The Impact on Community Colleges

California's community colleges have open admissions, but study finds they have been affected by ban on affirmative action.

October 12, 2020
 
Los Angeles City College

Election Day will bring the outcome of the presidential race, of course, but in California, it will also feature a vote on whether to restore affirmative action, which has been banned in the state since 1996 by Proposition 209. Polls have indicated that the referendum faces long odds of passing.

Most of the discussion has focused on the University of California, and especially its campuses at Berkeley and Los Angeles, which have lost Black students and many Latinx students who would otherwise have enrolled. But a new report from the Education Trust-West argues that the ban on affirmative action has had a major impact on community colleges, too.

The measure to eliminate affirmative action forced a change in "the Student Equity Policy, passed in 1992, [which] required community colleges to explicitly investigate and address the institutional barriers facing ethnic minorities," the report says. "The policy was clear in its intent to create a more equitable environment for racially minoritized students. After Proposition 209, the policy changed significantly due to the legal mandates as well as public rhetoric around affirmative action. The language shifted from being race-conscious to providing an 'educationally equitable environment, regardless of ethnic origin or race' for all students."

In addition, "transfer centers in community college quickly removed race-conscious goals, efforts and practices, shifting their focus to 'low-income, disabled and first-generation students.'"

And "race-conscious and culturally relevant programs seeking to improve rates of transfer and completion in community colleges were ended as they could be seen as 'not appropriate under the law.' Proposition 209 reinforced a one-size-fits-all approach where longstanding racialized disparities were to be addressed with generalized programs and practices."

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