Los Angeles Times

Giving Every California Youth a Fair Shot at Success

April 27, 2016

My parents immigrated from Taiwan to the United States to obtain an education that allowed my family to be in the middle class.  My parents worked hard to contribute to the prosperity of this country and give their children the opportunity to be successful professionals.  In California, we have invested in the University of California (UC), the California State University (CSU), and our community colleges so all Californians can reach their potential and contribute to the prosperity of our great state.  Collectively, we recognize that California’s most valuable resource is our human talent.

Unfortunately, we do not have a level playing field for all students who are willing to study hard and earn high grades to enter our top public universities.  I am honored to partner with Senate President pro Tempore Kevin De Leon and coauthor his bill, SB1050, to ensure more students, including Asian Pacific Islander students, have a fair shot to earn a UC or CSU degree.  While the bill will not change the criteria to be admitted, it will expand the number of admissions for low income Californians at UC.  SB1050 is about bringing us together as Californians around the goal of giving every qualified student the opportunity to attend UC and CSU.

Last year, Senate Democrats were successful in funding over 15,000 more enrollment slots at the the University of California (5,000) and California State University (10,400).  Now we want to make even more positions available to California residents and ensure that every California high school student can be prepared to qualify for a UC.

Tragically, many of our high school students don't even have the opportunity to get into UC because their high school doesn't have the classes they need to qualify.  Less than half of California’s high school graduates are qualified to attend a four-year university. Too many fail to complete the necessary “A-G” coursework required for admission to CSU and UC.  We recognize more needs to be done to strengthen the pipeline in high school.

SB1050 resulted from engaging California leaders in higher education and stakeholder communities, including leaders in the Asian Pacific Islander community. The bill strengthens the pipeline at high schools by providing incentives to school districts and charter schools to provide access to more rigorous coursework with K-12 teacher development in college-readiness subjects and grant money to help low-income students qualify for postsecondary institutions. It also requires the University of California to admit more students from high schools that enroll 75 percent or more low-income, English learners, and foster youth.

Admission into UC and CSU cannot be a zero sum game for California students.  If a California student studies hard and qualifies for UC, they should have the opportunity to earn a UC degree.  All California students should have an equal opportunity to demonstrate their ability to earn a UC or CSU education, regardless of their race or ethnicity or socioeconomic status.

California cannot afford to let any of our human talent go unrealized.  The Public Policy Institute of California estimates that by 2030, California will have a shortage of 1.1 million workers holding a bachelor’s degree if we don't increase our supply of college graduates. If we can improve our educational outcomes, California residents will experience higher incomes, greater tax revenues, and lower use of social services.

My parents made giving their children an education their highest priority, so I was fortunate to attend college and graduate schools and receive a Bachelor of Arts in Biophysics from The Johns Hopkins University, a Medical Doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh and a Masters of Public Health from Harvard University.  And in my career as a pediatrician, university professor, and now State Senator, I have met many parents who want to give their children the same opportunities.  SB 1050 is about giving that opportunity to every young person who is willing to study hard and achieve in school. SB 1050 is about fairness for every student and their family and our mutual prosperity as a state.