New CA Laws Aim to Improve College Graduation Rates

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
About 80% of Latino college students in California graduate in four years, compared to about 88% of white students, according to the California Dept. of Education. Photo Credit: Digitalskillet1 / Adobe Stock

On the last day to sign bills this legislative session, Gov Gavin Newsom approved a slew of measures to improve college graduation rates, particularly for students from low-income communities.

One proposal, Assembly Bill 1705, requires community colleges to place more students in transfer-level courses.

Joshua Hagen – policy director for the Campaign for College Opportunity – said previously, students had to take high-stakes entry exams that diverted too many people, especially students of color, into years of remedial courses that don’t count toward a degree.

“Whatever classes students took in high school, whatever GPA they had, the best way that we can support them is starting them in something that will earn them college credit,” said Hagen. “Making sure they get supports rather than starting in a remedial class – taking one, two, three semesters before they even get to that starting line.”

Other new laws will expand tutoring services and cancel some student debt for college students who dropped out, so they can afford to re-enroll and finish their degrees.

Hagen noted that another new bill says students won’t lose part of their financial aid from the state if they work hard to win a private scholarship.

“There was nothing to prevent the state from saying, ‘Okay, we will now reduce your state financial aid by $1,000 since you have – quote, unquote – less need,’ ” said Hagen.

Another bill would require Cal State and community colleges to grant priority registration to students who are raising children.