Will California colleges return to normal after the coronavirus pandemic? Lande Ajose hopes not.

The pandemic forced postsecondary institutions into triage mode and left working-class students with difficult decisions. It also opened the door for advocates like Ajose, a higher ed policy advisor to Gov. Gavin Newsom who leads the state’s Council for Postsecondary Education, to develop a vision for the future of higher education that could be a model for the rest of the country — if it can get past the obstacles in its path to implementation.

Aiming to make the public higher education landscape in the state more equitable and inclusive for students of all backgrounds over the next decade, the document laying out this vision has a number of recommendations. Among them: centralize the college application process, bolster support for students as they transition from high school to postsecondary programs, standardize course numbers across institutions, and help connect students with resources to address digital connectivity issues, and food and housing insecurity.

“We have a system designed for 100 years ago, and 100 years ago we had a very different population of students,” said Ajose, who leads the Recovery with Equity task force, authors of the report. “We had very few women, we had very few people of color. And that’s who our system was designed for.”

Monica Lozano, president of the College Futures Foundation and member of the task force, said the goal is a system that caters to the needs and identities of students and provides clear pathways to educational success and good jobs.

“How do you use this as an opportunity to both reimagine and then reinvent public higher education systems in the state of California for Black and brown students, low income students?” she said.

Read the full article about higher education equity by Olivia Sanchez at The Hechinger Report.