How California is Leading the Way in Advancing Racial Equity at Colleges and Universities

The Campaign for College Opportunity, a non-profit dedicated to ensuring students have equitable opportunities in pursuing higher education, hosted a conversation last week on advancing racial equity at California colleges and universities. Panelists at “Vision & Action for Equity: A Conversation with California’s Higher Education Leaders” included UC President Dr. Michael Drake, CSU Chancellor Dr. Joseph Castro, California Community Colleges Chancellor Dr. Daisy Gonzales, UC Board of Regents Chair Cecilia Estolano, CSU Board of Trustees Chair Lillian Kimbell, and California Community Colleges Board of Governors President Pamela Haynes. 

This was a historic gathering because, for the first time in California’s history, our public higher education leaders are people of color and women. We are finally seeing the diversity of our state’s student body represented in positions of power. As a result, all of the panelists shared deeply relatable stories about their journeys in public higher education and the importance of seeing people who look like them both in the classroom and throughout the system. They were honest in discussing our state’s current shortcomings in advancing racial equity in community colleges and universities, but they also provided a lot of hope by sharing how they’re working together to better serve underrepresented students in their college journeys. 

One of the biggest challenges faced in California higher education is the fact that only 25% of community college students transfer to a 4-year university. Furthermore, there are not enough programs in place to ensure retention among students. Our UC President, CSU Chancellor, and Community College Chancellor are all working hard to provide students with a strong transfer pathway because everyone deserves the opportunity to transfer. In order to make changes to transfer rates, the problem needs to be attacked from every angle by addressing racial injustice, poverty, and capacity issues, as well as increasing diversity in faculty and staff. This conversation sheds light on there truly is no other system in the U.S. as dedicated as the California education system to ensuring transfer and combating all the problems affecting this goal.
The event can be beautifully summed up with remarks made by California Community Colleges Board of Governors President Pamela Haynes- we need to be having uncomfortable conversations, we need to call injustice out when we see it, and we need to be honest about who’s making it through higher education and who is not. After watching these panels, I’m confident that our education leaders will keep these words in mind as they continue to find creative solutions for the problems disproportionately faced by students of color. If you want to hear more about what California’s public higher education leaders are doing, you can watch the recording of the event here.

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