Sacramento Business Journal: AB 19 would make community college accessible to as many as possible

Sacramento Business Journal
AB 19 would make community college accessible to as many as possible

By Assemblymember Kevin McCarty and Pat Fong Kushida

There was absolutely a time in this country when a high school diploma was a guarantee of employment that could sustain a family. That was why in the early 1900s Americans determined that a free education through 12th grade was the appropriate baseline.

We think most employers would agree that the job market of the 21st Century requires additional credentials and that post-secondary training of some kind is almost mandatory to guarantee gainful employment. California faces an estimated shortage of one million college-educated workers needed to sustain our workforce and competitive advantage. This is our reality. A high school diploma alone isn’t enough.

Assembly Bill 19 (Santiago, Chiu, McCarty) ensures California prioritizes community college access to as many Californians as possible. AB 19 would establish the California Promise program, which would waive fees for first-time, full-time community college students for an entire year and we believe would encourage higher enrollments and boost completion rates across the state. CSU Long Beach experienced a 43% increase in enrollment by Long Beach Unified students, between 2008 and 2012, after implementing its Promise program; in the first year of Oregon Promise, there was a 25% increase in high school students enrolled in that state’s community college system.

California needs students who attend and graduate college. In a study of the 1.9 million students who began their postsecondary studies in 2006, of those who attended exclusively full time, 76% completed their degree; 80% either completed their programs or were still enrolled by 2012. The same study found that students who attended exclusively part-time, 21% completed a degree and 32% either finished or were still enrolled six years later. Launching more high school graduates with the option of starting their college careers on a full-time basis is a good idea – particularly with rising housing costs and other expenses California students face.

And speaking of costs: Promoting full-time attendance can help California community college students access and identify state and federal financial aid that many may not know they are eligible to receive. Students who participate in Tennessee’s Promise Program are required to file a federal financial aid application (FAFSA). Over 70% of that state’s high school seniors completed the FAFSA in 2015-16, the highest rate in the nation. AB 19 can help motivate students, once enrolled in a California community college, to similarly apply for federal aid.

Making college affordable and accessible will grow the population of workforce-ready Californians. Employers in the Sacramento Region should join us in encouraging Governor Brown to sign AB 19 into law. Our region’s economic future depends on it.

Kevin McCarty represents California’s 7th Assembly District, which include the cities of Sacramento, West Sacramento and unincorporated Sacramento County. McCarty serves as Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance. Connect with Assemblymember McCarty on social media: Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @AsmKevinMcCarty

Pat Fong Kushida is the President/CEO of the Sacramento Asian-Pacific Chamber of Commerce (SACC) serving in this capacity since 1998, and President/CEO of the California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce formed in 2010.