S.E. Williams |
For far too many Californians, particularly students of color from families earning low incomes, higher education is elusive. While students of color face a variety of systemic barriers to education, they face one common obstacle: tuition costs and student debt.
The State of California is making an effort to address this reality. Launched in 2022-23, College Corps is a statewide, paid service program that connects college students – including Dreamers – to employment opportunities in the priority areas of K-12 education, climate action, and food insecurity. In exchange for 450 hours of service, College Corps participants, called Fellows, earn $10,000 – offering a meaningful leg up on educational expenses and debt reduction. The state aims to reach 10,000 students through this program within its first four years, creating a generation of ‘civic-minded leaders’ to help build a more equitable California that works for everyone. For these students, their families, and the communities benefiting from their service, this truly is a great exchange.
To date, the initiative has benefitted some of California’s highest-need students across more than 40 campuses. Among the 3,200 Fellows, 80% are students of color, 64% are first-generation college students, and 68% are Pell grant recipients, meaning they have exceptional financial need. In addition to the financial and professional development benefits of the program, Fellows also credit College Corps with providing a sense of purpose and belonging.
While we watch and celebrate the outstanding contributions these students make – both as Fellows and in the years to come, post-graduation – let us not take our eyes off the ball. For every Fellow, there are hundreds of Californians still facing systemic and institutional challenges that place higher education just beyond reach.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.
The recruitment process is underway for the 2023-24 cohort of College Corps Fellows. For more information, please visit CACollegeCorps.com.