By Miguel Barragan
Senate Bill 291 would create a new program of financial aid that would help cover the total cost of attending school, not just tuition.
The bill was introduced by state senator Connie M. Leyva in order to address the inequities in FAFSA for California community college students.
The bill would look at a school’s total cost of food, housing, transportation and textbooks.
Awards would help cover costs that are not addressed by a student’s family contributions, employment and other aid, such as Pell Grants and Cal Grants.
Many students don’t have family contributions made to their education or may not be able to work for some reason or another.
Unlike other financial aid programs, this would be available for those seeking a degree, certificate or short-term career education program.
While nearly 40 percent of undergraduates at the University of California and about 36 percent of students at the California State University system received a Cal Grant last year, only five percent of community college students did.
The inequity in financial aid is obvious and this bill is addressing the problem that should be fought.
The reasoning for the bill is that community colleges total net cost for some students is more than that of a four-year university.
Despite community colleges having a cheap tuition of $46 per unit, total net costs are still high because tuition is not the bulk of costs that go into school. The total net cost of community college for students living off campus on their own is over $19,000.
FAFSA gives low-income community college students, Pell Grant recipients, a maximum of $5,800 and full-time equivalent students $2,300. This is simply not enough to cover the true cost of attending school.
Leyva said on Los Angeles Times, “This is our future and our students at community colleges are our future .… Community college, which is supposed to be the most accessible for everyone, is becoming the least accessible.”
The Institute for College Access & Success’ study released in January found four-year universities like UCs, have a total cost of 59 percent more than community colleges, however, students receive 300 percent more financial aid.
Community college students aren’t given the same amount of financial aid as four-year students and therefore have a harder time making it by and have to resort to working jobs.
The Institute for College Access & Success’ study also found that community college students in the Los Angeles area need to work at least 29 hours to make up for the total net cost of college while UC students only have to work 19.
The same study showed that in the year 2016-17 only 37 percent of community college students in the Los Angeles area were enrolled full time while 85 percent of CSU students were.
ACT’s Center for Equity and Learning’s report from 2017 found that working more than 15 hours a week hurts a student’s chance at academic success.
TICAS found that if offered an additional $3,000 in grant aid, 65 percent of community college financial aid recipients would be extremely or very likely to enroll in more college credits.
This shows that more grant aid is good for student’s success.
The bill would allocate funds for the California community college Student Financial Aid Program and reserve $250 million for students in the fiscal year 2019-20 and increase to a cap of $1.5 billion by the fiscal year 2024-25.
Some students are able to get by with the current financial aid and may not feel the need for an increase in financial aid but other students who have it tougher would benefit from the increase.
An increase in funding for education is always met with backlash from those who don’t want an increase in taxes, but this bill would be a worthwhile expense because an increase in college graduates benefits the overall economy.
California Community College Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley came out in support of the bill and even announced a new website, www.truecollegecost.com, in which the public is able to contact their legislators via email or social media to show support for the bill.
“The goal of the website is to encourage Californians to reach out to their legislators and encourage them to make real changes in the amount of financial aid community college students can receive,” said Oakley in his press release.