Our community colleges serve some of the most vulnerable students in all of California. Before the pandemic, 1 in 8 students were homeless and over half were housing insecure. Today, these circumstances have only been exacerbated. Over a decade of working with low-income students both in the classroom and through my non-profit, I understand that students cannot take full advantage of an education if their basic needs are not being met. More resources must be allocated to trauma and mental health counseling and basic needs for our most vulnerable students. We must increase support for those who are housing and/or food insecure, foster youth, Dreamers, and undocumented students.
One of the most considerable challenges facing LACCD is declining enrollment. State revenues are based largely on student enrollment numbers which have declined significantly throughout the pandemic. We must work to expand existing programs like the First-Year Experience at L.A. City College which have increased recruitment and support staff to help prospective and new students choose classes, tap into financial aid, and navigate campus systems. These efforts have been effective in boosting enrollment and retaining students.
Los Angeles voters have approved multiple bond measures in order to improve and revamp our community college infrastructure. Large financial commitments must be met with the highest level of vigilance to ensure accountability. We must continue to support and partner with the District Citizens Oversight Committee (DCOC) that oversees the spending to ensure that urgent repairs and critical needs are completed wisely and efficiently.
Education is the great equalizer. However, this is only true when education is freely accessible. The Los Angeles College Promise (LACP) program waives tuition for the first two years of community college and provides priority enrollment -- and additional financial support for those students who qualify. LACP is a great start to providing free, high quality college options to students who need it the most- but it isn’t enough. As a founder of a non-profit that gets students "to and through" college, I understand that tuition is only a small part of the financial resources necessary to succeed in higher education. Students must take into account the costs of books, transportation, living expenses, food and child care. Even with LACP, many LACCD students undergo some level of financial debt to continue to go to school.
Pursuing an education is expensive and we cannot allow our next generation to be saddled with crippling student loan debt for the rest of their adult lives. As an LACCD trustee, I would push to allocate more funds to support low-income students with wrap-around resources as they pursue an education. Funding that would help with the costs of books, transportation, housing, food, and childcare.
We must set measurable goals around certificate, degree, and transfer completion. Currently only 30% of California’s community college students graduate or transfer. LACCD’s transfer and completion rates are even lower than the State’s average. While not every student takes courses with the intention to graduate or transfer, these numbers must improve.
To meet our goals, we must invest in more transition counselors and support staff to provide personalized assistance for students throughout their community college career. We must align outside resources around these efforts while implementing best practices to improve transfer and completion rates.
Educational excellence, opportunity, and access must go hand in hand with principles of equity and justice. We must continue to root out racism and bias from our classrooms and campus. As a LACCD trustee I pledge to support campus-based Equity Plans that advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. I will support faculty efforts to construct and redesign curriculum to build equitable anti-racist classroom environments. I will push to re-evaluate the Community College Bureau’s contract with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and reimagine campus safety.