Graduation Time is Here, Time to Save


Graduation is the Perfect Time to Think About the Future

Graduation season is here. Whether you have a child finishing kindergarten or high school, graduation is the perfect time to reflect and think about the future. Planning for college can be daunting at times, and that’s why graduation is a natural time to consider your options about saving for college, which may be just around the corner. ScholarShare, California’s 529 College Savings Plan, offers families a tax-advantaged way to save early and help them ease the burden of rising tuition as well as provide some additional encouragement for that college-bound child in your life. Also, a great graduation gift could be one your graduate can’t unwrap, a contribution to a ScholarShare 529 account. Family members and friends can easily make a gift contribution to that special graduate’s college savings account.

ScholarShare is proud to be partners with GEAR UP, so we can work together to increase the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in college.

According to a 2013 survey by Hart Research Associates, 92% of parents considered getting a college degree worth it, but only 46% of parents have set up a dedicated savings or investment account for their child’s higher education costs. ScholarShare, recently awarded a Bronze metal rating by Morningstar, a prominent ratings agency, is administered by the state of California and managed by TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc. Named for the section of the internal revenue code under which they were created, 529 plans offer families a tax-advantaged way to save for college.scholar

Some of the benefits of the ScholarShare plan include:

  • Accounts can be opened with as little as $25;
  • A wide variety of low-cost investment options are offered;
  • There are no annual account maintenance fees;
  • Potential earnings are tax-free if used for qualified higher education expenses such as tuition and fees, books and supplies, and certain room and board costs;
  • Funds may be used at eligible educational institutions nationwide, and some abroad;
  • Anyone can contribute to the account, making it a great gift idea for family and friends for special occasions.

To learn more or to open an account, visit or call 1-800-544-5248. Like ScholarShare on Facebook at and follow us on Twitter at @ScholarShare529.

Preparing for college academically and financially can help keep students on the path toward success.


Consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses before investing in the ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plan. Please visit for a Program Disclosure Booklet containing this and other information. Read it carefully.

Before investing in a 529 plan, you should consider whether the state you or your Beneficiary reside in or have taxable income in has a 529 plan that offers favorable state income tax or other benefits that are only available if you invest in that state’s 529 plan.

The tax information contained herein is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties. Taxpayers should seek advice based on their own particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor. Non-qualified withdrawals may be subject to federal and state taxes and the additional federal 10% tax. Non-qualified withdrawals may also be subject to an additional 2.5% California tax on earnings. Investments in the Program are neither insured nor guaranteed and there is the risk of investment loss. The ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plan Twitter and Facebook pages are managed by the state of California. TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc., Plan Manager


Site helps community college students find best online classes

virtual campus

(from SF Gate article originally published here)

A website overhaul that makes it easier for community college students to know which online classes are best for their academic goals is the first tangible product of California’s $59 million push to make cyber college available for all.

State college officials unveiled the new website Monday, two years after lawmakers authorized spending the money over five years and made online education a key part of their plan to transform community college students from aimless course-takers into scholars with an eye toward university transfer.

The colleges offer thousands of online courses. But students complained that information they needed was often hard to find on the old site and that it couldn’t be used where they needed it the most: on their phones. Now it is.

“California may well be one of the largest providers of online education in the country,” said Brice Harris, the state’s community college chancellor. “We have a responsibility to make it good as we can and to provide support.”

The improved website — dubbed the “Virtual Campus” of the community colleges’ Online Education Initiative — is supposed to make it easy for students to find what they need from among more than 19,000 online courses offered at every level: community college, California State University, University of California, and even private schools.

But its main goal is to steer students toward the 2,500 classes that will earn them not merely an associate’s degree, but an associate’s degree “for transfer.” That degree premiered in 2013 and guarantees admission as a junior to CSU. The site “now provides search priorities that can be set for the associate degree for transfer,” said Steve Klein, program director of the Online Education Initiative.

Bold headlines — “Find your career path with an associate degree for transfer” or “Interested in guaranteed admission into a CSU?” — flash across the screen. But California has 2.1 million community students, and backing those promises up with enough courses to make it possible for all students to get the classes they need requires a huge amount of virtual assistance through online classes.

Online enrollment has more than doubled since 2005, from 13 percent to more than 29 percent this year, college officials said. That’s more than 650,000 students.

But the news isn’t all rosy.

Success in online courses is 11 to 14 percentage points lower than in traditional classrooms, says a 2014 study by the Public Policy Institute of California. The study looked at a wide range of students, subjects and colleges and found that students were less likely to complete online courses than those taken in the classroom, and were less likely to pass them.

Rather than give up, the college system — at the urging of Gov. Jerry Brown, a champion of online education — hopes to improve those outcomes. A new Public Policy Institute study with recommendations for the online effort is due out Tuesday.

A big reason students drop out is that they “don’t know what they’re getting into,” said Pat James, executive director of the online education initiative, who has taught online for years. “Very often they think it’s going to be easier. But you have to be self-motivated.”

One student who is self-motivated is Cristina Puente, 18, of Davis who has just graduated from high school and community college at the same time. Puente took all of her college courses online through Foothill Community College and will be a junior at UCLA this fall.

“A family friend who is savvy and technically smart worked alongside me” to sign up for the right courses, she said. “Without her, it would have been more challenging.” The new website, Puente said, “is a tool, like having a counselor. I think that’s wonderful.”

James and Klein said the next step in the online education initiative is to train instructors to do a better job, and to help students learn how to be students in the virtual world, where no one is there to welcome them with an open door and a clock on the wall to say that class is starting.



Many blacks in educational limbo, some college credit, no degree

From LA Times June 2, 2015


Ida Marie Briggs, shown at Cal State Long Beach, enrolled in community college as a young woman, but family and work kept her from earning a degree. Now, at 58, she’s about to re-enter school at Cal State Long Beach in the fall, determined to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology.  (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)


Earning a college degree has eluded Ida Marie Briggs for nearly 40 years.

Growing up the eldest of seven in a poor New Jersey household, she wasn’t able to accept a scholarship at a local university because of family responsibilities. Out on her own, she went to work, relocated to California and raised two children.

There were fits and starts over the decades: She enrolled in community college, attended a fashion and design school, and a San Fernando Valley business college that lost accreditation and cost Briggs time and money.

Her experience mirrors that of a population beginning to receive more attention from academic experts and colleges themselves: African Americans who have some college training but never made it to graduation. Their challenges are important because many would likely fill higher-wage jobs if they attained a degree.

In California and around the nation, campus-based programs have sprung up to coax many of these adults to re-enter college. These efforts, however, face a number of hurdles, including a lack of awareness that a degree may be within reach, limited financial resources and inadequate outreach and support services, according to a recent report by the nonprofit Campaign for College Opportunity.

About a third of black adults in California — 385,250 — have some college education but no degree, the highest rate of any racial or ethnic group, according to the report. Overall, about 4.5 million California adults never completed their studies.

There is no statewide strategy to help those who want to return to school, nor adequate funding for programs, said Michele Siqueiros, president of the advocacy group.

“The numbers are pretty stunning,” Siqueiros said. “We should be incentivizing adults interested in finishing and earning those degrees to come back. Not all will, but this is low-hanging fruit. Growing capacity, though, is going to require additional funding from the state.”

Under budget proposals by Gov. Jerry Brown, state funding for the University of California, Cal State and community colleges has increased this year. The 2015-16 plan calls for the three higher education systems to ease transfer policies, boost basic skills instruction and improve graduation rates — particularly for low-income and minority students.

Many of those goals may help re-entry students, but no specific funds are targeted to that group. And both UC and Cal State officials have complained that the budget plan doesn’t provide funding needed to increase enrollment.

The problems are not confined to California.

Nationally, enrollment of older, nontraditional students (adults 25 and over) is expected to grow more than twice as fast as for younger students in coming years, according to a recent report by the Center for Law and Social Policy.

But many financial aid and transfer policies are not keeping pace. A survey of the nation’s largest state-funded financial aid programs by the Education Commission of the States found that 33 of them link eligibility to the SAT and other college entrance exams, high school GPAs or other measures geared toward recent graduates. Many programs fund only full-time students, leaving out adults who may need to attend part time.

In California, the availability of Cal Grants dips steeply for students who don’t apply within a year of graduating from high school, according to the Institute for College Access & Success.

Additionally, many colleges and universities may not accept credits previously earned at other institutions, through online programs or for military training or work experience and may require students to take pre-college courses. Such policies could have a disproportionate impact on African Americans, who typically are heavily recruited by for-profit institutions and may end up with huge debt.

Many experts believe that the role of adult re-entry students may loom large in efforts to substantially increase the ranks of degree holders needed to bolster the nation’s workforce and economy, an agenda being pressed by President Obama and nonprofit organizations such as the Lumina Foundation.

“Unfortunately, this group is not at the top of anybody’s priority,” said Christina Sedney, project coordinator for the Adult College Completion Network.

“We need to think of ways to make coming back as efficient as possible for nontraditional students,” Johnson said. “Both UC and CSU are increasingly offering more online courses, and that will help. All of these are incremental changes but incremental changes in the right direction and necessary to help close some of those gaps.”

A program at UC Berkeley includes a course that helps re-entering students connect with each other. Many are low-income, underrepresented students who’ve had little experience at a competitive research-oriented institution such as Cal, said Ron Williams, director of Re-entry Student and Veteran Services at the campus.

Their life experiences and maturity may even be a “selling point” in the competitive admissions process, he said, adding that “it does set them apart from other applicants.”

Cal State Long Beach is actively recruiting African Americans to complete their degrees, with counseling, academic support and help with financial aid, said Bruce Vancil, assistant director for transfer and re-entry services.

Briggs attended a recent luncheon meeting of the African American initiative in Long Beach, which landed her in Vancil’s office to determine her prospects and whether her previous credits can be transferred.

At 58, she hopes to enroll at the Long Beach campus in the fall, determined to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Being unable to complete her education after high school had always been a big regret, Briggs said.

“Now I understand that I got accepted once and can get accepted again,” she said.

Twitter author: @CarlaRiveraLat


GEAR UP Regional Leadership Forums Make Strides


Developed to meet the diverse and complex needs of California GEAR UP middle schools, the 2015 Spring Regional Leadership Events provide a forum for school teams to problem solve together and learn from each other about school practices, challenges and solutions.  The events were designed to build on the progress made at the Fall events and were facilitated by Whole School Services Coaches with content designed to respond to the needs of each unique middle school community in their region. Activities were customized to engage and support participating schools within each region aligned with target areas of growth identified in the School Self Assessment Rubric.

Goals of the Regional Leadership Events:

  • Develop and expand working, cohesive school teams;
  • Share and reflect on leadership and approaches for developing leadership;
  • Network to share smart practices and opportunities for continued regional work;
  • Reflect on progress in building a sustainable college-going culture using the SSAR;
  • Use data to identify and address challenges to access and equity for All students;
  • Develop implementation plans for of GEAR UP partner resources and services;
  • Complete the PDAP and Communication Plan.

Below is the complete regional events report including attendees, content areas, presenters, and locations.

2014 Regional Institutes: 360 participants; 15 counties, 29 school districts, and 1 charter school were served

Title: North State Regional Collaborative                                                           October 15 & 16, 2014
GEAR UP Coach: Brad Trimble                                                                         Number of Participants: 55
Focus: Support and engage students transitioning to high school.
Presenters: Brandon Santiago (YouthSpeaks), Mark Cerutti—Assistant Superintendent (Elk Grove USD).
Region: North State                                                                                           Counties: Tehama and Shasta
Districts: Red Bluff, Antelope Elementary, Happy Valley Union Elementary, Richfield Elementary, and Gateway.

Title: 2014 Bay Area Regional Learning Institute                                             October 7 & 8, 2014
GEAR UP Coach: Michele Molitor                                                                    Number of Participants: 60
Focus: Achieving social justice and equity through Common Core strategies to ignite student success.
Tovi C. Scruggs, Principal, San Lorenzo High School, and Alice Kawazoe.
Region: Bay Area                                             Counties: Alameda, San Francisco, Solano, and Contra Costa
Districts: San Lorenzo, San Francisco, Vallejo, and West Contra Costa.

Title: 2014 Southern California Regional Institute                               September 30-October 1, 2014
GEAR UP Coaches: Mary Unverferth and Barbara Sedano                   Number of Participants: 105
Focus: Advancing Equity and Access for ALL Students through High Quality Teaching
Presenters: Robert Kaplinsky (Glenrock Consulting), Bruce Arnold and Mary Sirody (MDTP).
Region: Southern California                                                         Counties: San Bernardino and Los Angeles
Districts: Long Beach, Los Angeles, Mountain View, Palmdale, Rialto, San Gabriel, Baldwin Park, San Bernardino, Hacienda La Puente; Charter: The Accelerated School.

Title: 2014 Riverside Regional, GEAR UP Round-Up                                                September 30, 2014

GEAR UP Coach: Jon Sides                                                                                   Number of Participants: 55
Focus: GEAR UP Leadership Team progress & connecting with the School Self-Assessment Rubric (SSAR).
Presenters: Jon Sides
Region: Riverside                                                               Counties: Riverside, Los Angeles, San Bernardino
Districts: Moreno Valley, Azusa, Los Angeles, and Upland.

Title: Central Valley Regional Institute 2014                                                                    October 1, 2014
GEAR UP Coach: Martin De Mucha Flores                                                     Number of Participants: 45
Focus: Developing the “Why?” in Leadership and Cohesive Teams to influence school change.
Presenters: Encarnacion Ruiz—Director of Admissions (UC Merced); Raul Moreno—Coordinator (CSU Fresno, University Migrant Services), Sharon Twitty, Robyn Fisher, & Martin De Mucha Flores.
Region: Central Valley                                                                       Counties: Fresno, Stanislaus, and Tulare
Districts: Caruthers, Empire Union, Parlier, Pleasant View, and Raisin City Elementary.  

Title: ELA Differentiated Instruction                                                                                October 15, 2014
GEAR UP Coach: Frank Holmes                                                                         Number of Participants: 40
Focus: Strategies in English — Differentiated instruction in middle school Language Arts.
Presenters: Lynne Lertzman (the College Board).
Region: San Diego                                                                                                   County: San Diego County
Districts: Oceanside and San Diego County.

2015 Regional Forums: 318 participants; 12 counties, 21 school districts, and 1 charter school were served

Title: Southern California Regional                                                                                        March 6, 2015
GEAR UP Coaches: Mary Unverferth, Barbara Sedano & Frank Holmes        Number of Participants: 132
Focus: Engaging GEAR UP Schools in their continued work of achieving the conditions on the SSAR.
Presenters: James Kass (YouthSpeaks), Carole Gallagher (WestEd), Julie Mendoza (CAIC), and ScholarShare.
Regions: Southern California & San Diego   Counties: San Bernardino and Los Angeles, San Diego County
Districts: Long Beach, Los Angeles, Mountain View, Palmdale, Rialto, San Gabriel, Baldwin Park, San Bernardino, Hacienda La Puente, Oceanside and San Diego County.

Title: 2015 Bay Area Learning Forum                                                                                    April 15, 2015
GEAR UP Coach: Michele Molitor                                                                    Number of Participants: 66
Enhancing student engagement and building community.
Presenters: Vicki Rice, Cloteal Thrower-Herron, Carlene Davis (CEP), Mildred Gains & Joe Lara (PIQE), Patrice Hill (YouthSpeaks), Tyrone Weaver (Samuel Jackman Middle School), ScholarShare.
Region: Bay Area                                             Counties: Alameda, San Francisco, Solano, and Contra Costa
Districts: San Lorenzo, San Francisco, Vallejo, and West Contra Costa.

Title: Elk Grove/Sacramento Regional Leadership Forum                                              March 25, 2015
GEAR UP Coach: Jill Campbell                                                                          Number of Participants: 60
Focus: The purpose and value of building strong community for all students.
Presenters: Kadhir Rajagopal (Grant Union High School), Jay King, Tyrone Weaver (Samuel Jackman Middle School), Alice Kawazoe, and ScholarShare.
Region: Elk Grove/Sacramento                                                                  Counties: Sacramento and Amador
Districts: Elk Grove and Twin Rivers.

Title: GEAR UP Spring Symposium                                                                                 _____May 15, 2015
GEAR UP Coach: Jon Sides                                                                                 Number of Participants: 60
Focus: Foster care system—resources and tools to support foster youth in Riverside County.
Presenters: Tamera Trotter (Child Protective Services), Alyssa Heckmann (Guardian Scholars, UCR), Christopher Dech (Advisor Student Support, Moreno Valley College), Julie Orozco (EAOP, Cal State San Bernardino), Bruce Petersen (Riverside County, Office of Education & Student Programs) and Cedric De Visser (Upland Unified Child Welfare and Former Principal at Upland Junior High School).
Region: Riverside                                                         Counties: Riverside, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino
Districts: Moreno Valley, Azusa, Los Angeles, and Upland.

Big takeaways: The exchange of ideas, events, projects, etc. as a result of the “reflecting on the past” exercise has been mentioned a number of times.  One (GEAR UP) site contact returned to school and, using her notes, immediately drafted a memo of implementation listing ideas to share with the rest of her staff.  The group-alike breakout sessions gave teachers, administrators, counselors and out of classroom advisers a chance to share job specific experiences in building a college-going culture.  The regional event provided an opportunity for participants to work collaboratively and function as a learning community.

 Jon Sides-California GEAR UP School Services Coach


The mission of California GEAR UP is to develop and sustain the organizational capacity of middle schools to prepare all students for high school and higher education through a statewide network of support for adults who influence middle school students, specifically their counselors, faculty, school leaders and families. As a result of this expanded capacity, a higher proportion of students, particularly from backgrounds and communities that have not historically pursued a college education, will enroll and succeed in higher education. California GEAR UP is a program of the University of California Office of The President Education Partnerships department and has served whole school communities across the state since 1999.