More than 10,000 students projected to graduate as part of Kern High School District’s 2022 class will be guaranteed admission to Cal State Bakersfield if they meet a set of requirements laid out in a new initiative the two institutions introduced Wednesday.
The initiative, named The University Promise, was lauded by education officials as a step toward boosting college enrollment for homegrown students while benefitting the local workforce and economy.
“The University Promise is just another step in a great collaboration between CSUB and the Kern High School District over a number of years,” CSUB President Horace Mitchell said. “Since state resources are not sufficient for CSUB to admit all eligible students, this initiative will help guarantee that every student in the district has the opportunity to attend CSUB.”
But students would need to hold up their end of the bargain.
University and high school officials are still drafting requirements, but to be granted guaranteed admission, students would need to maintain a minimum GPA (which hasn't been set), complete “A-through-G” college-prep coursework and have no need for remedial courses their freshman year of college, said Vikash Lakhani, CSUB assistant vice president of student success.
The University Promise doesn’t apply to students who attend community colleges, Lakhani said, however CSUB is working on a similar initiative with Bakersfield College that would streamline admissions to eliminate cost barriers for students who may not be able to afford four years of CSU tuition.
“The formal guaranteed pathway will happen,” Lakhani said.
The initiative encourages higher education in a region where college graduation rates lag. Just 15 percent of Kern County residents hold baccalaureate degrees, roughly half the national average. In Bakersfield, that figure is closer to 21 percent.
The University Promise is all about creating a “college-going culture,” CSUB spokesman Michael Lukens said.
To be sure, KHSD graduates make up the majority of CSUB’s student body. Roughly 65 percent of CSUB’s freshman class in 2016, or about 880 students, came straight from KHSD, Lukens said. That leaves thousands more Kern High graduates who could be attending college elsewhere, or choosing to enter the workforce. It’s unclear how many are college-bound.
“The first goal is to make the community aware that the university is possible for everybody,” Lakhani said. “Then we need to get parents to understand the benefits of going to college and the accessibility to college, and the fact that we’re here working in partnership to improve college attainment rates in the community.”
Starting the spring before freshmen enter high school, educators would reach out to them to promote college awareness with the goal of increasing the number of students enrolling and passing college-prep courses. Students who are not on a path to college, deemed “at-risk,” would be given targeted support to get them back on track, Lakhani said.
The two institutions would share data on students to gauge academic progress, collaborate on professional development training to improve curriculum alignment and eliminate barriers to higher education by streamlining admissions requirements, bolstering dual-enrollment course offerings and addressing remedial education.
CSUB would also establish student support services at all KHSD school sites to provide a “seamless pipeline and personalized transition” into college. It would be funded through grants or its general fund, according to a Memorandum of Understanding Mitchell and KHSD Superintendent Bryon Schaefer signed Wednesday.
CSUB’s enrollment has been growing, exceeding more 10,000 students for the first time in the university’s history this year. So what happens if every one of KHSD’s projected 10,100 freshmen take CSUB up on its offer of guaranteed admission in 2022?
“We could grow more,” Lukens said. “We just don’t have the resources to do it. Given that, we need to be strategic about the students that we admit, and we want to admit students from Bakersfield.”