Earlier this month, Governor Newsom released his May revisions to the 2022-23 state budget proposal submitted to the Legislature in January. Amid an unprecedented $97.5 billion budget surplus, the Governor has prioritized funding for a variety of complex issues across the state, including economic relief, housing assistance, expanding mental health services, and the climate crisis. We are grateful that among so many critical and pressing items the budget also includes significant new investments in higher education. Specifically, investments in consumer protections, student data, and our public college systems will pay off for students, colleges, and the state for years to come. We hope that the final budget also includes provisions that strengthen and increase the Cal Grant that so many of our students rely on to get to and through college in California.
Stabilizing Funding for the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education
We were excited to see that the revised budget contains an investment to support the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education with $24 million over three years. This investment will allow the Bureau to address an existing budget gap and give the agency financial support while it develops and implements a new fee model that supports the long-term fiscal stability needed for effective consumer protection is designed.
The Bureau is the first line of defense for students who enroll in private postsecondary programs and the primary state-level regulator of private colleges and institutions in California. The Bureau serves an essential function for the state and protects students from predatory institutions, the agency’s enacting statute makes “protection of the public” the Bureau’s “highest priority.”1 Despite this important responsibility, the agency has struggled with unstable funding for years as a result of an outdated fee model. The Bureau is specially funded, meaning that all its funding is collected from licensees – in this case private colleges – in the form of fees. Unfortunately, the Bureau’s fee model has not been substantively updated since 2009, when the higher education landscape looked much different.
Support for Implementation of Cradle-to-Career (C2C) Data System
The May Revision also includes investments to implement the Cradle-to-Career (C2C) Data System and to increase intersegmental collaboration to benefit students. The C2C system seeks to foster evidence-based decision-making, and to help Californians build more equitable futures and empower individuals to reach their full potential. The budget investments in C2C will create data-informed tools to help students reach their college and career goals as well as deliver information on education and workforce outcomes to support more effective and equitable policies at the state, system, and college level throughout California.
TICAS has long supported the C2C system and participated in the Policy & Advisory Committee while the system was being planned. Earlier this month, TICAS’s Research Director – Dr. Marshall Anthony, Jr. – was appointed to the Data and Tools Advisory Board tasked with helping to ensure that the C2C data tools will provide helpful and actionable information as the system is developed.
Key Investments in Colleges, Housing, and More, but Cornerstone Cal Grant Program Stagnant
While we applaud the Governor’s continued focus on the systemic drivers of high and rising college costs through campus housing projects, efforts to lower textbook costs, and system- and college-level reforms that will reduce time-to-degree and increase the odds of transfer and degree completion, we are concerned that the Governor’s May Revise missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform California’s Cal Grant program into the golden standard of equitable student financial aid. As we have long advocated, the Cal Grant is the cornerstone of college affordability in California, and investments are needed to further strengthen and expand the program. The Cal Grant Equity Framework, as proposed by AB 1746 (Medina, McCarty and Leyva), would expand direct financial assistance to over 150,000 additional students who have immense financial need but are not currently receiving financial aid due to non-financial eligibility barriers. This expansion would largely serve those from BIPOC communities, low-income backgrounds, who identify as women, adult learners, and student parents.2 Although the proposed budget includes an investment in financial aid, we believe that simplifying the financial aid process and further expanding the Cal Grant – which prioritizes the students with the highest need, including those enrolled in our community colleges – is of the utmost importance.
As the students and colleges hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic struggle to recover, it is critical that the state continues to build upon last year’s creation of the California Community College (CCC) Expanded Entitlement Cal Grant award by removing additional barriers to grant eligibility, simplifying the program to make it easier to understand and communicate with students and families, and indexing the access award to inflation.
There is much to be excited about in this year’s budget, but there remain opportunities to invest more in students. We look forward to following the budget process as the Legislature begins to discuss and deliberate, and to working with the Governor’s Administration and the Legislature to enact a budget that best supports and protects California’s college students.
- California Education Code § 94875.
- The California Student Aid Commission (CSAC), Cal Grant Equity Framework: The Next Steps Needed to Fixing Financial Aid Shortfalls For Students, April 2022, https://bit.ly/3sMKcF0.