In recent weeks I have had the opportunity to visit several of our colleges and help welcome students, faculty and staff back for the fall semester. To everyone, I want to thank you for contributing your talents to our system and for supporting the success of our students.

Over the last five years, our system has been in a period of transformation that centers our students at the heart of our design and implementation of higher education opportunities.

And we are seeing the results of our hard work. Recently, the national Association of Community College Trustees awarded the California Community Colleges Board of Governors its prestigious Equity Award. The award honors the way our system, guided by the Vision for Success, is putting students and equity at the core of everything that we do.

This year, our approach to equity and student success was included by the governor and Legislature in the multi-year strategy for public higher education, known as the Roadmap for the Future. This deepens and extends the commitment to the Vision for Success, prompting us to be even more ambitious in our goals in the future. It is matched through unprecedented investments by the state in our students and our 116 California community colleges.

The new state budget also expands financial aid opportunities, accelerates investments in affordable housing for our students and provides resources to colleges to address enrollment and retention.

We know enrollment is top of mind for many colleges, and some are reporting positive news this semester, and I have taken steps to  optimize student re-engagement across the system with the help of many of you.
I have convened a systemwide Student Re-engagement, Enrollment and Success CEO Roundtable with the purpose of informing the system about promising practices in student re-engagement, enrollment, success supports and advocacy, and better supporting regions of our state that will need close attention.

Perhaps more importantly, we are gathering input from tens of thousands of former and prospective students across the state. The survey was conducted by our RP Group colleagues, and is specifically designed to better understand what factors are influencing fall enrollment decisions. In the first few weeks of its administration, over 32,000 responses have been gathered. 

Key highlights among prospective students who have not enrolled yet are that they are considering another higher education institution (33%), cannot afford college (29%) and need to prioritize work right now (27%).  
For previously enrolled students, the need to prioritize work (31%) and the inability to afford college (28%) are key barriers. One in five former students say they need to prioritize dependent care or cannot find enough online classes.
Nearly half of the respondents indicated that they would like to be contacted by their college for help based on their responses. 

These early highlights already show us a glimpse of the path forward. We must continue to advance our student-centered design. At the heart of these early responses, you can see how our work to advance a campus sense of belonging and safety, addressing basic needs, and continuing to offer accessible learning modalities is needed to ensure that Californians achieve their dreams at a California community college.