California bill ‘promises’ college degrees

Kali Persall,
Managing Editor

Earning a college degree has typically been thought of as a four-year endeavor, but that’s become more myth than truth in recent years: A six-year education is more of a reality.

On Tuesday, the California Assembly approved a bill known as the “California Promise,” an initiative that aims to help students in the California State University system earn a bachelor degree in exactly four years.

Students don’t always graduate in four years for two main reasons, according to the bill: A shortage of high-demand classes and failure to complete enough academic units. The California Promise bill would combat this by providing students with priority registration for coursework and regular academic advising in order to monitor their academic progress. The program will extend to students at both California community colleges and universities.

Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, co-authored the bill in February, along with 20 other state senators and three Assembly members. The Assembly “overwhelmingly” approved the bill, which now requires further action by the Senate in order to progress, according to a news release from the Office of the Senator.

The application criteria, guidelines and requirements for implementing the program would be developed by the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges and the Trustees of the CSU. The trustees would be required to establish the program on at least eight CSU campuses and 15 CSU campuses for qualifying transfer students for the 2017-18 school year, according to the Office of the Senator.

In order to qualify for the California Promise program, students must be a California resident and complete at least 30 semester units per academic year, according to the bill legislature. A minimum grade point average may be required in order to maintain eligibility, but these guidelines would be determined by the individual college.

The goal of California Promise is to improve four-year graduation rates throughout the state, specifically within the California State University system. According to the Office of the Senator, the CSU’s overall four-year graduation rate is currently only 18.6 percent, falling short of the national average of 26 percent at similar public universities. A U.S. News & World Report on higher education ranked CSU East Bay with a four-year graduation rate of only 10 percent.

Studies show that CSU graduates are prevalent in the state and national workforce. The legislation reports that one out of every 10 California employees and out of every 20 U.S. citizens graduated from a CSU.

However, the Public Policy Institute of California reports that if California higher education institutions don’t adapt educational programs to reflect the growing demand for a college-educated workforce, current four-year graduation trends will place California 1.1 million college and university graduates short of the state’s economic demand by 2030.

The intent of the California Promise is to match and exceed the national average four-year graduation rates as quickly as possible, according to the bill.