To be more equitable we must first realize that we have the right to individualize our needs. We’ve realized that equity isn’t always the default solution to our problems. As such, we must learn to advocate for ourselves when it comes to fulfilling our needs or seeking fairness. 

Self-advocacy is asking for what you want to meet your needs. There can be some cases where you feel like you may not deserve what you need. The bit of insecurity can make speaking up feel scary. At the same time, we must also remember that the staff put in place is there to serve YOU. There’s a reason why you put so much money into your education. The people who work for the institution are also a part of the investment. 

It’s important to communicate a request clearly so that the person helping can understand your intention. If the person you asked can’t help you, it’s not that the request is impossible, it’s that you’ve talked to the incorrect person. The resources of a community college are spread across many departments and positions. If the person in front of you Is unavailable to help, ask if they can point you in the direction of someone who can. If it feels like you’ve reached a dead end, try reframing your questions in a way that could provide a new perspective. 

Just as it’s important to know what you need; it is also important to understand what you are entitled to. Here are a few rights to equip yourself as you advocate for a more equitable education: 

The Right to Basic Needs Services (AB 132)  

All California Community Colleges are required to have a basic needs center with a coordinator who can help students connect with on- and off-campus resources. These one-stop centers are often the fastest way to get help with things that impact your day-to-day life, like access to food and housing. Learn more about AB 132.  

The Right to Equitable Placement (AB 705)  

“Equitable placement” means you have the right to enroll directly in transfer-level math and English classes. Your college can’t make you take a remedial math or English course that doesn’t count for credit toward graduation. If you get placed into a remedial class, meet with your counselor to change it. Learn more about AB 705.  

The Right to Your Scholarship Money (AB 288) 

The law bans scholarship displacement and ensures that when a student gets a scholarship, the college can’t reduce other financial aid they were going to give. This law helps students afford college and take full advantage of scholarship dollars. Learn more about AB 288 and how to use it for yourself. 

Undocumented Students Have the Right to In-State Tuition (AB 540/SB 68)  

All students who meet specific criteria—including undocumented students— have the right to pay in-state tuition at California’s public colleges and universities (California community colleges, CSU, and UC). Learn more about AB 540 and see if you qualify for in-state tuition.  

Students with Disabilities Have the Right to Accommodations  

Under federal law, students with disabilities have the right to receive extra support in college to help them succeed. Support might include a note taker for class, extended time to take tests, access to audio textbooks, and more. If you identify as a student with disabilities, contact your school’s Disabled Students’ Programs & Services office (DSPS) to learn more.  

Students Who are Parenting, Homeless, Veterans, or Foster Youth Have the Right to Priority Registration (AB 2881-Parenting, AB 801-Homeless, AB194-Foster Youth)  

“Priority registration” means you get to sign up for your classes before other students. This increases your chances of getting into classes you need and helps you create a schedule that works for your life and needs. See a full list of student groups who are entitled to priority registration here. 

For more information and resources for a successful community college career, visit the Way2Success Toolkit