News

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Inland Empire lags behind the state in college-going and graduation rates

A Thursday morning hearing on boosting college readiness and college graduation rates drew about 100 people to UC Riverside where they heard ideas ranging from a centralized student data system to supplemental programs for high school students.

Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, who heads the Assembly Higher Education Committee, said the meeting focused on issues in the Inland Empire. The meeting drew education leaders from across the region as well as several other Assembly members, including Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education suspended federal financial aid for prospective students at ITT Technical Institutes, a national, publicly traded, for-profit college. The next day, the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education prohibited California ITT locations from enrolling new students.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Free college education was one of the issues spotlighted at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week.

True, it was dwarfed by the historic nomination of the first woman to represent a major political party as a presidential nominee, but it was in the mix. And as fall terms approach, it becomes an even more important issue to students pursuing degrees while worrying about their finances.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

SACRAMENTO - When a recent report by the California State Auditor revealed that the University of California has recruited more out-of-state and overseas applicants leading to a drop in the number of resident enrollment, state lawmakers were outraged.

“It’s an alarming insight. It’s a clear indication that California students are being pushed to the side and kicked to the curb by the UC system,” said Assembly member Mike A. Gipson, D-Carson.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

By JOSE MEDINA / Contributing writer

In 2012, Tiffany Johnson enrolled as a first-time college student at Heald College. The school guaranteed her a high-paying job and successful career upon graduation, which could be in “as little as nine months,” according to advertising. Three years later, Tiffany faces $37,000 in student loans and has no degree to show for her time, effort and debt. She is one of thousands of students with similar stories, who were taken advantage of by the illicit practices of some for-profit colleges.

The announcement this week that Westwood College will close four California campuses marks the latest in a series of closures of for-profit schools. In July, Four-D College unlawfully closed two California campuses. In April, Corinthian Colleges abruptly ceased operations at all Heald, Everest and WyoTech campuses, including 23 in California. These closures followed investigations and enforcement actions by state and federal agencies.

An estimated 1,800 students are enrolled at the California campuses of Westwood Colleges facing closure. Approximately 600 students were enrolled at Four-D at the time of closure, and California had 13,000 students enrolled in Corinthian institutions at the time of closure. The California Department of Veterans Affairs also suspended Corinthian’s participation in veteran student aid programs for another 1,100 California veterans enrolled through August 2014.

Many of these students, like Tiffany, were harmed by illegal and deceptive practices. Many remain overwhelmed with debt – the federal loan debt of California Corinthian students alone exceeds $300 million. Students forced to default on federal loans, either because they could not graduate or because their degree is of questionable quality, face severe lifelong consequences. The government can offset Social Security benefits, seize tax refunds and garnish wages. Students with defaulted federal loans lose eligibility for federal financial aid and have serious damage to their credit histories.

In recognizing that an unlawful school closure affects a student’s ability to repay federal loans, the U.S. Department of Education provides “closed school” loan discharge options, so long as students do not transfer any credits earned at the closed school. Additionally, due to findings of widespread fraud and abuse at Corinthian, the Department of Education is expanding “defense to repayment” loan discharge options for students who can prove they were defrauded.

For students to access this debt relief, however, they must be able to navigate the complicated and flawed application process. According to a letter from the attorney generals of 12 states, successfully applying for “defense to repayment” loan forgiveness would “require an understanding of contract, tort or unfair practices statutes” – skills and knowledge inaccessible to most students. According to recent testimony provided by staff from the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, the California agency responsible for assisting for-profit college students affected by an unlawful school closure, Corinthian students who have contacted the bureau have largely needed assistance in order to secure even a “closed school” loan discharge. The bureau currently has one employee responsible for assisting the thousands of California students potentially eligible for loan forgiveness and tuition recovery.

Following the closure of Corinthian, the California Legislature acted swiftly to provide a reasonable remedy through Assembly Bill 573. It would have provided $1.3 million in legal assistance grants to help students with the loan forgiveness process. It also would have restored California education grant eligibility by providing up to two years of restoration in the Cal Grant and California National Guard Educational Assistance programs.

AB573 had broad, bipartisan support. Although sympathetic, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it, arguing that student access to the federal loan forgiveness process is sufficient, despite significant evidence to the contrary.

The announcement from Westwood Colleges highlights the importance of supporting students facing a college closure. Helping California students revoke their student loan debt and obtain tuition recovery is good for these students, costs very little to the state of California and provides benefits, now and in the future, to California’s economy. Not to mention, it is the right thing to do.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

An Inland lawmaker's bill to help thousands of students whose private colleges shut down earlier this year passed a Senate subcommittee June 29.

AB 573, authored by Assemblymen Jose Medina, D-Riverside, and Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, has passed the Assembly. It would provide legal and financial assistance to more than 13,000 California students left to fend for themselves after Corinthian Colleges of Santa Ana closed its Everest, Wyotech and Heald campuses earlier this year.

Friday, June 19, 2015

By JOSE MEDINA 

Witnessing the transformative power of education and the positive impact educational attainment has on the lives of individuals is a remarkable experience. As a former educator, I enjoy reconnecting with students who have achieved their academic, personal and career goals.

But in order for more California students to achieve their goals, we must strive to improve our world-class public higher-education system.

One of my top priorities as chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee is to ensure access and the affordability of public higher education in California. In order to allow every UC-qualified California student access to the University of California system, I authored legislation, Assembly Bill 1370, to discourage the displacement of California students in favor of out-of-state students who pay higher tuition. The legislation would utilize part of the out-of-state student tuition revenues to increase enrollment of California students.

I advocated in the Legislature for a state budget that provided funding to increase access to California State University and UC. I am pleased that this year’s budget will include an additional $97 million for CSU to increase student enrollment and to enhance the number of tenure-track faculty. The budget also includes an additional $25 million for the UCs, contingent upon a 5,000 California student increase.

Our higher education system requires a socio-economically diverse campus environment. Diversity is becoming a significant issue on state campuses. Ranked 12th in the nation in diversity by the 2013-2014 U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges, UC Riverside has been a leader on this front. During a recent hearing that I held at UCR, students, faculty and educational leaders engaged in a discussion about how to increase diversity. This hearing highlighted the importance of working closely with high school students to ensure college readiness, establishing campus learning communities and providing financial assistance to low-income students.

I am pleased to report that the budget will provide funding to advance a number of these goals. The budget will require UC and CSU to be accountable for their efforts to improve graduation rates for low-income and under-represented students, will improve the delivery of remediation instruction at community colleges and will improve access for low-income students through increasing the number of competitive Cal Grant awards.

While the Legislature strives to improve the opportunities and campus environment for UC and CSU students, other California students need equal attention and advocacy. In light of the recent closure of Corinthian Colleges, which negatively impacted thousands of California students, I authored Assembly Bill 573 to ensure Corinthian College students have access to educational opportunity, economic relief and legal aid. I have heard from many students in the aftermath of the Corinthian College closures. Students were eager to successfully complete their programs and are now faced with a large amount of debt and must rethink their path.

Fortunately, California community colleges are able to accommodate these students impacted by the abrupt closure and assist them in achieving their educational goals.

The public’s support is critical to ensure AB573 – and helping students impacted by the Corinthian college closures – is a reality. To learn more information, please visit my website at asmdc.org/Medina. Together, we can ensure higher education remains a top priority for years to come and students can achieve their goals.