In Partnership with 74

JUST IN: Free community college and dual enrollment: two new programs to give LA Unified students ‘unfettered access to college’

Mike Szymanski | August 16, 2016

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A meeting of community college presidents and LA Unified officials. (Courtesy: LACCD)

California’s largest coalition of community colleges is finalizing two new programs with the nation’s second-largest school district to give LA Unified students a free year of college tuition and encourage them to enroll in college classes while still in high school.

The details are expected to be announced in September, with the goal of offering the first year of free tuition beginning next fall. The dual enrollment plan could start even earlier.

LA Unified Superintendent Michelle King talked about the first program, Los Angeles College Promise, at the first day of school Tuesday. “We could not be more pleased and excited about this opportunity. Now one of the barriers that inhibit our kids from going onto college is being removed. Our students will be able to have one year of free community college upon graduation. Each student is guaranteed a seat,” she said as she stood beside Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at John C. Fremont High School at Tuesday’s news conference. The mayor said, “For our seniors that are here today, this is our promise to you: When you graduate, (the first year of) community college will be free.”

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Some of the 38 LA Unified grads who also received AA degrees at Harbor Teacher Prep Academy. (Courtesy: LAUSD)

The two separate initiatives arose simultaneously for LA Unified and the Los Angeles Community College District, which has nine community colleges.

“This is an opportunity and partnership we are very excited about,” said LA Unified’s Chief Academic Officer Frances Gipson. “We are all coming together to show what a city of graduates looks like.”

This past weekend, administrators from the nine Los Angeles community colleges, LA Unified and the mayor’s office met to figure out the details.

“This is really a momentous agreement for education that the rest of the state and nation will look at potentially duplicating,” Ryan M. Cornner, the vice chancellor of Educational Programs and Institutional Effectiveness for the Los Angeles Community College District, said Friday as he was returning from a retreat involving the training for the new plans. “It’s the biggest school district in the state working with the biggest community college district in the state making the pathway easier for higher education for students, and that is pretty meaningful. It is a significant moment in education.”

The two programs in the works are the Los Angeles College Promise and the College and Career Access Pathways, called CCAP.

The Los Angeles College Promise is Garcetti’s localization of the White House’s proposal for tuition-free community college.

“There are other Promise programs in other cities, but not the scope and scale that is going on in Los Angeles,” Cornner said. “There is nothing like it.” Long Beach has a similar program.

The funding is expected to come from private fundraising through the mayor’s office. When asked if wealthy philanthropists active in public education will be participating, Cornner said, “We certainly expect and hope so.”

It’s more than free tuition, though, Cornner said. “Free tuition is what hits the press, but really it is to make sure that students have unfettered access to college that is most meaningful. We want to make sure they stay in school and walk across that college graduation stage. It is a game changer.”

The plans are to start the students graduating in the high school Class of 2017 to begin the free community college courses in the fall of 2017.

The community colleges locally are also working closely on the College and Career Access Pathways program to allow for dual enrollment at LA Unified and in college courses.

“We are the first in the state to take advantage of a new state law passed (Assembly Bill 288) that makes it easier for students to dual enroll,” Cornner said.

LA Unified Chief Academic Officer Frances Gipson

LA Unified Chief Academic Officer Frances Gipson

Cornner and Chito Cajayon, the former vice chancellor of economic and workforce development, worked with Jesus Angulo, LA Unified’s director of College and Career. Angulo said, “We have been told that we were the first ones who submitted plans to the state office.”

The Memorandum of Understanding between the school district and the community colleges will be on the agenda for approval at both school boards in September. A public hearing will detail the plans for students to enroll in the college-level classes.

For the first year, all the classes will be held on LA Unified school campuses and taught by LACCD teachers. In the future, qualified LA Unified teachers can also teach the courses, and the classes may be held at the nine campuses throughout Los Angeles.

More than 300 classes have already been designated, from American Sign Language to Yoga Skills. The classes are as varied as Forensic Fingerprint Evidence, Auto Body Construction Welding and Repair Fundamentals, Heating and Air Conditioning Theory and Culinary Arts Orientation along with traditional credit courses.

“We want the courses to be as broad as possible and figured out by the principals at the local level by people who know the community,” Cornner said.

At the Promising Practices Forum before school started, Local District South Superintendent Christopher Downing lauded 38 students who graduated with Associate Arts degrees along with high school diplomas at the same time from Harbor Teacher Preparatory Academy. Gipson said that number throughout the district is probably higher.

“We will have more data when we present this all to the board in September,” Gipson said. “Really, this is several partnerships coming together in very thoughtful ways so that we’re strengthening opportunities for students instead of having so many systems that might make it challenging for our youngsters.”

Angulo said, “The dual enrollment with help students find career pathways through Linked Learning and in some places through credit-recovery efforts. This will happen before and after school days as well as during the school day.”

Gipson added, “We want to be known as a city of graduates and make sure everyone knows there’s a place for them.”

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