Bill: Pledge Could Facilitate College Access

    In an effort to encourage advancement to two- and four-year colleges immediately after high school graduation, state Sen. Jack Scott (D-Pasadena) recently introduced legislation that would guarantee college access to California students who complete pledges to fulfill college requirements.

    The bill, named the Early College Commitment Act of 2007, presents a voluntary contract to middle school students and their parents stating that they intend to go to college after graduating from high school.

    The bill would require school districts to provide all students enrolled in sixth through ninth grades the opportunity to sign “”Save Me a Spot in College”” cards developed by the state superintendent of public education.

    If those students fulfill their contracts by finishing high school, taking rigorous college preparatory or career technical coursework, meeting UC and CSU requirements, filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid during senior year and submitting their GPA to the California Student Aid Commission, the state will reward them by assuring them a spot in the University of California or California State University and guaranteed financial aid.

    According to Wendy Gordon, a spokeswoman for Scott, the act would serve as a kind of blueprint to guide students to college at a young age.

    Many California middle and high schools, especially in the Los Angeles Unified School District, fail to stress the availability and necessity of a college education.

    As a result, students are not aware that resources for college preparation, such as counseling and financial aid, are available to them, and that college access is not beyond their reach, Scott said.

    “”A lot of kids come to their senior year in high school and say, ‘I had no idea I could go to college,'”” Gordon said. “”We’re saying, ‘Here is your opportunity. If you do the work, we will make sure there is a place for you. If you qualify for financial aid, we will give you financial aid.'””

    The Campaign for College Opportunity recently released statistics that ranked California 40th in the nation in the number of students going directly from high school to college.

    “”The demand for educated workers in California will soon outstrip supply, and if we do not provide education for our citizens, we lose our competitive edge,”” Scott said.

    Some middle school administrators remain skeptical of the fiscal feasibility of the proposal.

    “”If students can commit and would be guaranteed a spot, I think it would be a wonderful idea,”” Barbara Montgomery, principal of Williams Middle School in Tracy, Calif., said in a press release. “”I just wonder how they are going to pull this off and what support will the state be giving the school districts for us to support the students.””

    But according to Gordon, there are already some guarantees in place.

    If a student maintains a certain GPA, for example, he or she is already entitled to a four-year education at a state college. Furthermore, the program intends to allocate some money to school districts in order for students to follow the guidelines, although the details have yet to be worked out.

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