Governor’s Signature on AB 417 Supports College Access

By Beth Meyerhoff, California State PTA Education Legislative Advocate

College opportunities for incarcerated teens and adults increased significantly when Governor Gavin Newson signed Assembly Bill (AB) 417 (McCarty) into law on October 6, 2021. This bill establishes guidance on how to spend the $10 million (already allocated in California’s 2021-22 State Budget) for the Rising Scholars Network. The Rising Scholars Network Project, under the direction of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, mandates that community colleges increase community college course access and support for students transitioning from incarceration, or who have been “justice-involved.”

AB 417 authorizes 50 of California’s community colleges to join the Rising Scholars Network in order to increase the number of justice-involved students attending. The bill also requires reporting and recommendations on the possible expansion of the Rising Scholars Network to all community college districts and campuses.

Prior legislation (Senate Bill (SB) 1391, Hancock) created a pilot program of colleges offering instruction inside prisons. According to the bill analysis, over 5,000 students are enrolled each semester in these programs and 19 colleges piloted programs. According to a Rand Corporation report, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults, inmates are 43% less likely to recidivate after receiving correctional education.

California State PTA supports legislation which improves academic achievement for all students. We support efforts to study issues related to the system of juvenile justice and to work for reforms that will best meet the needs of youth in the juvenile justice system.

PTA strongly believes that every student who meets the established eligibility requirements must be allowed access to the appropriate level of California’s system of higher education; financial hardship should not prohibit eligible students from attending institutions of higher education and efforts should be made to provide financial assistance to students.

The Legislation Action team relied upon the following authorities to support AB 417:


PTA has resolved to advocate for legislation and public policies that improve academic achievement for all students and eliminate the achievement gap.


PTA has resolved to study issues related to the system of juvenile justice in California and work for reform that will best meet the needs of children and youth who come in contact with the Juvenile Justice System; and be it further

Position Statement:
Basic Education

California State PTA believes that all children and youth have the responsibility and should have the opportunity to develop their abilities to their fullest potential.

Position Statement: 
Higher Education

California State PTA believes that … investment in students’ postsecondary education enriches the lives of all Californians, and provides skilled workers to meet the needs of California’s global economy.

Finding the Right College for your Student

By California State PTA Family Engagement Commission

A Conversation with Kelly Mattinson, Family Engagement Commission Consultant

Q. How does a student find the “perfect fit” college?

In most cases it’s a family decision. The choice needs to fulfill the needs of the student and the family , particularly when the parents are the financially responsible party or helping identify scholarships, grants or loans.

That said, the most successful college selection stories happen when three things factor equally into the decision: the social, academic and financial fit. All three are vital to a successful college journey.

Q. What do you mean by social fit?

By social, I mean “How does the school FEEL?” For example, a student should be asking:

  • Is it a large or small school, which do I learn better?
  • What clubs and activities are available?
  • Do they have a football team?
  • Do I care about school spirit?
  • Is there Greek life?
  • What is the weather like?
  • Is there dorm living?
  • How far is it away from home?

If possible, an in-person visit can be revealing. When you step on the campus, do you want to walk those grounds for the next four-plus years? Sometimes you just know the school is your place. Sometimes you immediately know it is not. If this is going to be your home for four years, it needs to feel like home.

Q. Beyond “do they have my major” what should a student look for to be sure of an academic fit?

This involves knowing a bit about your personal academic style. Do you prefer a semester or quarter schedule? How intense or laid back do you want your academic experience to be? The pace is an important factor to academic success.

Does the college offer multiple majors that interest you? Most students do not graduate with their initially intended field of interest. Having back up options is best as you discover new things about yourself and disciplines in college – that is part of the process.

Q. Isn’t a financial fit just a straightforward affordability question and aren’t more expensive colleges naturally better?

College is expensive. You get what you pay for can be true, but it can also be misleading. Just because the price tag is high does not necessarily make it the BEST. There are amazing public schools out there that come with federal and local funding packages that can help you, there are also VERY generous private universities that will invest in you given the opportunity.

When choosing your BEST fit university, make sure you are comparing apples to apples and not watermelons to grapes. Take all things into account. For example, look at the average time to graduate. If you pay $200,000 but it takes you 5 years to graduate, it actually costs you more than a 4-year university experience at $200,000 because you lose a year of earnings. In other words, sometimes a less expensive school can cost more because it will take longer to graduate. Most private universities guarantee that you will graduate in four years. There may be several reasons including that they may not have the housing or they gave you a lot of financial aid and want you to move on and give back as an alumni. (Watch for more on this and the FAFSA process in an upcoming post.)

Q. Why is the best FIT important for parents as well?

College selection and application is a process that can take up family time and parental involvement in the high school years. Some families are also able to make a financial commitment (even a financial sacrifice!) towards their child’s college experience. After all that, can you imagine your child crying because they are miserable at college? Talk about salt in the wound. I want to know my son is thriving and that he will be happy and productive in his life ahead and hopefully he will take care of me when I am old… lol. It is much easier to be happy for your kid when they are happy…. it is the worst to MISS them (and you will) and have them miserable. Trust me… if they go away to college and they’re happy, it makes it easier to not mourn their empty room.

For more resources on college and career preparation be sure to visit this Family Engagement webpage.

Kelly Mattinson is a former Council PTA President and current local PTA leader. She has worked as a college admissions planner in Los Angeles, helping families find the right fit for their students going to college.