- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

School Matters: Putting 'College' into All Students' Vocabulary

New America Media, News report, Annette Fuentes Posted: Oct 15, 2008

Editor's note: Education advocates hailed the California legislation Early Commitment to College bill, SB890, as a solid step toward improving achievement among low-income students. But the new legislation carries more symbolic than budgetary heft. Annette Fuentes is an education editor at NAM and author of a forthcoming book on public school safety and violence from UC Press.

Christian Galeno, 14, would be a pioneer of sorts if he graduates high school and goes on to higher education. "My parents immigrated from Mexico. In my family, I would be the first one to go to college," said Galeno, who is a ninth grader at the Student Empowerment Academy, a public school in Los Angeles. "I'm guessing the whole school is made up of students who would be the first ones to go to college. But they don't know how to get there."

Consider Early Commitment to College bill, SB890, signed into California law last month, as a combination road map and primer for students like Galeno for whom the possibility of going to college would otherwise seem a foreign, unreachable destination. Even the language associated with the whole process of applying to college is something unfamiliar to students who have no role models among parents, siblings or other relatives of successful college graduates. "Until our counselor told us, I didn't know what 'tuition' and 'financial aid' are. What are those words? I didn't know what FAFSA was. We don't have those experiences." Now he knows that FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid that college applicants fill out.

Education advocates have hailed the passage of the bill as a solid step toward improving achievement among low-income students in secondary schools and putting technical education or college within their grasp. Beginning in spring 2009, students as young as sixth graders who choose to participate will sign a "Save Me a Spot in College" pledge, which brings with it obligations on both sides. Students commit to completing appropriate course work, schools commit to helping them through the application process, including taking them to visit to colleges. They are guaranteed a place in a state two- or four-year college or technical training school and if income eligible, fees will be waived.

Steve Weiner, co-founder in 2003 with David Wolf of the Campaign for College Opportunity, hailed the arrival of Save Me a Spot in College, which he and the Campaign had worked hard on as one strategy for boosting the number of Latino and black students and those from low income families headed to college.

"One of the problems for all low-income youth is that their families don't have an expectation that they'll go to college," Weiner said. "Or if they do, they think mistakenly that it will cost more than they can afford. They don't understand there is a fairly generous system to help them."

The simple conceit behind the program is to hook students early with the idea that if they work hard and make good grades, they'll be on track for college with financial support to make it feasible, Weiner said, because "students often don't find out about that until 11th or 12th grade."

But the new legislation is no panacea, and it carries more symbolic than budgetary heft. There is just $125,000 earmarked in the bill for the Department of Education's role in working with schools to sign up students and track their progress. If that sounds like a pittance, it is. Weiner is sanguine about what can be achieved under the new program once it gears up. "SB890's passage is something the campaign worked hard for. It's a small but hopefully significant step," he said. "The legislation basically embraces the idea, but the real muscle--the funding--is not there."

One failing of the final legislation, he believes, is that it does not contain a provision that was in an earlier version to create bank accounts for each student pledged to the program. "The individual accounts would make a difference," Weiner said. "Can you imagine an eighth grader coming home and saying, 'Hey, mom I've got an account with money in it,' even if it's just $25?"

Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity, acknowledged that the state's economic woes made it more difficult to pass the bill, even though very little money is attached to it. But she hopes that legislators will look beyond today's bleak economic outlook to take a longer view of the need for a more highly educated workforce. "Clearly, a way to get out of the fiscal crisis is to invest in education and send more young people to college," Siquieros said, "so they can get jobs, make more money, pay taxes, and give back to the community."

Related Stories

NAM education coverage

Dumping the California Exit Exam is Not the Answer

Bracing for Budget Crunch, UC Prez Worries and Plans

Undocumented Asian Students Face Stigma

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage


One Writer's Education

Aug 27, 2010