Sacramento, CA – In a new report released today, The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) and The Education Trust–West urge California lawmakers to keep their promise in ensuring educational equity for BIPOC students and students with the greatest need by investing in Cal Grant Reform starting in the 2023-24 state budget.
In the Equity Alert titled Keeping California’s Promise: Investing Equitably in California College Affordability, TICAS and EdTrust–West outlines specific steps policymakers should take to ensure the most vulnerable students receive adequate financial aid to cover the cost of attending California colleges though intentional budgetary actions that would implement already passed reforms to the state’s most critical financial aid investment one year earlier.
“This Cal Grant Reform legislation is a once-in-a-generation expansion of California public higher education’s promise of upward mobility and opportunity regardless of income status,” said Alex Niles, president of the University of California Student Association. “It expands eligibility to ensure that thousands of California’s most marginalized students will now have access to the University of California schools.”
As the report highlights, rising costs of non-tuition-related expenses have caused disproportionate hardships to students, particularly at the community college level. Moreso, students from the lowest income households across California often pay more out of pocket at community colleges compared to their peers at four-year public colleges and universities. In addition, students from low-income backgrounds and BIPOC students at California’s public universities are disproportionately more likely to graduate with student loan debt than their peers who come from higher-income backgrounds.
“Recent increases in the cost of living have underscored the need for an equitable reform of the state Cal Grant program. We urge the Legislature and the Governor to keep their promise to our students; they cannot wait any longer,” said Interim California Community College Chancellor Daisy Gonzales. “As a bonus, fully funding the Cal Grant Equity Framework will also help community colleges recover lost enrollment – students continue to tell us that their number one barrier to attending and succeeding in community college is affordability. Equitable Cal Grant Reform is a win-win for community colleges, our students, and the economy of California.”
The Cal Grant Reform Act was enacted in the 2022 Budget Act by California state lawmakers and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. The reform was designed to be implemented in 2024 contingent upon the state fully funding the reform, however rising tuition costs and inflation has created a perfect storm that has forced many students with the greatest need for financial aid to be unintentionally left out. Furthermore, the ability to implement the much-needed reforms to the Cal Grant by 2024 depends on the state’s fiscal condition; many advocates and even the Legislative Analyst’s Office anticipate that California would likely be facing budget deficits.
“Full implementation of Cal Grant reform is imperative for supporting the students with the greatest need,” said Clemaus Tervalon, president of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges. “As we head into an uncertain state budget, it’s more important than ever that we ensure students have access to the financial resources they need to succeed in higher education.”
To expedite the investment in Cal Grant reforms, TICAS and EdTrust–West outlines four specific steps lawmakers can do this session: prioritize financial aid expansion dollars on Cal Grant Reform; leverage unspent state dollars to fund Cal Grant Reform; make a down payment on the Cal Grant Reform in the 2023-24 California budget; and establish a Cal Grant Reform implementation workgroup.
The Institute for College Access & Success is a trusted source of research, design, and advocacy for student-centered public policies that promote affordability, accountability, and equity in higher education. For more information see www.ticas.org or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
The Education Trust–West is an evidence-driven advocacy organization committed to advancing policies and practices to dismantle the racial and economic barriers embedded in the California education system. For over two decades, Ed Trust—West has worked to improve racial equity in education by engaging diverse communities and increasing political and public will to build an education system where students of color and multilingual learners will thrive. For more information, see www.edtrustwest.org or follow us on Twitter.