By Jesse Muñoz
Saturday July 14, 2007
Assemblyman Cameron Smyth was joined by chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Higher Education Anthony Portantino at College of the Canyons Friday – for a tour of the expanding campus and roundtable discussion on issues affecting California community colleges.
As chair of the committee, Portantino, D-Pasadena, has sought to visit community college campuses across the state as a way to both gauge the issues affecting students and address the legislative concerns of campus administrators.
Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, said Portantino will be a great education committee chair for the next several years because he’s passionate about education.
The early morning tour included stops at the William S. Hart Union High School District’s Academy of the Canyons, the college’s Interim University Center, and recently opened nursing labs housed in the new $18.7 million Aliso Laboratory and Lecture Hall.
“So much has happened on the campus just in (a) short period of time,” Smyth said. “So it’s great for me to get brought up to speed on everything that’s been going on.”
After the tour had concluded, both Portantino and Smyth were able to convene with a collection of COC administrators to discuss, among other things, COC’s continued advancement of career technology based courses and academic programs, and several pieces of pending legislation which Portantino’s office is advocating.
One bill, AB 668, would attempt to increase the amount of Pell Grant money received by California community college students by doing more to inform students about their financial aid opportunities. In pointing out that California falls “well below the national average” in terms of Pell Grant access, Portantino estimated that the passage of AB 668 could potentially increase statewide financial aid disbursements by some $400 million.
A second piece of legislation, AB 1409, would seek to promote better partnerships between high schools and community colleges to increase student access, while also removing current barriers which limit the amount of concurrently enrolled high school students that can attend community college.
Portantino expressed his position on the bill, commenting that he would like to see a shift in the state’s education system, to better complement a technological based economy.
“I’m a big (career technology) education person (because) not every student is going to go to a university,” Smyth said. “So I’m hoping to take this model here and to work with other (assembly) members across the state to take it into other community colleges.”