Newsom signs Smith’s higher education opportunity bill

Attendees walk near the dozens of information booths surrounding the Honor Grove during the College of the Canyons Welcome Day event at College of the Canyons Valencia campus on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

More high school students in the Santa Clarita Valley and across the state will be able to enroll in summer community college courses after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1729, which was introduced by Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita. 

“I am so proud to see this legislation become California law, as dual enrollment programs have been shown to improve college readiness, reduce the time and debt involved in attaining a degree and close the achievement gap for underrepresented students,” Smith said in a statement.

The bill, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2020, allows for additional students who meet certain criteria to enroll in higher education courses during the summer by exempting them from the current 5% enrollment law, which was established in 1963 and permits only 5% of students per grade level and school to enroll. While AB 1729 exempts the percentage cap, “authorization to enroll would still remain with each California community college district,” according to the bill analysis. 

With a possible enrollment increase, the Senate Appropriations Committee said the bill could result in “unknown Proposition 98 General Fund cost pressure, potentially in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, for community college districts to admit additional high school students beyond the existing enrollment cap,” the analysis read. 

In spearheading AB 1729, Smith worked with College of the Canyons. COC Chancellor Dianne G. Van Hook said the new law “will help more students succeed in college. This gives them the confidence to continue with college after high school, and puts them on a path toward achieving their academic goals.”

SCV students not only have opportunities to enroll during the summer at college campuses but they also have had the chance to do so at their own high school campuses. 

Since 2018, COC and the William S. Hart Union High School District have been working together through a dual-enrollment agreement to increase students’ access to college-level courses by allowing COC to host classes on high school campuses during regular school hours — a move made possible through Assembly Bill 288. 

Hart District officials were unavailable to discuss the passage of AB 1729 Tuesday, but COC Assistant Superintendent Jerry Buckley has previously said the Hart District already hosts more than a dozen sections of dual-credit college courses at its campuses. 

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