Elected Officials, Educators Gather at UCR to Discuss Improving College Readiness and Completion in the Inland Empire

Assemblyman Jose Medina, who serves California’s 61st District and is chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education, led the meeting

Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox, Tom Smith, dean of the Graduate School of Education, Esha Mathew, a science and technology fellow, and Assemblyman Jose Medina talk before a hearing on Sept. 22 at UC Riverside focused on access to higher education. Michael J. Elderman

UCR Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox and Thomas Smith, dean of UCR’s Graduate School of Education (GSOE), joined elected officials, educators, and community leaders at a Sept. 22 public hearing on improving college readiness and degree attainment in the Inland Empire.

Assemblyman Jose Medina, who serves California’s 61st District and is chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education, led the meeting. He was joined by California assembly members Cheryl Brown, Tom Daly, and Eric Linder.

Speaking about best practices to ensure college completion, Smith highlighted UCR’s work with local school districts, community colleges, and governments to improve college readiness. This fall, UCR is introducing a new Advanced Placement Readiness Program (ARP) that will provide instructional support to 1,000 current and potential AP students in a variety of subjects. Smith said the GSOE is collaborating with the Riverside County Office of Education to help school districts evaluate their educational programs and develop best practices.

As one of the most diverse research universities in the nation, Smith said almost 35 percent of UCR’s undergraduate population comes from Riverside or San Bernardino counties, and there is no graduation gap between students of different ethnic or socioeconomic backgrounds. Smith was joined by Jay Fiene, dean of the College of Education at California State University, San Bernardino; Michael Burke, chancellor of the Riverside Community College District; and Bruce Baron, chancellor of the San Bernardino Community College District, in discussing regional efforts in supporting college students.

A hearing on Sept. 22 drew educators to discuss college access. Photo by Michael J. Elderman

A hearing on Sept. 22 drew educators to discuss college access.
Photo by Michael J. Elderman

Efforts to improve college readiness were presented by Catalina Cifuentes, school counselor/college and career coordinator at the Riverside County Office of Education; David Hansen, superintendent of the Riverside Unified School District; Renee Hill, assistant superintendent of RUSD; Maribel Mattox, director of secondary education at the Moreno Valley Unified School District; Tessa Carmen De Roy, executive director of the California College Guidance Initiative; and Ryan Smith, executive director of The Education Trust-West.

Lande Ajose, executive director of California Competes, and Paul Granillo, president and CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, reviewed some of the current challenges facing the Inland Empire, which lags behind other areas of the state in terms of residents’ education level and per capita income.

Medina said the meeting, which drew an audience of about 100 community members, provided important insight for those working to improve educational outcomes and in securing the long-term economic success of the region.

The community came out to a hearing on Sept. 22 about access to higher education. Photo by Michael J. Elderman

The community came out to a hearing on Sept. 22 about access to higher education.
Photo by Michael J. Elderman

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