Leadership Matters for Student Success

Last week, I penned an opinion editorial in EdSource that spoke to the urgency of investing in and transforming community colleges to drastically improve student success. When fewer than half of all community college students earn a degree, credential or transfer after six years, and when these rates are worse for Latinx, and Black students, we must do better.

Governor Brown, the Legislature, and Community College Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley have been unabashed in their commitment to radically improve student success through bold investments and policy reforms. With these leaders we have championed historic investments to expand college access, preserve financial aid, fix remedial education and placement practices, and ensure clear pathways in and through college. This is also why today - alongside civil rights and education leaders across California   - we support the Governor’s proposed community college student success funding formula, which makes improving student outcomes and serving low-income students a priority.

Because leadership matters, earlier this year we released a historic report, Left Out: How Exclusion in California’s Colleges and Universities Hurts Our Values, Our Students, and Our Economy , on the importance of racial and gender inclusion in higher education leadership to student success. We found that our college leaders and faculty are not reflective of the diversity of our students even while we know that these leaders are key to producing more college graduates and closing racial gaps.

The least diverse of all higher education leaders are systemwide and campus academic senate bodies, as documented in a supplemental Left Out brief we are releasing today. Despite 69% of all undergraduates in the state being racially diverse, 82% of systemwide academic senates and 74% of campus academic senates are White.
Academic Senates in 2016-17
California Undergraduates
Campus Academic
Senate Members
Systemwide Academic Senate Members
Academic senates are critical leadership bodies in higher education, setting standards and policies regarding admissions, student preparation, establishing course prerequisites, developing curriculum, and setting grading policies and course guidelines to award degrees. Decisions made by academic senates impact every single undergraduate in the state of California. Academic senates play a tremendous role in whether or not bold policy changes to improve student success are actually implemented, yet these bodies are the least reflective of the students they serve, and that should be unacceptable.

To improve college student success, we need leaders who are willing to be courageous and bold, and who reflect the diversity and understand the needs of today’s students. We cannot afford to lose another generation of Californians who go to college and never realize their college dreams.
Click here to read the Left Out Academic Senate brief.
Michele Siqueiros, President