By Mai P. Tran, ECMC Foundation
Transformation in higher education is difficult. Historically averse to change, stuck on stale traditions, and subject to extensive regulations, compliance, and policies from governing bodies, accreditors, and the state departments of education that fund them, asking institutions to think differently is no easy call-to-action.
Recognizing this, the Campaign for College Opportunity, an ECMC Foundation grantee partner and an organization working to improve higher education outcomes across the state of California, hosted its second annual Champions for Change Higher Education Celebration to honor and recognize individuals and institutions leading innovative and thought-provoking change.
The event, held last night in Downtown Los Angeles, was attended by leaders across the state's public postsecondary institutions, community and philanthropic organizations and state-elected officials.
At the celebration, 13 of the state's public postsecondary education institutions were recognized for their excellence in implementing the Associate Degree for Transfer, which guarantees priority admission to California State University (CSU) campuses for eligible community college students. Honorees who championed this revolutionary pipeline toward bachelor degree attainment included four CSU campuses and nine community colleges. Award recognition was also made to five honorees for their leadership and commitment to increasing access and opportunity for millions of California community college students, regardless of their immigration status.
Attendees heard remarks from honorees and higher education leaders, including ECMC Foundation President Peter Taylor, who spoke on the pivotal role that the public higher education system plays in helping students in California access quality education and sustainable, adaptive careers; and the critical need to adequately fund these institutions.
"In my capacity leading the ECMC Foundation I get to travel nationwide speaking with educators about strategies to improve student persistence, and learning about what works and what doesn't," Taylor said.
"These travels around the country have illustrated to me time and again how fortunate we are in this state to have the extraordinary asset in our system of public higher education. How lucky we are to live in a state that has historically made such a commitment to the long-term view that investing in higher education requires. And how concerned we all should be about the current funding model for higher education in California that is increasingly broken and in a state of disrepair."
ECMC Foundation's President ended his speech by calling upon state officials to increase funding for the state's systems: "If we are to be able to continue to improve the quality of our campuses and be true to our public mission to provide student access and enable student success, that requires a commitment of financial resources with the long-term view."
Taylor, a higher education leader, is also a CSU Board of Trustee and the former CFO of the University of California system.