By Dr. Queena Hoang

On March 21st, a panel of experts, representing each of California’s public postsecondary systems, joined Michelson 20MM to share lessons learned as their campuses implement AB 2881.

The passage of AB 2881, authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman and co-sponsored by the Michelson Center for Public Policy, represents major progress toward serving the nearly half a million student parents across California’s higher education systems. As a result of the bill, student parents can: 

  • Easily view services available to them on a dedicated student parent webpage, which is clearly visible and easily accessible from the homepage of their campus website. 
  • Learn more about the California Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children through campus orientations, student portals, and basic needs centers.
  • Participate in priority registration if they have a dependent minor living with them. 

Lesson #1: One Step at a Time

“Student parents are getting the visibility and the attention that they deserve.”  -Assemblymember Marc Berman

In his opening remarks, Assemblymember Berman celebrated the strides institutions have made in implementing AB 2881 on their campuses. “AB 2881 has served as a catalyst in this growing movement to both raise awareness and support for student parents by providing guidance and direction on how best to serve the student population,” he shared. “Student parents are getting the visibility and the attention that they deserve.” 

Assemblymember Berman offered his appreciation and commended the practitioners for meeting the needs of student parents by providing them with resources and the support necessary to succeed in college. Following his remarks, we were honored to share the virtual stage with our panel of experts. 

Kelly King and Betsy Regalado kicked off the panel discussion, representing the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), the largest district in the country with over 200,000 students. When they began the process of implementing AB 2881, LACCD first took a look at their continuing student population to identify student parents actively enrolled in their system, which included 15,868 student parents district-wide during their winter 2024 term. In this current semester, they’ve provided priority enrollment for 27,484 student parents. 

Following Regalado, King highlighted examples from LA Southwest College, LA Pierce College, and East LA College that demonstrate their commitment to create a family-friendly environment for their students. King recounted attending an enrollment fair at LA Pierce College, complete with a petting zoo that kept her two children entertained. “It really felt like a family event, and that’s what I think we want to see across our colleges; even if you don’t have goats on campus,” King said.

Lesson #2: Communication Across Campuses Is Key to Supporting Student Parents

Liz Reed and Laura Yager from the California State University (CSU) system followed LACCD’s lead. Reed shared system-wide progress on implementing AB 2881 data collected from the fall 2023 semester; she also discussed how the CSUs plan to continue and innovate and improve on providing support for their pregnant and parenting student population. 

The speakers emphasized the importance of cross-campus communication and collaboration to best share information not only about AB 2881 and priority registration, but also on other wrap-around services for students. Presently, the CSUs have approximately 2% of students self-certifying as parenting students and taking advantage of priority registration. 

Yager underscored how Fresno State University intentionally decided where to best host their webpage for student parents and also how to define “priority” when it comes to registration. It was imperative to have multiple partners around the table to help make these decisions, including those from academic and student affairs. 

Lesson #3: Collaboration Throughout the System and Country Is Essential

“Something we immediately noticed was that campuses had a lot to learn from one another and gain support from one another.” -Heather King 

Lastly, Heather King and Marissa Weiss shared best practices from the University of California (UC) campuses. In November 2023, the UCs started a system-wide community of practice for pregnant and parenting students to discuss the current successes, challenges, needs of parenting students, and how they can creatively solve the problems on a monthly basis. 

“Something we immediately noticed was that campuses had a lot to learn from one another and gain support from one another,” King reflected. She also discussed how AB 2881 has opened ongoing conversations within and among campuses, the University of California Office of the President, as well as other colleges and universities across the country. 

The Future of Supporting Student Parents 

We closed out the webinar with information about AB 2458, the GAINS for Student Parents Act, which was presented by AJ Johnson at California Competes and accompanied by a powerful testimony from Krystle Pale, student parent from UC Santa Cruz. Pale shared how a cost of attendance adjustment and securing a dependent care allowance positively impacted her academic journey. 

The Michelson Center for Public Policy is excited to co-sponsor this bill and can’t wait to see how it continues to support parenting students. 

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation working toward equity for underserved and historically underrepresented communities by expanding access to educational and employment opportunities, increasing affordability of educational programs, and ensuring the necessary supports are in place for individuals to thrive. To do so, we work in the following verticals: Digital Equity, Intellectual Property, Smart Justice, Student Basic Needs, and Open Educational Resources (OER). Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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