and suggestions for parents who want to make sure their child goes to college.
In elementary school, parents can attend community days at colleges, take their kids to college campuses, which frequently have museums, art shows, planetariums, exhibit halls, and arts performances. Parents need to use the words "when you go to college," with kids from the minute they are born, and talk abaout young adulthood as the time when children will be in college. During high school parents need to know that they have to register their children to take the PSAT test and understand what counseling services the high school provides, and where to get more.
Children can pledge to go to college, but it will take a lot of effort from parents and schools to help turn that dream into a reality. We can all help!