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College Opportunity plan to be explored
  January 31, 2006
Mike Stepanovich, 661/654-2456,,
or Elisa Bongiovanni, 510/645-1362,

A town-hall-style meeting to discuss the importance of young Californians pursuing and completing a college education is scheduled in Bakersfield on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 7:30 a.m., hosted by the Campaign for College Opportunity, California State University, Bakersfield, University of California, Merced, the Kern Community College District, Kern County Black Chamber of Commerce and the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The meeting is one of more than 20 events statewide to initiate dialogue on a groundbreaking new study, “Return on Investment: Educational Choices and Demographic Change in California’s Future.” The study was first released Nov. 30, 2005, and is being followed by a statewide series of meetings.

Conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, the study breaks new ground in two respects, said Maricela Renteria, community organizer for the Campaign for College Opportunity:

  • It provides the most comprehensive projections yet of future California population and education levels.
  • It outlines the return on investment of greater college participation and completion measured by total income, state tax revenue, poverty, employment and other vital indicators.

Among the study’s key findings:

  • The number of young adults ages 18-24 is increasing faster than in any period since 1970.
  • For every dollar California invests to get more students in and through college, it will receive a net return on investment of $3.
  • While the payback from investment is not immediate, it is surprisingly quick. California’s public sector will show a positive balance 10 years after these students have completed their education. By age 35, the state’s initial investment will be repaid in full.

“To move toward solutions, the Campaign for College Opportunity is working toward a statewide College Opportunity Plan, which is our proposal for how the state can achieve the improved education outcomes that we need,” Renteria said. “The plan includes specific benchmarks for college participation and completion, as well as proposals for the efficiency of higher education, state funding and investment, and long-term tuition and financial-aid policies.”

The plan includes some elements related to better preparation in grades K through 12, but is primarily focused on higher education, she said.

“After feedback from the regional meetings, the College Opportunity Plan will be included in bi-partisan legislation for consideration by the Legislature and the governor in 2006,” she said.

The purpose of the 20 regional “Invest in the Future” dialogues is to:

  • Inform business and civic leaders of the latest research showing the link between expanding college opportunity and California’s economic future.
  • Engage local leaders in discussing policy solutions in the College Opportunity Plan and identify areas of agreement and consensus.
  • Involve Californians in specific, practical ways to make a positive impact in college opportunity and the state’s future.
  • Increase support of these issues from local legislators and elected officials.

Community leaders from throughout Kern County and the Antelope Valley have been invited to attend the meeting at University Square, 2000 K St., Lakes Room, second floor, in downtown Bakersfield, which is expected to last two hours.

The meeting will begin at 7:30 a.m. with a welcome and overview by Laura Catherman, assistant director of the University of California, Merced’s Bakersfield center, and Renteria. About 10 minutes later, Renteria and David Wolf, co-founder and senior consultant with the Campaign for College Opportunity, will discuss “why we must act,” and “what California can do.”

At 8:15 a.m., keynote panelists will spend three to five minutes each answering two questions: why we must act, and how we must act. Panelists include CSUB President Horace Mitchell; Patrick Collins, president and CEO of the Kern Economic Development Corp.; and Milton Younger, senior partner in Chain Younger Cohn & Stiles.

“At a time of demographic and economic change, we call for the state of California to adopt a College Opportunity Plan to ensure economic vitality through college opportunity,” Renteria said. “The central goal of this plan is for a greater number of young Californians to pursue and complete a college education. To achieve this goal the state needs to ensure there will be sufficient capacity in our community colleges, public universities and independent colleges to serve a greater number of students, while at the same time ensuring that students are prepared to seek the opportunities available to them.”

For more information, go to, or contact Elisa Bongiovanni, communications director for the Campaign for College Opportunity, at (510) 645-1362, or



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