California Bill Designates Colleges Actively Supporting Black Students


In a progressive move aimed at enhancing educational equity, a new California bill seeks to recognize and support colleges and universities that actively enroll and foster success among Black students.

Passed by the state Senate and currently advancing to the Assembly, this bill introduces the "Black-Serving Institution" designation, aiming to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for Black students in higher education.

California Bill Designates Colleges Actively Supporting Black Students


Criteria and Support Measures

The proposed "Black-Serving Institution" designation sets specific criteria for eligibility, ensuring that institutions genuinely prioritize the needs and success of Black students. Colleges and universities must either enroll a student body that is at least 10 percent Black or have at least 1,500 Black students. Beyond enrollment, these institutions must implement a range of support measures, including drafting and funding a Black student success plan, fostering robust African American studies programs, and providing co-curricular educational activities or affinity centers tailored to Black students.

Institutions applying for this five-year designation are required to submit detailed graduation rates for all students and specifically for Black students over the past three academic years. Community colleges must also provide transfer rates to four-year colleges and the number of degrees and certificates earned. This data-driven approach aims to ensure accountability and transparency in the designation process.

READ MORE: Adam Harris Explores The Persistent Challenges Black Students Face In Higher Education 

Addressing Enrollment and Retention Challenges

California Senator Steven Bradford, who authored the bill, emphasized the importance of creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for Black students. He believes that the designation will not only signal to Black prospective students which institutions offer meaningful support but also enhance retention and graduation rates once these students are enrolled. "Being in an environment that is inclusive and culturally sensitive helps make the educational experience far more successful for Black students," Bradford stated.

Sacramento State University President J. Luke Wood, a key advocate for the bill, highlighted the lack of such designated institutions on the West Coast and Midwest. He noted that many Black students are forced to leave their regions in search of supportive educational environments. Wood's university, with over 2,000 Black students and a new Black Honors College launching soon, exemplifies the type of institution that would benefit from this designation. He expressed optimism that the bill would help retain local talent and provide Black students with accessible, high-quality education within their communities.

A National Perspective on Educational Equity

The bill also addresses a broader national trend of declining Black student enrollment. Between 2011 and 2019, higher education institutions across the United States lost approximately 600,000 Black students, a 29 percent drop. California's Black student enrollment has mirrored this concerning trend. Keith Curry, president of Compton College and another key supporter of the bill, emphasized the urgency of addressing this crisis. "We have to look at best practices and identify institutions that serve Black students effectively," Curry said, advocating for these institutions to become examples for others both within California and nationally.

The proposed designation has garnered support from scholars and educators who see it as a step towards long-term reparations for historical inequities. Gina Garcia, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, likened the designation to Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), which she views as a form of reparation for the long-term harm inflicted on Hispanic students. She argued that similar reparative measures are necessary for Black students in California to address the significant inequities they face.

Andrés Castro Samayoa, an associate professor at Boston College, praised the symbolic importance of the bill, especially at a time when several states are enacting legislation to limit diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. He highlighted that while the designation is a crucial recognition of the institutions' efforts, it lacks the additional funding that federal designations provide. Castro Samayoa called for further steps to enhance the resources available to these institutions.

Despite the absence of immediate additional funding, Curry remains hopeful that the designation will attract investment from donors and foundations. He sees the potential for this California initiative to serve as a model for other states, promoting a national movement towards greater support for Black students in higher education. With Compton College, where Black students comprise nearly a quarter of the student body, poised to be a prime candidate for the designation, Curry is eager to submit his institution's application and lead by example.

The proposed "Black-Serving Institution" designation represents a significant step towards educational equity in California. By recognizing and supporting institutions that prioritize Black student success, the bill aims to create more inclusive and supportive educational environments, ultimately enhancing retention and graduation rates among Black students. This initiative, if successful, could inspire similar efforts across the nation, contributing to a more equitable and just higher education system.

RELATED ARTICLE: Continued Minority Underrepresentation Among Black And Hispanic Faculty In Higher Education Exists, GAO Study Finds 

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