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The politics of affording a good college education


Practical Politics

No, every public-school student in California will not attend a college or university either in California or elsewhere. That’s a given. Also to be noted is that college is not for everyone, nor does a college degree always equal financial or business success in the U.S.

However, a sound college-university education is still recognized as a solid “good” in modern society, and an achievement still seen as much more positive than negative. This is despite the current distaste caused by modern political discourse. Ask virtually any parent, especially African-American ones, and you’ll most likely get a thumbs up on whether to accept an affordable opportunity for their children to get accepted to a modern college or university.

California, for several years, already had the popular “early college” program, which allows high school students to engage in a dual-enrollment program that provides them, while they are still in high school, the opportunity to take college undergraduate-level classes, often through a local community college, at little to no financial cost. For students in such a program, by the time they graduate from high school, they could already have simultaneously earned a two-year associate of arts degree, which will either give them employment-level skills in a particular field or count as completion of the freshman-sophomore years of college. The latter allows such students to enter a Berkeley or UCLA-level university at the status of a junior in college.

California is not alone in providing this kind of student option. Currently, at least 34 other states also have policies that guarantee that high school graduating students with an associate degree can transfer to a four-year state school as a junior. In total, current data shows that there are currently about 900 such programs across the country.

In practical effect, that can slice at least two years off the cost of earning a bachelor’s degree. That effectively cuts the expense in half, and it can halve the student loan debt, too. Both of those are very significant issues currently. 

However, California currently has another advantage. There exists a fairly new law championed by Gov. Newsom (the legislation was passed in 2022 but escaped the notice of most citizens) that grants all California state children who apply for it a free $500 bank savings account to accumulate interest until they graduate from high school and are college eligible. 

Aiming at selling the idea that, “California is telling our students that we believe they’re college material – not only do we believe it, we’ll invest in them directly,” Governor Newsom said that the state was providing up to $1,500 free to each California child in order to  “transform lives, generate college-going mindsets, and to create generational wealth for millions of Californians.”

Called CalKIDS, the new law says that all California families which include low-income public-school students (which currently numbers approximately 3.4 million children across the state) will be given college savings accounts created in their children’s names. The state will provide financial investments of between $500 and $1,500 per student—free money-- as a seed deposit in a Scholar Share 529 college savings account.

This is doing much more than merely talking about doing something positive for the education of California’s youth population. It truly is putting our money where our mouths are.

Strong advice: Take advantage of it!

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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