On Tues, Apr. 19, California Community College Chancellor Eloy Oakley and fellow staff hosted a live teleconference via Zoom to address topics such support for black and hispanic students, advocacy weeks, access to Cal Grants and other important student services.
According to Oakley, California governor Gavin Newsom proposed a state budget for the CCC. Oakley said they had a chance to meet members of the Senate of the Assembly with their staff and give them the chance to hear from students.
“We had some amazing students who spent time with members of the legislature and talked about their story and why advocacy…is so important right now,” Oakley said.
Oakley talked about the state budget for community colleges and addressed the key elements that will be taken into consideration moving forward.
CCC is pushing for funding for colleges so that students can receive the support they need.
The CCC is looking into student retention and enrollment, reaching out to students who stopped attending for whatever reason and hoping to welcome students back on campus.
The CCC also understands the need to increase support for black student success, expand on foster youth support services and equitable hiring and health insurance benefits for part-time faculty.
In light of cybersecurity challenges campuses are facing, Oakley said the CCC wants a modernization of technology infrastructure and security.
The last key element is regarding infrastructure and transfer for students. “We want to continue to see more students, not just be ready to transfer, but to make that transfer happen,” Oakley said.
Oakley introduced some bills that are aligned with the priorities of the CCC, AB 1746 and SB 1141.
AB 1746 will streamline the existing Cal Grant entitlement program and allow more than 120,000 additional community college students to qualify for cal grants, including a large number of hispanic, black and African-American students and lowest-income students.
“We feel this is a huge priority for our system,” Oakley said. “This is an opportunity for our most vulnerable students in the California community colleges.”
SB 1141 intends to eliminate the two year cap on full time enrollment and credit courses that can be counted towards achieving AB 540 status, supporting undocumented students. AB 540 allowed eligible undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.
SB 1141 changes the threshold to qualify for AB 540 from three years to two years. This change will alleviate any financial obstacles undocumented students face when they enter higher education.
There will be a black student success week from April 25 to 29. During the week, community college leaders will hold daily webinars, called The Black Hour, from 12 to 1.
The webinars will serve as professional development and advocacy opportunities for administrators, staff, faculty, and student leaders. Monday’s webinar will include remarks from US Secretary of Education, Dr Miguel Cardona, as well as Board of Governors’ President, Pamela Haynes.
Each webinar will be followed by a virtual discussion forum for participants from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Thursday, Apr. 28, will be a virtual advocacy day aimed at supporting black student success. State Senator Stephen Bradford will give remarks at Thursday’s webinar, along with other California legislators.
Registration for the webinars are open and people interested can follow the efforts on Instagram and Twitter.
Oakley addressed the topic of Cal Grant reform and deadline. Recent policy changes allow students to submit their FAFSA or California Dream application, CADA, by Sept. 2 and still qualify for cal grants and other important means of financial aid. The deadline to submit applications was March 2 before the policy changes.
“The cost of college continues to go up each and every day,” Oakley said. “Whether it’s inflation, costs of housing, gas, food, everything is going up and this affects our students’ ability to succeed in college.”
Oakley addresses the growing concern of mental health and the impact it’s had on students and their ability to succeed. Mental health was a constant topic brought up by student leaders.
At the Board of Governors meeting in March 2022, Oakley’s team issued a student mental health resolution that was adopted by the Board of Governors and acknowledges the mental health crisis in the system.
“The mental health resolution calls for prioritizing mental health, destigmatizing mental health and mental illnesses, strengthening holistic student support across our system declaring mental health,” Oakley said.
Oakley introduces a new annual week, Mental Health Action Week, which will be from May 2 through May 5 this year. There will be webinars scheduled each and every day.
Its intention is to strengthen trauma informed care expertise, improve classroom climates and culture, remove structural barriers and advocate for additional resources to meet diverse mental health needs.
Oakley maintains his vision of change in the community college system. Weeks dedicated to important topics such as success of black students and mental health and extending application deadlines are just steps in the right direction.
Gibran Beydoun is a staff writer for The Express. Follow him @Gibran580MSCM