Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

California Community Colleges prioritize remedial class reform, financial aid, diversity

Student journalists interview Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley
California+Community+Colleges+Chancellor+Eloy+Oakley.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+California+Community+Colleges%29
California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Oakley. (Photo courtesy of California Community Colleges)

California Community College Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley held a teleconference for community college student journalists Tuesday, Oct. 22, to discuss new legislation regarding immediate access to transfer-level coursework, a possible expansion of financial aid and the importance of increasing the diversity of community college faculty.

Chancellor Oakley said that despite the discomfort that can come with being challenged by student journalists, he believes student journalism is critical to democracy and the health of any college.

“We need you to look at this and to hold us accountable,” Oakley said. “Ultimately, what we need is journalists who are willing to ask the tough questions, willing to write fair and balanced stories, and to ensure that administrators, faculty, staff, the community are held accountable to what’s happening at your local campuses.”

The Laney Tower reported last month on new data from AB 705, a new law which allows students access to transfer-level course work. This fall was the deadline for all campuses to be in compliance. Oakley cited a report that studied the effects of early adapters released September 2019 by the RP Group. He said student success in transfer level classes has not declined but instead has seen “80% success increase in English and 116% increase in math.”

A student reporter from Santa Ana College had heard concerns about faculty exclusion from the creation of AB 705 and asked how Oakley planned to include faculty in the implementation process. Oakley said that the legislation, which allows all California Community College students to enroll directly into transfer level courses in English and math, was passed unanimously by the state legislature. He said the Chancellor’s office worked and consulted with the state level faculty body, the Academic Senate of California Community Colleges (ASCCC).

“I think we recognize the importance of placing a priority on the students’ needs in our systems, and this bill highlighted a great need in our system to reform remedial education,” Oakley said.

The Chancellor said colleges need to ensure that changes in the law are communicated to students. In response to a question by the Laney Tower regarding Peralta students’ lack of awareness of the law, Oakley said Peralta District’s new chancellor Regina Stanback Stroud is a huge proponent of AB 705.

“I have great confidence that [Stanback Stroud] will work with all the colleges and the district to implement the changes in AB 705,” he said.

An informal survey conducted by the Laney Tower found a lack of student awareness of their ability to directly access transfer-level courses.

“We recognize that this is the first year of implementation. So there is a lag of information and communication in some colleges, but we hope and expect that communication will significantly increase,” Oakley said.

The Chancellor said he saw three main factors that can create difficulty when colleges implement AB 705— a lack of resources and expertise, financial strain, or difficulty accessing high school transcripts.

A College of the Sequoias student journalist asked Oakley to expand on Senate Bill (SB) 291 and his outreach to students. Oakley said SB 291 would create a “need-based” grant for students. Current financial aid supplements tuition, but he said other costs associated with attending college such as textbooks, housing, food, and transportation also create economic hardship.

“We want to make sure that our students receive the financial aid that they deserve, that they need, and that will help them gain access to the economy in their communities.”

-Eloy Oakley, California Community Colleges Chancellor

“So many of our students are first-generation students, and first-generation students tend to have a much more difficult time completing the requirements, filling out the FAFSA, doing the things that they need to do to pull down financial aid,” Oakley said.

“Do I think that there will be a time when there is [financial aid] available to students beyond 60 credits? I’m not saying that there won’t be, but that will take some time.”

Oakley said it would require a sizable investment of over two billion dollars to fully fund the cost of attendance for eligible students in the California Community Colleges.

“I do think that there will be increased investment. I hope that we can all push for as much investment as possible, and I think it will set the stage for ongoing increases into the future.”

The Chancellor’s office has supported a statewide Undocumented Student Week of Action that took place on California Community College campuses last week, holding events like legal workshops and social gatherings. Oakley pointed to these activities as an example of the richness and diversity on campuses statewide.

“Our students have the least access to financial support and are the most diverse student body of any system of higher education in the country,” Oakley said. “We want to make sure that our students receive the financial aid that they deserve, that they need, and that will help them gain access to the economy in their communities.”

The Chancellor’s office started the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task force in Nov. 2018 after being advised to do so by the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges. Chancellor Oakley said that faculty and staff diversity is a priority.

“Studies show that ethnically diverse faculty have a very positive impact on students’ educational outcome,” he said.

The faculty needs to represent the diversity of the student body and the task force compiled recommendations to accomplish this.

“Ultimately, we’re all responsible for holding ourselves accountable to increasing faculty diversity,” he said.

Oakley listed examples of strategies such as implicit bias training, seeking diverse applicant pools, and promoting current part-time faculty to full-time positions.

He said the board of governors were also looking to “create our own pipeline of diverse faculty from students who want to pursue a career in teaching in the California Community Colleges.”

Oakley also responded to a question posed by the Laney Tower about the vote of no confidence for the Chancellor’s Office from the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC) and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT).

Oakley recognized that there is frustration with some changes that have been made, and the office plans to work with CFT to understand what their concerns are. He said that the Academic Senate for the California Community Colleges remains the primary voice relating to students and curriculum.

“We ultimately feel that we are primarily accountable to the people of California and to the students of the California Community Colleges,” Oakley said.

About the Contributors
James Millett, Managing Editor
An aspiring Andy Rooney, James Millett has spent one semester writing for The Citizen. His personal mantra “hell is other people” is taken from a play by Sartre, “No Exit.” Millett’s theme song is “Desperado” by Rihanna. In his spare time, Millett likes to sit.
Isis Piccillo, Editor in Chief
Editor-in-Chief Isis Piccillo was born and raised in the Bay Area. An avid reader and lover of libraries, Piccillo knows reading has been key to developing their writing voice. They are invested in covering and amplifying the voices of marginalized and underrepresented groups, especially in the areas of health and science. When not frantically copyediting or furiously writing, Isis can be found on the soccer field, or with food.
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