On Feb. 14, 2019, California State Senator Connie Leyva D-Chino introduced Senate Bill 291. If it passes, eligible students at Las Positas College will be assessed for financial aid based on entire costs of living and attending, opposed to just tuition costs.
“Senate Bill 291 recognizes that tuition alone isn’t the greatest obstacle for our students, and that the total cost of attendance must be considered when calculating and awarding financial aid to the neediest low-income students. We can’t meet California’s workforce and civic needs without creating a far more equitable system of financial aid. SB 291 is a necessary investment in California’s future,” said, Larry Galizio, President & CEO of the Community College League of California.
Only 46 percent of community college students receive need-based financial aid compared to nearly two-thirds of UC and CSU students. One study even found that in nine regions in California, community college was never the least expensive option. In seven of those nine regions, it actually costs less to go to a UC or CSU.
Leyva wants to see that change.
“The true cost of attending college is clearly more than tuition,” Leyva said. “When non-tuition costs like housing, food and textbooks are considered, community college is often more expensive for our lowest-income students to attend than other state universities. SB 291 addresses the issue by creating a financial aid program that helps to cover a community college student’s whole cost of attendance.”
Kellie Williams, Student Trustee of the California Community College Trustees Board said, “I’m excited about SB 291 because it finally offers CCC students the same support a four-year university receives. This would bring equity to the financial aid system by ensuring we have money for textbooks, transportation to classes or food to eat while studying and pursuing our degree.” Should it pass, this bill is going to change how college is paid for in California drastically.
California’s popular gift aid program, the Cal Grant, gives less to community college students than UC and CSU students. Just 5 percent of community college students received a Cal Grant last year, compared to nearly 40 percent of undergraduates at UC’s and 36 percent at CSU’s. California community colleges enroll about two-thirds of the state’s undergraduate students, but they only receive just 7 percent of Cal Grant funds.
California Community Colleges currently offer the least expensive tuition rates in the country, but for students who don’t live with their parents, annual costs become more than $20,000 when you include housing, transportation, textbooks and personal costs. The average student receiving the maximum amount of financial aid still faces a deficit of more than $6,000.
A small amount of community college students qualify for financial aid that covers the cost of living, transportation and textbooks which leads some students to take fewer courses, accumulate debt or drop out of school.
“Far too often community college students are left out of the conversation of equity especially when it comes to financial aid,” said Alexander Walker-Griffin, the voting student representative on the Community College Board of Governors. “With the cost of living rising in California and the need for a college degree becoming more of a requirement for financial stability, it is imperative that we give every student the financial ability to achieve their goals.”
Many people are wondering how California will come up with the huge amount of money they need to support this ambitious plan. The legislature wants to enact future legislation that would appropriate money for the purpose of CCC Student Financial Aid Programs. Awards would help cover expenses not being addressed by a student’s family contributions, employment and other aid, such as Pell Grants and the Cal Grant program.
If SB 291 passes than students eligible for this financial aid must be a resident of California, have not received a grant for more than two academic years and have made satisfactory academic progress.
There are many students at LPC that live independently and are affected by the high cost of living in California. People cannot afford to work less hours in order to take a full load of classes at LPC. This makes it very difficult for them to complete their courses, and for most students, transfer to a four-year school at the rate they would like to.
SB 291 would help numerous students at LPC by allowing them to transfer at a proper rate without taking on debt. The bill would also benefit LPC by rising the transfer and graduation rates.
Due to a California law that prevents non-emergent bills from being heard within 31 days of its introduction, it cannot be heard by the committee until at least March 17.
SB 291 is co-authored by state senators Ben Allen, Steven Bradford, Hannah-Beth Jackson and Scott Weiner who are all Democrats. It is co-sponsored by the California Community Colleges and the Community College League of California who hope to see this bill passed in the future.