Inaugural ceremony honors lawmakers for work in higher education accessibility
The Campaign for College Opportunity honored seven California lawmakers for their commitment to legislation that increases access to higher education during their inaugural Legislative Dean’s List ceremony on Jan. 8. The Campaign for College Opportunity focuses on preserving access to higher education, improving student success, maintaining affordability and increasing equity.
Among those honored in the Eureka Room of the California State Capitol were Senators Connie Leyva and Richard Roth for a Distinction in College Affordability, Assemblymembers Evan Low and Ben Allen for a Distinction in Statewide Higher Ed Leadership, Assemblymembers Monique Limón and Jesse Gabriel for a Distinction in Undocumented Student Support and Kimberly Rodriguez, the legislative director for Senator Toni G. Atkins, for a Distinction in Student-Centered Policy.
As the Chairperson of the Education Committee, Leyva worked on Senate Bill 291, which would cover the true costs — books, class materials, rent and transportation — of attending community colleges. SB 291 did not make it to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk, but earlier this year, Leyva sponsored SB 24, which was signed into law by Newsom. SB 24 guarantees that all public universities provide access to medication abortion services at on-campus student health centers by 2023.
“I’m sure people, like me, didn’t realize that our community college students are sometimes paying as much or more as our UC and CSU students,” Leyva said. “We’re going to continue that work this year, and there are a myriad of [other] issues that need come before us this year like college tuition, K-12 [and more].”
Leyva encouraged students across the three higher education systems to voice their opinions and frustrations.
“I think it’s incredibly important for us to hear from our students,” Leyva said. “And it’s incredibly important for them to put pressure on us and hold our feet to the fire and tell us what’s important to them.”
Limón was presented with her Distinction in Undocumented Student Support by a UC Davis student who is very active with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.
Roth called for an increase in funding for tuition, academic counselors and mental health counselors and services.
“We need to work on college affordability,” Roth said. “We need to increase funding for academic counselors so students receive effective and efficient academic counseling because if the student and the counselor make a mistake, that can cost a student one, two or three semesters worth of work.”
Roth also commented on the state of mental healthcare in California higher education.
“I think we have a tremendous need in the area of mental health, counseling and services,” he said. “It’s unacceptable to have students wait two, three or four weeks for the opportunity to see a counselor. It’s not acceptable even if when a student’s in crisis, they can get in within a day, but it’s unacceptable that the follow up appointment is two, three, four or five weeks out or not at all.”
Representatives from the UC Student Association were in attendance, including ASUCD External Vice President Adam Hatefi. The UC Student Association presented Roth with his honor for his work on expanding the Summer CAL Grant. The UC received $4 million in funding in the new state budget.
“One of those campaigns [we worked on] is Fund the UC,” Hatefi said. “Fund the UC is focused on providing funding for the UC and providing funding for financial aid. And one of the bills that we focused on last year was the issue of summer CAL Grants and CAL Grant expansion. The Senator’s leadership in that issue is something that we’re very proud of.”
Written by: Liz Jacobson — email@example.com