Driving Historic Legislation for Higher Education

Alumna Michele Siqueiros ’95 plays a key role in California’s $47 billion higher education package

Michele Siqueiros ’95

On October 6, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed two bills into law that will make it easier for students to transfer to a four-year university in California. Pitzer College alumna and trustee Michele Siqueiros ’95 was with the governor when he signed the bills at California State University, Northridge. As president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, Siqueiros was part of a coalition that brought the bills to the governor’s desk. The Campaign for College Opportunity, a nonprofit policy advocacy and research organization committed to increasing college access and success, co-sponsored the bills.

The bills, AB 928 and AB 1111, were part of a $47.1 billion higher education package—the most invested in higher education in modern history, according to the governor’s office. AB 928 makes it easier for community college students to transfer to University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) schools by creating a pathway to UC and CSUs. It also establishes a committee dedicated to simplifying the transfer process and gets students on track for an Associate Degree for Transfer. AB 1111 requires California’s 116 community colleges to adopt a common course numbering system that is accessible and easy to understand.

“Together, these student-centered bills address the dismal community college transfer rates that have persisted for decades—less than 3% of students transfer after two years and less than half after six years,” Siqueiros said. “This historic legislation tackles transfer inequities head-on by increasing collaboration between our state public colleges and universities and eliminating unnecessary hurdles that have kept students from reaching their transfer goals.”

Siqueiros says AB 928 was inspired by two years of conversations with community college students “who painfully shared the persistent roadblocks to transfer, as well as their best thinking on how to improve the critical function of transfer.”

The bill builds on a policy reform effort Siqueiros led in 2010 that made it easier for students to transfer from a California community college to the CSU system. The policy reform also created the Associate Degree for Transfer, a program that guarantees priority admission to a school in the California State University system.

Along with the Campaign for College Opportunity, Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis co-sponsored the bills, which were authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman. A wide range of stakeholders backed the bills, including the CSU system and student leaders from the CSU, University of California (UC), and community colleges.

Siqueiros said she is extremely proud and grateful to California’s leaders for supporting this college affordability and accessibility legislation.

“As a first-gen college graduate who knows firsthand the life-changing power of a college education, especially for low-income, Black, and Latinx students, I am especially happy for the millions of community college students who will have a smoother path to transfer and reach their own college dreams,” Siqueiros said.

Siqueiros, who is Pitzer’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award honoree, has fought to improve college access throughout her career. She has been the driving force behind the Campaign for College Opportunity since 2004 and became its president in 2008. For 17 years, Siqueiros and the nonprofit have championed major budget appropriations, secured historic higher education legislation, and established a broad network of more than 12,000 coalition supporters.

Following the historic bill signing, the Campaign for College Opportunity stated that the investment and policy reform for higher education came “at a time when the uncertainty of the pandemic requires urgency, courage, and creativity. “As Governor Newsom took final action on state policy this weekend, we are proud to have worked alongside students, advocates, system leaders, and community partners “As Governor Newsom took final action on state policy this weekend, we are proud to have worked alongside students, advocates, system leaders, and community partners in putting forth bold, racial equity-minded, and student-centered policy.”